Printers: Hardcopies Fast and Easy

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Vendors at this year's RSNA made it quite clear that hardcopy images continue to be an extremely valuable - and often irreplaceable - diagnostic tool. The viable technology that lives and breaths in radiology departments (and PACS environments) satisfies the needs of referring physicians who are resistant - or have not yet upgraded - to digital technology or surgeons still needing film for the OR. Printers also meet the needs of patients who request hard copies. CD-ROM technology is still in the new, not yet nearing the time to be out with the old.
    
Speed, image quality, DICOM compatibility, size and the imaging environment in which it targets - decentralized or centralized - were all the focus points of vendors with new and improves wares on display this year. Multi-format, multi-size, multi-media and multi-color output were the string of similarities tying together the multiple vendors offering these devices.
   
Printer families expanded with the birth of new systems, and older generations were replaced with more sophisticated platforms. One vendor showcased a paper-printing alternative for near-diagnostic quality images that can be attached to reports and sent to referring physicians - at the fraction of the cost for film. Another showcased a color, networked printer that is compact and includes an integrated DICOM interface. While still yet another launched a new printer with image quality necessities for women's clinics and full field digital mammography applications, as well as a robust design to withstand mobile imaging environments.

(Note: companies appear in alphabetical order.)


Agfa Healthcare showed its portfolio of DryStar systems that utilize direct digital imaging technology.
   
Launched earlier this year, Agfa's compact DryStar 5300 is a tabletop printer targeted for decentralized imaging. The DICOM native printer with 320 ppi resolution meets the printing requirements of a multitude of imaging modalities, including CT, MRI, CR, CR, vascular, ultrasound and nuclear medicine. The system supports either 11-by-14 or 14-by-17 inch media sizes. In addition, the DryStar 5300 imager supports Agfa's heat-sensitive media, DryStar DT2, in both blue and clear based.
   
Agfa's larger DryStar 5500 imager is a multi-media, multi-modality, high-resolution imager for centralized workflow. The system's resolution is rated at 508 ppi at a spot size of 50µm for all applications. Printing multi-media sizes (8-by-10, 10-by-12, 11-by-14, 14-by-14, 14-by-17 inches), Agfa touts its high throughput at up to 100 14-by-17 sheets per hour in addition to its sorter function. Although the printer features multiple-format handling, the two most popular media sizes can be kept online. As a result, the imager is capable of delivering CT, MRI, DSA, digital R &F and DR images at high speed onto two different DryStar DT2 media sizes, 8-by-10 and 14-by-17.


aycan Medical Systems LLC used RSNA to springboard its aycan X-ray Print Solution, an imaging output system that prints high-quality medical images on paper.
   
The FDA-approved system combines a high-resolution laser printer with a DICOM print server to produce any kind of medical image - including those that capture color - on aycan-certified paper. After an image is created by the modality and the DICOM print job is sent over the hospital's Ethernet to the aycan print server, the system's software is responsible for converting the DICOM print job into a Postscript file for printing. Reducing film costs, hospitals and imaging centers can print images for less than 10 cents on paper, the company said.
   
The printer integrates with hospital networks using the DICOM 3.0 standard, and images can be received from any modality and then printed. Aycan's x-ray print software includes presentation look-up tables (PLUT) which allow users to set defaults and adjust image quality output settings.


Codonics announced at RSNA that select models of its Horizon Multi-media Dry Imager will be available for a limited time with a free five-year warranty package.
   
According to Codonics, the warranty package is coupled with a 24-hour replacement service. To minimize downtime, Codonics Sunrise Express warranty allows the company to issue a replacement unit if the printer can not be fixed immediately.
   
Codonics' Horizon Multi-media dry imager is a film imager, a color imager and a grayscale paper imager all in one. Switching between film, color and paper requires