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The rise of liquid metal bearing X-ray tubes

par Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | August 16, 2021
Parts And Service
Dunlee's DA200P40+LMB tube
From the August 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Much of the imaging technology in your facility is only as good as the X-ray tube inside of it. These vital components operate behind the scenes, so it’s easy to forget the work they do to generate each and every X-ray image you acquire.

The tube market has historically been difficult to break into, due to the cost of technology development and access to R&D, and experienced manufacturing engineering expertise. While major imaging OEMs like GE, Philips, Siemens and Canon manufacturer their own tubes, there are also independent tube manufacturers like Varex, the Dunlee brand of Philips, Chronos, and Richardson Healthcare.

These sophisticated components are not cheap, so ensuring you’ve got the best tubes for your technology is critical. From OEM offerings to the replacement market, we look at the latest crop of tubes, the rise of liquid metal bearing (LMB) tubes, a move away from ball bearings, innovations in service and maintenance partnerships, and the exciting potential for cold cathode tubes.

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LMB takes off but ball bearings remain relevant
GE Healthcare has launched a newly engineered LMB tube called the Quantix 160 X-ray tube for its Revolution Apex CT system. It features a new flat emitter cathode design, which exceeds 16 centimeters of coverage, and has an ultrahigh-power reserve for high-resolution scanning.

It’s also designed to handle much higher rotational speed and force. It can withstand 75 G of G-force, which is significant since a fighter jet can typically handle 9 Gs, according to Aaron Goryl, general manager of service product management and healthcare technology management development for the U.S. and Canada at GE.

“It provides the necessary power to image comfortably all anatomies, regardless of the patient size, supports whole organ scanning or imaging without compromising imaging noise, or image noise or contrast,” he added.

With 2,000 employees turning out over 25,000 X-ray tubes per year and over 70 years in the industry, Utah-based Varex Imaging Corporation is one of the market leaders in OEM and replacement tubes. At the 2020 RSNA meeting, Varex introduced new LMB technology to its X-ray tube portfolio. The first two X-ray tubes in this new product family are 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, according to a statement.

Dunlee entered the LMB tube market with the launch of its CT3000 for mid-range CT scanners, which are not the usual candidates for this advanced technology.

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