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 no operator intervention. The compact system occupies approximately two feet of desk space and weighs approximately 70 pounds. The PACS printer - which can print up to 100 films per hour - can multi-scale for size of film: 11-by-14, 14-by-17 and 8-by-10.



Eastman Kodak Co. added a new dry laser imager and a new digital color printer to its line of digital out put devices at this year's RSNA.
   
The new Kodak DryView 8150 Laser Imager is a networked system that meets the performance needs of low- to mid-volume medical printing environments. Platform enhancements to the previous DryView 8100 imager include: increased output of up to 70 radiographic films per hour, support for three film sizes (14-by-17, 14-by-14 and 11-by-14 inches) and an internal DICOM interface. Also new to the platform is an instructional program that enables customers to install their own imager if they choose to do so.
   
The 8150 uses the same Kodak DryView laser imaging film as all of the company's DryView laser imagers. Kodak said the system will be available worldwide this month.
   
Kodak's new Color Medical Imager 1000 prints full-color patient images and reports onto Kodak Color Medical Imager paper. Printed images are protected with a durable laminate overcoat that resists fingerprints, water and fading for long-term usability. The networked, desktop imager includes an integrated DICOM interface. The user interface includes a touch screen that displays instructions for operations and service to enhance ease of use.
   
Kodak said the Color Medical Imager 1000 supports letter and A4 size paper and can be easily installed. Each image is generated in less than 75 seconds using thermal dye sublimation technology.  
   
Kodak said its Color Medical Imager 1000 can be ordered in the first quarter of 2005 and will begin shipping worldwide in the second quarter of 2005.



Ferrania LifeImaging brought to RSNA its LifeImager 6000 line of dry imagers.
   
The printer line has four models: the entry level LifeImager 6010 has a print size of 14-by-17, while the 6021 offers a choice of 11-by-14 and 8-by-10 print sizes. The LifeImager also offers two online print sizes of 14-by-17 and 8-by-10, and the 6021 and 6024 can print on either film or on A4 paper. The top of the line model - the LifeImager 6050 - automatically selects print sizes from 14-by17 and 8-by-10 and also can print on 14-by-17 and 8-by-10 paper sizes. In addition, images can be printed in color on paper or transparency film.
   
Ferrania said the printers all utilize a smart card that stores set-up data and departmental/user preferences. In the event of a malfunction that cannot be fixed easily, the card can be removed and reinserted in a replacement unit.


  
FujiFilm Medical Systems USA Inc. introduced the DryPix 4000 that utilizes dry laser imager technology and pinned for mid-range imaging environments.
   
The compact design and 110-volt power supply makes the system attractive for decentralized printing and smaller, centralized imaging departments. Fuji's touts the printer's throughput of 110 and 160 films per hour, dependent on film size, which provides ample capacity to meet the needs of high-speed modalities, such as CT.
   
The DryPix 4000 accommodates all film sizes (14-by-17, 14-by-14, 10-by-14, 10-by-12, and 8-by-10), with up to two film sizes available at all times, and prints to the edge of the film for true size imaging without cropping. Fuji's Image Intelligence processing software tools ensure sharp images optimized for each input modality. It has a built-in DICOM print server, featuring Windows XP operating system, and is compatible with the optional DryPix Station that provides automatic fail-over. An optional 4-bin film sorter for increased workflow efficiency is also available.
   
Fuji said niche applications include mobile environments and women's clinics. The DryPix 4000 includes image quality features such as 50-micron pixel resolution and high (3.60) maximum density capability-without using special film-making it suitable for women's health centers and full-field digital mammography (FFDM) applications.  The printer is designed to withstand the shocks and environmental conditions of mobile imaging trailers, making it suitable for mobile CT and MR imaging facilities that require the high performance of dry laser imagers.
   
Fujifilm said the DryPix 4000 is expected to be available in the second quarter of 2005 and carries a price tag of about $50,000.



Konica Minolta Medical Imaging launched the DryPro 793 dry laser imager at this year's RSNA. It is designed for centralized imaging capacity for busy CR, CT and MRI environments.
   
The multi-modality, enhanced resolution DryPro 793 offers high image quality and fast throughput of 120 films per hour. The DryPro 793 can use up to three supply trays, accommodating a variety of film sizes, including 14-by-17, 14-by-14, 11-by-14, 10-by-12, and 8-by-10, and can handle up to 16 DICOM inputs.  
   
In addition, Konica said the all-new 25-micron resolution mode makes the DryPro 793 a suitable imager for mammography applications.



Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America showcased its MD-3000 Medical Videocassette Recorder with incorporated advanced digital technologies.
   
The S-VHS ET function ensures 400 lines of resolution on a standard VHS videocassette tape. The system incorporates advanced features such as a jog/shuttle dial for easy programming; built-in digital TBC which eliminates jitter; skew and color blurring playback; 3D digital noise reduction; 3D digital Y/C separation; digital frame memory; and a rotary head which ensures a cleaner start after recording pause. An RS-232/USB board and 34-pin parallel interface board also are available as options.



Sony Electronics debuted at RSNA its next generation of black-and-white ultrasound printers.
   
Sony's UP-897 series are compact, monochrome, medical-grade ultrasound printers. The series includes an analog model, UP-897MD, and a digital model, UP-D897.
   
The UP-D897 features rapid data transfer enabled by a high-speed USB 2.0 digital interface, and speed of two seconds per print. Sony's digital model is 88-mm high and 240-mm deep and fits almost anywhere. The system is designed to provide an easy upgrade for facilities using existing A6 ultrasound printers. For facilities using the Sony UP-895 series, the UP-897 series uses the media models - UPP-110S, UPP-110HD and the UPP-110HG printing paper.
   
Sony said the UP-D897 and UP897MD printers will be available in February 2005 and will ship with a roll of media, AC power cord and a USB 2.0 cable.
   
Sony showcased the UP-D55MD digital A5 color printer, a compact model that implements dye-sublimation technology and a USB 2.0 digital interface to offer durable, photo-like images (379 dpi) in approximately 20 seconds. The UP-D55MD enables easy integration with existing medical imaging systems.
   
The UP-D55MD printer is available now and includes an ink ribbon holder, AC power cord, USB cable, paper tray, CD ROM with printer drivers, ICC profiles and an operation manual, 100 sheets of UP-D55MD media and one ribbon.