by Nancy Ryerson
, Staff Writer | November 16, 2012
From the November 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
As the economy finally starts to thaw, the medical chiller sector is heating up. From specialized 20-pound chillers that cool down patients before open-heart surgery to 30-ton behemoths that keep MRIs humming, customers can find – and afford – the best chillers to fit their individual needs.
“Business has been up,” says Johnson Thermal Systems President Sheri Johnson. “I think people have been holding their collective breath in regards to the economy and many have decided it’s safe to exhale. Projects can’t be put on hold indefinitely, so people are finally starting to get things going again.”
Chiller manufacturer Dimplex Thermal Solutions has experienced 70 percent growth over last year, added to 70 percent growth from 2010 to 2011. Haskris and Custom- Chill, Inc., also OEMs, both report that the same customers who dropped off in activity in 2008 are now back to purchasing at pre-recession levels.
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Ever since chillers were first introduced, they have been manufactured to match specific cooling needs. Haskris, for example, started business in 1956 when the company owner was asked to design a chiller to cool the first generation of electron microscopes. Now, manufacturers are seeing a new list of specified requests to custom-fit space, increase efficiency and cater to new types of equipment.
“I think a lot of customers have unique requirements for their particular facility, and being able to provide the variations to best suit their applications is definitely a benefit,” says Mike Marrone, president of Cold Shot Chillers.
Companies find that providing custom chillers helps give them an edge, especially over cheaper, foreign-made chillers.
“Foreign manufacturers generally standardize their products to rigid designs, sometimes without the ability to add special features often required by OEM imaging manufacturers to remain within specifications,” says Kim Bernard, a sales application engineer at Dimplex Thermal Solutions. “This provides reduced pricing, but does not always allow for special needs like extreme ambient temperature ranges, seismic requirements or other desired operational qualities.”
And while customized chillers are pricey (sometimes upwards of $70,000) end users often save in the long run in terms of maintenance costs.
“Customers have learned that the cost savings from a ‘cheap’ chiller are quickly offset by the high cost of downtime that is inevitable from a lower quality design, inadequate customer service and a lack of spare parts availability,” says Dan Falotico, president of Haskris.