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X-ray tube market update

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | August 22, 2022
Parts And Service
From the August 2022 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“The cost of developing [LMB] technology is significant, and we are looking for the specific tube that will provide enough replacement volume to make a business case with sufficient return on investment,” says Jerald Olsen, vice president of sales, operations, and business development at Richardson Healthcare, a tube manufacturer that focuses exclusively on independent service organizations, resellers, and healthcare providers.

In recent years, Utah-based OEM and replacement tube manufacturer Varex introduced LMB technology to its portfolio with a dual-ended CT application tube, the GS-547XX-L and the first-to-market anode-end-grounded cardiovascular applications tube, the FP-309X-L.

A few words on ‘bread and butter’ tubes
Compared to those in CT systems, which subject X-ray tubes to incredible stresses caused by high energy and high rotation speeds, the X-ray tubes used in radiography, fluoroscopy and mammography are relatively small, compact, and inexpensive. David Hurlock, founder of X-Ray America, the exclusive U.S. distributor for Italy-based IAE, the biggest independent X-ray tube manufacturer in Europe, calls these “bread and butter” tubes, fundamental necessities for the most common imaging modalities.

IAE manufacturers 10,000 glass X-ray tubes per year for OEMs like GE, Fujifilm, Philips, and Agfa, as well as service companies. “Most independent X-ray tube manufacturers offer metal ceramic tubes for CT scanners, and either don’t offer glass X-ray tubes, or offer them as a secondary product line,” says Hurlock.

Although the advantages that LMB tubes yield for CT tubes do not apply to conventional X-ray tubes, there are other emerging technologies improving the next generation of systems.

“Innovative manufacturers use techniques like cone beam CT and tomography to offer smaller and simpler X-ray systems that capture movement, or produce 3D images without conventional CT, and with a much smaller X-ray tube,” says Hurlock. It’s a trend he calls “accommodative imaging” and believes will be a growth area for conventional glass rotating anode X-ray tubes in years to come.

The basics of X-ray tube maintenance
The main rule of tube longevity is not unlike a rule most people know will extend the life of their automobile. “If you jump in your car, and race to the corner market every day, taking short, fast trips without warming up your engine, the car won’t last for as many miles as a car that is warmed up, and then taken on long trips at a constant speed,” says Hurlock. “X-ray tubes are similar in that high exposures without warming the tube shorten its life.”

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