TechNation contacted industry experts for the latest information regarding tubes and bulbs for imaging equipment. Participating in the roundtable article on tubes and bulbs are GE Healthcare Imaging Service Portfolio Product Manager (U.S. and Canada) Adolfo Ivonnet, W7 Global President Wayne Kramer and Richardson Healthcare Vice President of Healthcare Sales and Operations Jerald L. Olsen.
Ivonnet: When purchasing replacement X-ray tubes, customers often value what is most critical for their health care facility. They should partner with a supplier that has manufacturing and engineering expertise, and a proven track record for delivering high quality, innovative and reliable products. Make sure the X-ray tubes you purchase are backed by a warranty provided by the supplier. X-ray tubes should be designed to provide exceptional image quality and optimal service life, while mitigating unplanned downtime and providing optimum system performance and reliability.
Kramer: You want confidence in your supplier. Are X-ray tubes a regular part of their business? Do they have a good reputation? Develop a level of comfort that you will be supported if something goes wrong.
Olsen: When purchasing a replacement X-ray tube, the first thing you need to verify is if the replacement you are buying is a drop-in replacement for the existing tube? Replacement X-ray tubes need to be a form, fit and function equivalent to the OEM tube. New tubes must have high voltage stability testing documentation, and radiation leak check values verifying the tube will be stable and safe in a clinical environment. It is important to note that harvested tubes are sold as-is, and not all are tested and certified the same depending on who harvested and sold the tube.
Ivonnet: Several options are available to customers including new, refurbished or available low-cost alternatives. Customers should inquire about offerings that will help improve their clinical, operational and financial outcomes: Does your supplier have flexible tube coverage alternatives that help to reduce cost? Does your supplier have proactive/predictive remote monitoring capabilities that your health care facility can benefit from? Customers should be aware of additional options that can improve their system performance and cost structure that extends beyond the X-ray tube that also benefits the critical components in the imaging chain.
Kramer: Pre-owned and refurbished tubes can be a great option for cost savings. Past usage and date of manufacture are the primary factors driving the price. You want confidence that the tube has been fully tested and will be supported if there’s a problem, and the supplier should give a reasonable warranty to back that up. For new tubes, the first thing to understand is that you might have more cost-effective options than going direct to the OEM. It’s worthwhile to check for available options from aftermarket dealers and suppliers.
Olsen: Before buying a replacement X-ray tube, you need to understand if it is new or previously used. New and previously used tubes have a place in the market, but you need to know what you require before asking for a supplier quote. Ask yourself if you want a slightly higher-cost new tube with maximum life or deal with unplanned equipment downtime and higher risk with a used tube.
Ivonnet: Customers may prefer the purchase of a new tube, as it has never been used and often has a comprehensive warranty. Refurbished tubes are a less expensive alternative, and it is important for the customer to understand the supplier’s criteria and definition of a refurbished tube and the warranty differences between a new tube and a refurbished one.
Kramer: New tubes are often associated with lower risk and higher cost, and usually they have a longer warranty than used tubes. It’s not always the case that a new tube will last longer than a good preowned one. If you’re spending the money for a new tube, make sure you’re getting an OEM-level warranty, or at least a warranty that suits the pricing being offered. Buy such tubes from reliable sources, such as a dealer or seller with an established track record.
Olsen: X-ray tubes have finite wear components inside them, such as bearings, anodes and filaments. New tubes will use new components or components that are reconditioned to new tube performance. Typically, a refurbished tube has used parts and may have a shorter life than a new tube. When an X-ray tube is refurbished, most suppliers can only replace or repair high voltage and cooling system components outside of the vacuum envelope in and around the housing assembly. Another differentiator is the dielectric oil. This oil can be reprocessed or replaced in various tube types, improving the tube’s high voltage stability and performance. New tubes come with dielectric oil that has little to no moisture or air in it. The dielectric oil in refurbished tubes is subject to a company’s oil reprocessing capabilities.
Ivonnet: Warranties can differ between suppliers. Customers should have a clear understanding of the supplier’s warranty coverage that is applicable to the X-ray tube, detailing the terms and conditions, and have it in writing. Product support extends beyond the tube and it is important to understand the technical knowledge and expertise available with the supplier to ensure optimal system quality and performance.
Kramer: X-ray tubes should always be purchased with a warranty and be sure it’s from a reputable company that will actually support it. Generally speaking, quality used and refurbished tubes will have warranties of at least 90 days on a prorated basis. Some more extreme budget options might carry a lesser warranty. New tubes typically come with 12 months and might vary between full replacement and prorated. Some also come with usage limits, such as a max number of patient exams or scan seconds for CT tubes. All of this is standard in the industry. Don’t assume that buying a brand-new tube automatically means you’re avoiding the risk of warranty failure. We have seen plenty of warranty cases reported from tubes that came directly from the OEM. At W7 Global, we now offer an extended warranty option for brand-new tubes under our TubeAssurance program, which provides 6 and 12-month prorated warranty options in addition to the factory warranty, giving even more added value and peace of mind to the customer.
Olsen: New tubes usually come with a minimum of a one-year prorated warranty and/or finite slice or scan second count. Finite slice or scan second count warranties are more common in high-use ER environments given the constant use of the CT scanner. Refurbished tubes may come without any warranty, but most trustworthy suppliers will warranty refurbished X-ray tubes from 90 to 180 days, with some extending longer depending on the X-ray tube type and application. It is important to read the fine print before making a buying decision.
Ivonnet: It’s important to understand the tube is one of many components to consider when considering a supplier to establish a partnership with. While the tube may be the key element, customers should also evaluate the solutions a supplier can provide beyond the tube itself that prioritizes the management and performance of the overall system to focus on helping reduce the amount of service calls and dollars spent on repair costs, and delivering reliability, productivity and financial stability.
Kramer: One of the most important things to remember is that, whether purchasing new or preowned, you have options. Don’t assume that you have to go to the OEM and pay their asking price, even if you want to buy brand new. Check around with companies in the industry to find the most cost-effective, reliable solution that fits your specific needs and budget.
Olsen: If you want to see how a new X-ray tube is made from start to stock, please contact me directly: Jerald Olsen firstname.lastname@example.org. We can do a virtual or in-person tour at our Chicago area facility. You will come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for what it takes to manufacture or refurbish an X-ray tube.
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