Japanese firm targets U.S. market for 3D visualization

A Japanese company has joined the 3D fray. Although a newcomer to the U.S. market, Ziosoft is anything but new to medical visualization.

PACS-compatible workstation offers ease of use along with high-quality image processing function

A Japanese company has joined the 3D fray. Although a newcomer to the U.S. market, Ziosoft is anything but new to medical visualization.

More than 1500 Ziosoft workstations are operating in Japan, enough to account for 70% of the workstation marketplace on the company's native soil, according to Terry P. Chang, director of product management. Now the company is taking aim at the U.S. market, pouring the foundation for what it hopes will be a launch pad for its thin-client workstation with "Ziostations" installed at several

high-profile institutions in Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco.

The company plans to win converts by stressing the simplicity, efficiency, and flexibility of its workstations. Scalability will serve as the foundation. The system addresses expanding clinical needs at customer sites by simply adding more servers, as Ziostation software, now in development, balances the load among servers to ensure optimal use of resources, Chang said.

Its algorithms automate the drudgery of 3D processing, removing bone, extracting vessels, and subtracting nonpatient data such as the examination table. Macros combine these steps with routine functions-reorienting the image, improving the window leveling, or changing the layout of the screen-to make them happen instantly in a single button press.

"We let users program macros based on their preferences," he said.

While competition exists in the PACS arena, modality-specific demands tend to match certain types of equipment. Leonardo workstations go with Siemens scanners, Brilliance workstations with Philips, AW with GE, and Vital Images' Vitrea with Toshiba, he said. Although Ziosoft has a strong relationship in Japan with Toshiba, the company plans to address equipment developed by all the major vendors.

"We have to be able to show value for all customers," Chang said.

Ziostation can handle huge files, even ones created by Toshiba's 320-channel Aquilion One, he said. This capability spares the PACs from an enormous archiving burden, as thin-slice studies are kept on servers run specifically by Ziostation. A "self-cleansing" capability keeps the storage demands from getting out of hand, as thin-slice CT studies older than four months, for example, can be dumped automatically, while the processed images are stored on the PACS.

Because Ziostation is composed entirely of software, PACS and 3D visualization technologies are transparent, delivering images to the same display stations on the network. The idea is to make the end result as simple and easy to attain as possible.

Currently, Ziostation works only as part of a high-performance network, but the company is developing a web-based adjunct that will work on a very narrow bandwidth. Chang notes that most enterprise-wide thin-client workstations require transmission rates around 100 Mb/sec. Remote users, seeking to access images from a distant office or home, however, may have to get by on a 4-Mb rate.

Ziosoft engineers are developing a system to work within this limitation that they expect to launch before this year's RSNA meeting. This web-enabled solution will maintain image quality at the expense of fancy postprocessing capabilities," Chang said.

"When you get a call in the middle of the night, you want a snapshot of the image," he said. "You don't want a colon fly-through."

-By Greg Freiherr