DDD purchase gives Picker edge in spiral CT

February 12, 1992

Picker International's acquisition last week of Dynamic DigitalDisplay will provide the major medical imaging vendor a leg upin the fast-emerging field of volumetric CT imaging. DDD, previously an independent supplier of medical

Picker International's acquisition last week of Dynamic DigitalDisplay will provide the major medical imaging vendor a leg upin the fast-emerging field of volumetric CT imaging.

DDD, previously an independent supplier of medical imagingthree-dimensional workstations and related visualization technology,obtained greater financial and marketing resources, as well asa profitable exit path for its venture-capital backers.

Picker renamed the existing DDD VoxelScope workstation as theVoxel Q and will sell the unit with its CT equipment. When tiedto Picker's CT systems via a hyper-LAN connection, Voxel Q willprovide instantaneous 3-D and multiplanar reconstruction. Eventually,DDD's proprietary image reconstruction accelerator will be builtdirectly into the Picker CT line, said Timothy B. Hansen, vicepresident.

DDD will continue as Picker's visualization business developmentgroup and will remain in its facility outside Philadelphia, towhich it moved last year. The independent 3-D firm worked withPicker for over a year in supplying visualization software forthe vendor's CT therapy simulation equipment and provided its3-D workstation to Picker on a private-label basis.

Perhaps the most valuable asset Picker has obtained throughthe purchase of its technology partner is the 20-member DDD visualizationengineering team, which will be maintained, Hansen told SCAN.

Lee Smith, current DDD president and CEO, joined the companythree years ago after serving as vice president and general managerof federal business programs for Picker (SCAN 3/1/89). He willcontinue to head up the visualization group as general manager.

David A Talton, DDD co-founder and vice president of engineering, will also continue under Picker.

The visualization group will function within Picker's CT businessunit, Hansen said. Picker will continue to use its supercomputerVistar and Odyssey workstations in MRI and nuclear medicine, respectively.

Picker will also continue to offer customers independent workstations,such as the Cemax Sun Sparcstation-based unit. The Cleveland vendorremains dedicated to open-system architecture, a policy that wasstrengthened through several interface agreements revealed atthe December Radiological Society of North America show (SCAN12/25/91).

Despite the growing popularity in medical imaging of inexpensivebut powerful Unix workstations such as Sun's, there is a needfor the specialized medical image reformatting technology developedby DDD and other 3-D workstation firms. Speed is essential inhandling the large data sets acquired in volumetric CT and MRI.

"The speed of Voxel Q is more than a factor of 100 relativeto a (Sun) Sparc II processor," Talton told SCAN. "Giventhe large volumes acquired through spiral scanning and volumetricMR acquisition, that type of processing power is essential bothfor image quality and interactivity."

DDD had OEM supply agreements with several medical imagingcompanies, including Shimadzu. This effort will continue underPicker in the same way that Oxford continued to sell MRI magnetsto other vendors after Siemens purchased a controlling equityshare in that component supplier, Smith said.

"All the major companies buy parts and components fromeach other. We are a component company. We don't build acquisitiondevices, nor do we wish to," he said.

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • Acuson's stock price dropped $8 or 26% last Wednesdayafter the leading U.S. ultrasound vendor and financial high-flierpredicted that its earnings per share for the first quarter of1992 (end-March) will be about even with results from the samequarter of 1991. Acuson's share price, as traded on the New YorkStock Exchange, pulled back up 62
    on Thursday, ending at $23.50. The vendor faulted adverse economicconditions for anticipated sluggishness in earnings growth.

While the recession is holding down growth in medical equipmentexpenditures, Acuson is finding competition increasingly toughin the hospital ultrasound market, noted Larry Haimovitch, a SanFrancisco medical technology consultant. Acuson used to have thehigh end of the market almost entirely to itself. Top competitorATL introduced its high-definition imaging (HDI) upgrade lastyear, however, and Acuson now appears to be discounting on a broaderscale to win competitive hospital bids against ATL, he said.

"ATL is gaining market share, and Acuson is either losingshare or keeping share at a price," Haimovitch told SCAN.

  • Philips Medical Systems of the Netherlands signed a letterof intent last week to explore expanded cooperation--both technicaland operational--with Hewlett-Packard, the leading U.S. supplierof cardiac ultrasound equipment. The two vendors agreed in Novemberto integrate Philips' cardiac catheterization imaging technologywith HP patient monitoring equipment.

The new discussions will explore expanded cooperation in cardiaccatheterization as well as the possibility of teaming up in ultrasound.Philips has developed unique blood color-flow and volume quantificationtechnology for its ultrasound equipment but has not yet gaineda major position in this imaging modality market (see story, page5).

Cooperation between the two vendors makes sense since HP hasnot entered the radiology ultrasound market segment and Philipsdoes not have a cardiac ultrasound product. These ultrasound marketsegments are the largest in the U.S.