New medical screening beneficial to Third World

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Plastronics pioneer, Plastic Logic has hit upon a new application for its technology that could vastly improve access to medical screening in the developing world.

The Cambridge Science Park based company is developing a digital X-ray system, more robust, more portable and most importantly cheaper than any existing technology.

Plastic Logic is predicting fast adoption in developing economies of its plastic electronic X-ray sensors. Currently two thirds of the world?s population has little or no access to diagnostic imaging of any kind, which is particularly useful in detecting diseases such as tuberculosis.

Simon Jones, VP of business development said: “Mobile phones are taking off in the developing world faster than fixed line telephony and I think the adoption of our technology will follow a similar principle. It is not a case of upgrading from analogue to digital because there is no existing infrastructure in place.

“Our solution has a lower cost of ownership than even analogue film X-ray, meaning that hospitals in the developing world can afford to buy the very latest technology.”

X-ray machines work by passing radiation through the body part of interest and onto a film cassette positioned under or behind it. It is the special energy and wavelength of the x-rays which allow them to pass through the body part and create the image of the internal structures. With analogue film X-ray, a special phosphor coating inside the cassette glows and exposes the film, which is then developed much like a regular photograph.

The digital technology currently available uses an amorphous silicon detector panel, which is expensive, fragile and heavy, where the x-rays are detected and then converted into a digital signal.

Plastic Logic?s technology replaces the heavy unwieldy silicon cartridges with a flexible printed electronic cartridge, which the company anticipates, will communicate wirelessly with an image processor.

The company is already in discussions with OEMs about the application and it is currently working towards a 2008 launch for the technology.

It estimates that the western market for the technology is valued at around $250m, not taking into account the developing world, or the veterinary or industrial applications.

Plastic Logic is leading the development of plastic electronics technology. It is pioneering manufacturing processes which combine the power of electronics with the pervasiveness of printing. The company?s enables revolutionary new applications by printing electronics on thin and flexible plastic substrates using a process scaleable for large area, high volume and low cost.

Jones reports that the company?s recently opened prototype line is accelerating commercial interest in the potential of Plastic Logic?s technology.

He said: “We are seeing a surge of interest amongst potential users and manufacturers of flexible displays driven by the progress we are making with our new protoype line.

“The line is enabling us to demonstrate the commercial potential of the process and prove the application value of the technology by making product quality displays in volumes suitable for prototypes and field trials.

“We have also completed very detailed cost modelling in close co-operation with potential manufacturers and this has validated that we have a genuinely low cost process. Also, the industry is getting its head around the potential for flexible.

“Third parties are starting to predict a multi-billion market in the next few years (nobody was doing this 18 months ago).

“The North East facility is important to the UK plastic electronics infrastructure because it enables the UK community to develop and exploit a local manufacturing capability. We are looking forward to being able to offer an additional UK based manufacturing option to our customers.”

Source: Business Weekly