At the detector level, the x-ray market was worth US$2.0B in 2018 and is expected to grow at a 5.9% CAGR from 2018 – 2024, reaching US$2.8B in 2024. In terms of technologies, flat panel detectors using aSi and CMOS represent the biggest share of the market, being worth US$1.3B in 2018. Yole Développement (Yole) expects IGZO flat panels to make a big splash in the market as soon as 2021, and to reach U$236M in 2024.
Commercialization of IGZO flat panels for x-ray imaging began this year. In its report, X-Ray Detectors for Medical, Industrial, and Security Applications 2019, Yole discusses an expected rapid ramp-up of IGZO integration in new products. The technology is ready and the supply chain is almost ready too, and imaging system manufacturers are eager to use this new technology because it offers better image quality at an affordable cost.
Another very interesting development is single-photon counting for spectral imaging. With Varex Imaging’s acquisition of Direct Conversion AB, photon counting is no longer just a promising technology: it will soon be available in products from the biggest detector manufacturers.
In order to better understand the x-ray detector market, Yole Développement’s Marjorie Villien, PhD, Biophotonics and Medical Imaging Analyst, interviewed Tuomas Holma, Product Manager, X-ray Detectors, at Varex Imaging – a key x-ray detector player.
Marjorie Villien (MV): Could you please briefly introduce Varex and its history to our readers?
Tuomas Holma (TH): Varex Imaging Corporation is a leading innovator, designer, and manufacturer of x-ray imaging components. This includes x-ray tubes, digital detectors, and other image processing solutions that are key components of x-ray imaging systems.
With a 65+ year history of successful innovation, our products are used in medical imaging as well as in industrial and security imaging applications. In May 2016 our parent company, Varian Medical Systems, announced its plan to spin off the imaging components business, and in January 2017 Varex Imaging completed its separation from Varian Medical Systems and was subsequently listed on the NASDAQ stock market. In May 2017, Varex Imaging acquired PerkinElmer’s imaging components business.
Varex Imaging provides imaging components (x-ray sources, digital detectors, connecting devices, and imaging software) to global OEM x-ray system manufacturers, who in turn integrate our components into systems designed to detect, diagnose, and protect.
Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Varex employs approximately 2,000 people at manufacturing and service center sites in North America, Europe, and Asia.
MV: The main market addressed by Varex Imaging is flat panel detectors for x-ray imaging. Could you describe your product portfolio in terms of technologies and applications?
TH: Varex Imaging’s x-ray components are used in medical, industrial, security, and life science applications. These applications range from digital radiography, fluoroscopy, mammography, and oncology, to non-destructive testing in the automotive and aerospace industries, cargo scanning, and x-ray diffraction in materials science. Moreover, we use diverse technologies in our digital detector products, i.e. amorphous silicon, CMOS, IGZO, and CdTe.
MV: Varex recently introduced a new line of products with IGZO detectors. Could you tell us more about this technology? Why did you choose to add it to your portfolio?
TH: At RSNA 2018, Varex Imaging introduced the first in a series of indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO)-based flat panel detectors (FPDs) with a 100 µm pixel size, for surgical and dental applications. This FPD, called the 3131Z, is the first panel from the Varex Z Platform that offers significant performance benefits over a-Si detectors, with only a minor price premium.
MV: Yole Developpement envisions a swift ramp-up for IGZO flat panels, ultimately reaching $236M in 2024. Which applications will benefit first from these new panels? How will IGZO compete with CMOS and aSi flat panels?
TH: In dynamic imaging applications, the Varex Z Platform offers better low-dose performance, higher readout speeds, and superior resolution compared to amorphous silicon. Another key benefit is that the cost is comparable to standard amorphous silicon, and thus the cost of IGZO is significantly lower than CMOS for large panel sizes.
MV: Varex acquired Direct Conversion AB in April 2019. Can you tell us more about this acquisition?
TH: Varex’s acquisition of Direct Conversion expands our product portfolio to include new linear-array digital detectors, along with the corresponding revenue stream from these products for specific medical, dental, and industrial applications. This in turn broadens our addressable market for digital detector products.
MV: Photon counting is undoubtedly the next technology trend in x-ray. When do you think it will reach the market? Also, what is photon counting’s “killer application”?
TH: The x-ray imaging industry is excited about photon counting technologies because detectors built with this technology bring significantly improved image quality while using a lower dose and performing more precise discrimination of materials. Direct Conversion AB has already successfully commercialized linear-array digital detectors for select medical and industrial applications, and we expect to continue working on applying this technology to additional applications.
MV: Do you see any other technological trends in x-ray imaging?
TH: Artificial intelligence (AI) is making a big impact in medical imaging, just like in other industries.
MV: AI is quickly entering every market – especially medical imaging, where it seems that not a day goes by without a new diagnosis use-case for AI. In your opinion, where and how will AI change the game in the x-ray market? Do you think AI can have an impact at the detector level?
TH: With AI’s help, I think the throughput and effectiveness of the entire healthcare system can reach a whole new level. X-ray imaging equipment utilization will improve due to more efficient workflows, which means that hardware and software must both be very robust and reliable.
MV: Anything else you would like to communicate to our readers?
TH: This is a very exciting time to be working in medical imaging. I encourage young people to consider a career in this field, and help us develop the next wave of radical innovations for creating a healthier world!
Tuomas Holma is Product Manager for X-ray Detectors at Varex Imaging Corporation. He joined Varex in 2017 through the acquisition of PerkinElmer Medical Imaging (PKI). Previously Tuomas has worked with X-ray detectors at Detection Technology Beijing between 1998 and 2008, after which he moved to England and worked for a software company before joining PKI in 2014. Tuomas has global responsibility for the product management of all Varex detectors for medical and industrial applications.
Tuomas received an MSc degree from University of Oulu in Finland and an MBA from University of Winchester in England.
As a Technology & Market Analyst, Medical Imaging & Biophotonics, Marjorie Villien, PhD is member of the Life Sciences & Healthcare division at Yole Développement (Yole). She is a daily contributor to the development of MedTech activities with a dedicated collection of market & technology reports as well as custom consulting projects.
After spending two years at Harvard, Marjorie served as a research scientist at INSERM in the field of MRI & PET imaging for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and cancers.
Marjorie Villien graduated from Grenoble INP and holds a PhD in physics & medical imaging.
X-Ray Detectors for Medical, Industrial and Security Applications 2019
New technologies are finally arriving in the X-ray market and reshuffling the pack of players.
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