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The rise of liquid metal bearing X-ray tubes

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | August 16, 2021
Parts And Service
From the August 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“We do expect LMB tubes will play a dominant role in this market segment and the number of systems that use ball bearing tubes will steadily decrease,” said Martina Pieper, senior marketing manager at Dunlee.

“Hospitals see the advantage of LMB for daily work when there is higher patient throughput,” she added. “I think wherever workflow reliability and comfort counts, I'm sure the LMB technology will be the technology of choice.”

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For now, Goryl says GE continues to see applications for both LMB and ball bearing tubes. It really boils down to the scanner, and the applications and purposes it will be used for. Patient volume, rotational speed and gantry load are all factors that may determine the amount of stress that will be put on the tube.

“Ball bearings, in general, can be a failure point when you put a lot of load or strain on the tube with gantry rotation, etc.,” said Goryl. “There are certain cases where ball bearing works just fine, but for the higher performance systems, LMB tends to be utilized on those technologies.”

One trend shaping OEM tube development is a new emphasis on building scanners with a focus on managing the whole system and reducing the number of service calls, according to Jason Launders, director of operations for the device evaluation group at ECRI.

“The more reliable you can make it, the better it's going to be for a customer and for you,” he said.

The replacement market
Dunlee launched its DA200P40+LMB CT tube for the replacement market, which is designed for the GE Revolution Evo and Optima CT660 CT systems. It features the company’s CoolGlide LMB technology that continuously circulates fluid to avoid friction, overheating and wear and tear.

“Users can turn on the system in the morning, it will run all day without any interruption,” said Pieper. “In COVID times, it's very nice that this saves preparation time and is especially useful for emergency exams.”

Chronos Imaging is also making a splash in the CT tube replacement market with its new LMB tubes. The company recently began manufacturing a number of LMB tubes due to the heat dissipation, reliability and quiet operation that this technology offers.

“They are generally more expensive to produce,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, president of Chronos. “While there has been a steady progression toward the use of LMB technology in higher end CT and interventional tube applications, I think there will still be a place for ball bearing technology in the more cost-effective tubes needed in lower-end CT and DR applications.”

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