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Vendor Profile: Barco medical business reflects growing reliance on integrationDisplay firm expands into image computingAs a supplier of diagnostic workstations to the PACS and medical imaging community, Barco Display Systems is riding a
Display firm expands into image computing
As a supplier of diagnostic workstations to the PACS and medical imaging community, Barco Display Systems is riding a wave of interest in image and information management that helped increase its medical business more than 60% in 1999. But rather than rest on its laurels, the Duluth, GA-based subsidiary of a Belgian electronics conglomerate is developing new display and graphics board technologies designed to meet the growing need for integrated image and information systems.
Barco Display is one of seven divisions within the Barco Group, a $700 million/year company that also participates in the projection, communication, graphics, automation, and inspection systems markets. Barco Display accounts for 12% of Barcos annual revenues.
One reason for the divisions success is the booming medical imaging market. Barco first entered the medical business in 1983 as an OEM supplier of ultrasound display technologies. While ultrasound image processing and computing still account for a significant part of the companys medical business, PACS and x-ray imaging have also taken on important roles in recent years. In fact, ongoing growth opportunities in both these market sectors prompted Barco Display to establish its Medical Imaging Systems group in 1995 and evolve it into a full-blown division of the company last year.
Today the MIS group offers a wide range of high-resolution diagnostic gray-scale and color display systems, graphics boards, and software products, which the company supplies to numerous major medical equipment vendors. The company takes pride in its reputation for high-performance display technology for ultrasound and magnetic resonance viewing and gray-scale displays for digital radiography and PACS, and recently introduced its first flat-panel displays for medical imaging applications.
Barcos portfolio of display products includes the MGD line of 21-inch gray-scale monitors, which come in 2- and 5-megapixel versions; the Medical Workstation Display, a landscape format with a maximum resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels; 18- and 20-inch high-resolution flat-panel displays for modality viewing and high-end clinical imaging; and MCD color displays for ultrasound. Works-in-progress include a 20-inch high-brightness flat panel for use in emergency and operating room environments and a 24-inch wide-viewing-angle flat-panel unit.
Foremost among its PACS-specific offerings is MeDis, a turnkey medical display system that incorporates Barco monitors, graphics boards, display drivers, and the MediCal multiplatform quality assurance software tool. The MeDis product line comes in a range of configurations and is FDA-cleared, a substantial advantage for its OEM customers, according to the company.
We can provide complete display technology, said Mike Feinstein, director of sales and marketing for Barcos MIS division. Because we offer a turnkey approach, its cheaper for customers than buying multiple components from several companies.
The newest addition to the MeDis line is the 2MP2 2-megapixel dual-head system, which features Barcos new MGD221 medium-resolution 21-inch portrait gray-scale display. Barco plans to introduce an expanded version of MediCal that includes server-based software capabilities for monitoring the performance of every display on a network from a central location.
As part of its strategy to provide complete display solutions to its OEM customers and differentiate itself from other monitor companies, Barco also offers a line of graphics boards for medical imaging. The BarcoMed 2-, 4-, and 5-megapixel single- and dual-head boards are designed for the standard PCI bus and provide accurate image rendering and clear, flicker-free images. New to its imaging board offerings is BarcoMed 4MP2, designed specifically for medical applications requiring high-resolution gray-scale graphics. In addition, all BarcoMed boards now feature Windows 2000 compatibility for desktop applications.
Barco is also developing a line of next-generation medical imaging boards called Aura that are designed to speed image viewing and offer more shades of gray. The first Aura board, the 2MP2H, is a gray-scale card that can be used in conjunction with color flat-panel displays for more demanding applications such as angiography and cine loops. The 2MP2H is expected to be available in the second quarter.
With the acquisition of graphics card technology developer Metheus in January 1999, Barco has begun expanding this side of its business, primarily through its new Image Computing product development effort. The Image Computing product line includes customized boards designed to improve the speed of PC-based medical imaging systems, video up and down converters for ultrasound processing and viewing, and custom combinations of Barcos diagnostic gray-scale displays and Metheus medical imaging boards, as well as the MeDis display systems.
Barco should also benefit from expansion of global markets. Sales to the U.S. sector account for about 70% of Barcos PACS business, but growth in other markets such as Asia is expected to continue. The firms future role in PACS and medical imaging appears secure.
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