The medical imaging equipment industry is a huge $35B market with a few mega-players, and a comfortable +5.5% CAGR for the next 5 years1. Medical imaging equipment encompasses X-ray imaging (general radiography, computed tomography, dental x-ray, etc.), molecular imaging (PET and SPECT mainly), endoscopy, optical coherence tomography and ultrasound imaging.
Sensor technologies are at the heart of these systems and are slowly creating disruptive market forces within the industry. The solid-state medical sensor market, which encompasses CCD, CIS, a-SI FPD, a-Se FPD, SiPM, and now cMUT and pMUT, has reached $350M in 2016 and is expected to grow at +8.3% CAGR from 2016 – 2022, representing $600M by 20221.
Sensors are becoming key technology know-how for tomorrow’s medical equipment manufacturers. The world is becoming increasingly data-driven, with ever more applications using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data. Doctors and scientists expect continuous improvements in image quality, while also developing new applications where these solid-state imaging capabilities can be used to their full extent. PET/MRI hybrids and endoscopy are examples of solid-state technology becoming the key enabler.
PET and MRI complement one another perfectly, but traditional PET detector technology (photomultiplier tubes) is not compatible with MRI’s technology. Solid-state SiPM is the answer to this technological challenge. Solid state technology is well suited to combined PET and MRI due to compatibility of the high magnetic fields and the capabilities of miniaturization. APD was chosen by Siemens for the first commercially available whole-body simultaneous PET/MR scanner (Siemens Biograph mMR®). GE chose SiPM for the first whole-body simultaneous TOF-PET/MR scanner (GE Signa PET/MR®). Solid-state is currently used not only in the combined PET/MR scanner but also in the new PET/CT system, due to its interesting properties and cost efficiency. This is dramatically changing the supply chain of the PET detectors industry.
In the case of endoscopy, usage of CCD or CMOS has now completely transformed the landscape and the digitization process is almost complete. Laparoscopes, rigid endoscopes used during surgery, are using CCD and CMOS chip-to-the-tip image sensors, where the use of multiple sensors allows for stereovision. Today more than 95% of rigid endoscopes are equipped with CCD sensors, and surgical robots include a laparoscope. Surgical robotics is only one application of the much bigger market of endoscopy, but the trends seen in this field undoubtedly also impact the surgical robotics market. As an example, Intuitive Surgical’s Da Vinci surgical robot is capable of 3D imaging thanks to two HD sensors at the tip of the laparoscope.