MedWrench recently spoke with Innovatus Imaging’s Matt Tomory, Vice President of Ultrasound Center of Excellence, about the technical advancements within ultrasound transducers.
Innovatus Imaging shares the advancements within ultrasound transducers and how Innovatus has been able to keep up with the advancements for their customers.
What have your customers said has been one of the biggest challenges with ultrasound transducers?
Significant advancements have occurred in transducer technology in the past few years. Even though the ways that probes fail have, pretty much, remained the same, the components within probes and the methods to address the failures has become increasingly challenging. Customers tell us that they have been struggling to find true repair solutions for live 3D volumetric probes, such as the Philips X8-2t, X7-2t, X5-1, GE 6VT-D, and that most solutions result in replacement versus traditional repair.
Can you describe some of the advancements?
Live 3D volumetric transducers contain thousands of acoustic elements compared to traditional transducers containing anywhere from 64 to 256 elements. Much of the beamforming is now actually performed in the probe, versus or in combination with, the scanner using some very sophisticated technology. Wiring harnesses, which once contained less than 100 miniature coaxial cables, the thickness of a hair, now range to 256, and the wires are a much finer gauge.
So, have these advancements really affected the repairability of these newer technology probes?
As with any newer technology, there can be challenges. What many don’t know is that OEMs do not openly share their design specifications, bills of materials or provide access to replacement parts to third-party repair providers. Repair providers have to engineer their own solutions to the failures presented.
How does Innovatus overcome this?
Innovatus Imaging is actually an FDA-registered manufacturer for ultrasound probes supplied to major OEMs with an acoustic laboratory in Denver, CO. We have personnel very well-experienced in ultrasound probe design, acoustic testing, electrical engineering, material analysis, etc. Ultrasound probe design and manufacturing requires a very specialized knowledge-base, skill-sets, and instruments. Many of the same processes, technologies, methodologies, and testing used in manufacturing are utilized in repair. We are fortunate, as a repair provider, to have access to such expertise.
How has Innovatus Imaging been able to keep up with the advancements in transducer design?
Innovatus employs quite a large team of engineers, for both design and repair. Our teams engineer proven, sustainable repair solutions by careful technical analysis of the probe models for which we offer repair. This can include developing electronic schematics, wiring diagrams, material specifications, acoustic profiles and more. Having this level of data allows us to design repair procedures, based on the design of a particular model versus a general, all-encompassing approach to repair. It also offers and ensures quality, consistency, and sustainability, which allow us to provide the industry’s longest warranty period.
You’ve used the word sustainable several times. What does that mean?
Whether we talk transducers or widgets, customers want something or someone they can depend upon. That’s one of our strengths. Customers can feel confident that a repair performed on an X5-1 last week can be consistently performed on other X5-1s tomorrow, next week and six-months from now. Currently, Innovatus is the only repair provider that publishes a list of over 100 fully repairable transducer models. From cables, strain reliefs, housings, etc., we have a solid, virtually completely internal, supply chain that allows us to say, “Yes! Your probe can be repaired.” And repair is always more budget-friendly than replacement.
Is Innovatus Imaging able to offer traditional repair solutions on these newer technology transducers?
We are, but it is model dependent. We have developed significant, proven, sustainable repair solutions on the Philips X8-2t, X7-2t, X5-1, and GE 6VT-D. On all of these models, we are able to address failures across ALL of the repairable components. Due to the technical challenges with these models and the investment needed in R&D, true repair solutions can be hard to find in the third-party industry. When failures arise, most of these newer technology transducer models are exchanged, at costs over $20,000, versus repairs costing a fraction of that. Innovatus Imaging focuses on developing capabilities consistent with our customers’ needs.