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Polaroid Sets Goal of 300 Units for Helios Camera Sales in 1994


Large-format Film Boosts Prospects Polaroid has sold more than 100 units of its Helios dry-processingmedical imaging laser camera since sales were initiated in theU.S. early last year (SCAN 6/2/93). The medical film vendor hasestablished nine

Large-format Film Boosts Prospects

Polaroid has sold more than 100 units of its Helios dry-processingmedical imaging laser camera since sales were initiated in theU.S. early last year (SCAN 6/2/93). The medical film vendor hasestablished nine OEM accounts for Helios. While Newton, MA-basedPolaroid Medical Imaging Systems hopes to sell at least 300 Helioscameras worldwide this year, revenues remain below expectations.

Demand for Helios should pick up with the introduction of 14x 17-inch format film output next year and increased sales inboth Europe and Asia, said Roy Miller, corporate program managerfor laser imaging.

Polaroid had the misfortune of timing the release of Helioswith the onset of uncertainty over capital equipment purchasingin the U.S. caused by health-care reform and consolidation amongproviders. At the same time, the vendor's decision to enter themarket first with an 8 x 10-inch film, used with smaller modalitiessuch as ultrasound and nuclear medicine, ran smack into the emergingtrend to network these scanners with premium wet-processing lasercameras providing 14 x 17-inch output.

"I can recall one sales call that I went along on in Florida,where a strong prospect (hospital) was purchased by a large hospitalchain. All of a sudden they received a fax that said, `Hold allcapital purchases,'" Miller said. "No one knows whetherto go backwards or forwards. Once that untangles, we will getback to a mode where systems sell themselves based on their merits."

Enthusiasm among OEMs and existing users bodes well for thetechnology, Miller said. Some German customers with CT scanners,for instance, liked the environmental benefits of processing withoutchemicals so much that they opted to use the 8 x 10-inch Heliosoutput until the larger format becomes available.

Polaroid began selling a limited number of Helios systems intoEurope last year and is intensifying the sales effort in 1994.The Far East is running on about the same schedule with a one-yearlag. PMIS set up a general manager in Tokyo this year and plansto initiate beta testing in Tokyo and Hong Kong, with a salesbuild-up scheduled for 1995, Miller said. All equipment and filmcontinues to be manufactured in the U.S.

The onset of networked ultrasound systems that justify theuse of high-end cameras, along with a general proliferation oflaser cameras in the U.S., has increased premium hard-copy outputcapacity in medical imaging. For instance, smaller providers withperhaps one CT scanner, some nuclear medicine cameras and a fewultrasound scanners can now link all of these modalities togetherwith a 14 x 17-inch laser camera, he said.

Historically, the percent breakdown of medical imaging outputusing 8 x 10-inch versus 14 x 17-inch format has been about 50/50as measured by square footage of film. The networking trend maybe shifting this balance slightly to the larger format films,Miller said.

Much of the rationale for sales of high-end lasers continuesto be the creation of a continuing stream of film sales revenue.This is primarily why laser cameras ended up being provided bythe film suppliers rather than the scanner OEMs, he said.

The scanner companies originally supplied most of the low-costmultiformat camera technology that rode along with their imagingequipment, although it was manufactured by companies like Matrix.Users turned to film suppliers for higher end cameras and networkingassistance. In terms of the selling process -- as opposed to manufacture-- of medical imaging cameras, there appears to be a resurgenceon the part of scanner vendors, Miller said.

Polaroid is exploring the potential for new applications forHelios in the cardiac imaging field. While two cardiac OEM relationshipshave been arranged, the camera vendor is working closely withcardiac cath system supplier Toshiba. PMIS showed Helios in Toshiba'sbooth at the 1994 American College of Cardiology meeting in Atlanta.Cardiac users are particularly interested in Polaroid's reflectivefilm technology, introduced at the Radiological Society of NorthAmerica meeting last year (SCAN 1/19/94).

Increasingly sophisticated cardiac cath systems are stimulatingdemand for high-resolution film output, Miller said. For instance,Toshiba has developed a software program that optically evaluatesan entire cine loop to determine the maximum point of stenosis,which is then computed digitally. This file, with both image andstatistical data, can then be output to high-resolution reflectivefilm.

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