Zeiss supplies technical, sales heft for renewal of 3-D effort in the U.S.

June 15, 1994

Major optics firm targets U.S. surgical sites Four years ago, Medizinelektronik (MEK) of Kiel, Germany, attemptedunsuccessfully to sell three-dimensional medical imaging workstationsand 3-D driven anatomical modeling technology into the U.S.

Major optics firm targets U.S. surgical sites

Four years ago, Medizinelektronik (MEK) of Kiel, Germany, attemptedunsuccessfully to sell three-dimensional medical imaging workstationsand 3-D driven anatomical modeling technology into the U.S. througha direct American subsidiary (SCAN 2/15/89 and 4/11/90). AlthoughMEK subsequently went out of business, a second attempt to penetratethe U.S. with an updated version of MEK's Endoplan 3-D visualizationand modeling system is under way this year.

Substantially greater technical and marketing resources willbe applied to the U.S. sales effort this time under the bannerof a major worldwide optics and medical equipment supplier. CoreMEK managers and engineers have become a part of the German ZeissGroup, a leading supplier of microscopes and other medical equipment,according to Ulrich G. Kliegis, former MEK president and currentmanager of research and development for Medical Diagnostic Computing,a Kiel-based Zeiss subsidiary.

U.S. sales and service of both Endoplan and a new high-resolutionCCD x-ray digitizer using a special Zeiss lens will be handledthrough Zeiss' U.S. arm, based in New York, Kliegis told SCAN.Endoplan's major beta-site installation is in the surgical planningdepartment of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Five Endoplansites, mostly at German universities, were established in 1993,the first year of operations under Zeiss.

MEK had talked with most major scanner vendors as well as implantmanufacturers before finding a buyer in Zeiss, he said. The fitwith Zeiss was considered salutary because the firm has an establishedequipment supply business to various surgical and orthopedic marketsand can also serve as a neutral supplier to medical imaging OEMs.

Zeiss has provided the MDC effort with improved quality assuranceand proprietary technology as well as established sales connections,Kliegis said.

"The basic principles of the technology have remainedthe same (as under MEK)," he said. "However, implementationis now done according to Zeiss quality standards."

For instance, a sister Zeiss company, which manufactures gyrocompassesand other precision equipment under ISO 9001 quality standards,now provides the fine mechanics necessary for Endoplan's image-guidedsculpting of anatomical models.

As is typical with surgical planning efforts, Brigham and Women'seffort using Endoplan is multidisciplinary, combining radiologistimaging expertise in CT, MRI, PET and other modalities with thework of craniofacial, orthopedic and other surgeons. The impactof model use in the operating room on time expenditures will beamong issues studied at BWH, he said.

Zeiss is already well connected to surgical users in the U.S.through the supply and service of operation microscopes, Kliegissaid. The firm also provides lasers and a broad range of productsfor the orthopedic market.

"They (Zeiss sales representatives) walk in and out ofthe hospitals that are our potential customers," he said.

The Endoplan 3-D workstation has been shifted from a Hewlett-Packardplatform to a Sun Microsystems Sparc 10 workstation. This transitionwas under way in the final MEK days and was completed under Zeiss.An upgraded workstation with improved speed and imaging capabilitiesis due out this year.

MDC has also developed a new 6000-pixel CCD x-ray film scanner,which will sell for about $60,000. The digitizer has a small computersystem interface (SCSI) port for networking, Kliegis said. Theunit was developed by MDC's R&D group in cooperation withZeiss optics engineers, who supplied the special lens.

"This was very much a synergistic effort," he said.

Zeiss anticipates using the digitizer in nonmedical marketsas well. For instance, the technology could be used in systemsproviding for digital analysis of aerial photography.