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Sterling inks deal with Fischer to build DirectRay digital systems


Sterling inks deal with Fischer to build DirectRay digital systemsAgreement fills hole in Sterling's DR strategySterling Diagnostic Imaging's plans for entering the market for flat-panel digital x-ray systems became clearer last month

Sterling inks deal with Fischer to build DirectRay digital systems

Agreement fills hole in Sterling's DR strategy

Sterling Diagnostic Imaging's plans for entering the market for flat-panel digital x-ray systems became clearer last month after the Greenville, SC, company announced the establishment of an alliance with Fischer Imaging of Denver. Under the deal, Fischer will build completed x-ray systems incorporating Sterling's DirectRay (formerly Direct Radiography) amorphous selenium detectors, and both companies will market finished systems under their own brand names.

Sterling's progress with DR detectors has been well documented since the 1995 Radiological Society of North America meeting, when the company publicly announced the DR project. Sterling hopes to market the detectors as a more efficient means of digitizing x-ray studies for incorporation into PACS networks. The company has said it will sell the detectors both as components to OEMs and as part of completed x-ray systems.

The one element missing from Sterling's business plan has been the other components required for assembling a complete x-ray system, as the company has no experience with devices such as x-ray generators and patient tables. Fischer immediately lends that competency to the DR program, as the company builds x-ray systems both for itself and for OEMs.

Fischer will manufacture completed DR systems at its Denver factory, and Sterling will market the products under the iiRad brand name. Fischer will initially provide service support to Sterling, and will also have rights to market the systems under its own label. The first product to result from the alliance will be a digital chest x-ray system, according to Anthony DeCarolis, vice president of sales and marketing for Fischer. Another product to result from the alliance is a digital version of Traumex, a ceiling-mounted x-ray system for examining patients in wheelchairs and on gurneys.

Fischer initially will adapt DR detectors to its own x-ray systems, but Sterling will be able to source x-ray components from other companies that are then integrated with DR and assembled by Fischer, according to James Culley, brand manager for the DirectRay product line.

While Fischer will manufacture finished systems sold through Sterling, Sterling will be able to offer the detectors as components to OEMs. The company also plans to offer DR detectors to the installed base of x-ray systems as a retrofit upgrade. Sterling filed a 510(k) application for DR in August and is targeting a commercial launch in the first quarter of 1998.

Early fruits of the relationship will be on display at this month's RSNA show. Fischer will show a digital chest stand with the DR panels, while Sterling will display a digital DR version of Traumex and the same digital chest stand found in the Fischer booth, according to DeCarolis.

In other Sterling news, the company said it has changed the name of its Direct Radiography technology to DirectRay to avoid confusion about the technology. Sterling has found that generic use of the term "direct radiography" is gaining currency in reference to all flat-panel digital detector products under development. The company believes, however, that it has the only true direct digitization technology, due to the x-ray conversion characteristics of amorphous selenium, which it says are more direct than the amorphous silicon designs being used by most of its competitors.

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