UPDATE : Monday, March 19, 2018
‘VIVIX, innovative flat panel detector for radiography’[Making Korea Medical Powerhouse ①] Vieworks’ chief researcher Cho Byung-rae
  • By Park Gi-taek
  • Published 2018.01.03 06:30
  • Updated 2018.01.04 10:35
  • comments 0

Korea’s pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries are drawing attention with strong sales of biopharmaceutical products, including biosimilars and locally developed drugs’ entry into the U.S. market. In contrast, attention on the medical device market is relatively weak, although it is part of the healthcare industry. However, the medical device sector has not achieved its full potential yet, observers say. In fact, local medical device makers are quietly preparing to leap forward. Unknown medical device manufacturers are contributing to Korea’s export growth. Korea Biomedical Review has met key officials at such companies who are working hard to make Korea a medical device manufacturing powerhouse.

Vieworks is one of such unknown companies in Korea. However, the supplier of medical and industrial imaging solutions is drawing attention abroad with its digital X-ray detector and advanced cameras customized for industrial uses.

Notably, the company is outperforming in flat panel detectors (FPD) for digital radiography where X-ray images appear on a computer screen at the moment of the shooting. Vieworks export about 90 percent of its detectors for digital radiography to the U.S., Europe, China, Japan, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

The company’s annual revenue totaled 117.3 billion won ($110.5 million) in 2016 and 60 percent of them, or 71 billion won, came from detectors for digital radiography. Foreign shipments made more than 90 percent of the detector sales.

Thanks to its contribution to Korea’s exports, Vieworks has recently been selected as “2017 Manufacturer of World’s Premier Product” by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The company’s flagship VIVIX series have been picked as “World’s Premier Product.” The Manufacturer of World’s Premier Product either ranks within fifth in global market share or is the No.1 exporter in the peer product manufacturing group. The World’s Premier Product is selected among products that take up more than 5 percent of share in the global market sized at $50 million in annual sales or more.

Korea Biomedical Review met Cho Byung-rae, chief researcher at the FPD team of Medical Imaging Division at Vieworks, who has led the company’s flagship product VIVIX-S series and the development of new product VIVIX-S 1417N, to learn how he has achieved such works.

Vieworks’ chief researcher Cho Byung-rae tells Korea Biomedical Review why the VIVIX series was successful in overseas markets.

Question: Can you introduce what VIVIX-S 1417N is?

Answer: VIVIX-S 1417N is a multipurpose portable flat panel detector for digital radiography, used in X-rays for chest. It is a follow-up product of VIVIX-S 1417W. The number 1417 refers to the size of the product, which is 14 inches by 17 inches.

VIVIX-S 1417N offers better user convenience and safety. While the old model used WiFi 802.11n, the new one uses 802.11ac allowing quick sending and confirming of images.

The latest model also uses Near Field Communication (NFC), which makes it simple to change shooting conditions. The wireless product, weighing only 2.9 kg, makes X-ray shooting easy, even for patients in emergency rooms. The detector does not easily break because it can endure heavy weight up to 300 kilograms. Such feature makes the X-ray shooting of a patient with immobility easy.

In case images are cut when Wi-Fi settings are unstable, which is one of the weak points of wireless imaging devices, Vieworks’ detector automatically saves images internally so that it can be used in various conditions in a hospital.

Q: What are the strong points of Vieworks’ detectors?

A: We make not only the detector’s hardware but software. We have led the market with our automatic exposure detection (AED) feature. A wireless detector needs a connected signal between an X-ray system and a generator to react to the generator appropriately. But AED feature solved this problem, allowing the detector to stably respond to the generator, even under a weak signal.

Q: The proportion of overseas sales is quite phenomenal, isn’t it?

A: The reason we put so much focus on overseas sales is simple -- to survive. Currently, 15 manufacturers of detectors for digital radiography are intensely competing in the global market where 50,000-60,000 products are produced annually. Regarding market size, the U.S. and Europe are the two largest. Vieworks has been targeting these two markets earlier on in developing and manufacturing our products.

'VIVIX-S 1417N'

Q: What sets Vieworks apart from its competitors?

A: The image quality has long been at the center of competition among detectors for digital radiography. But now, there is no significant difference in image quality among significant competitors. The convenience and safety are the critical issues these days. So, we have strived to make the product stronger and more convenient to use.

In other words, our products do not lag behind global rivals, and we have a competitive edge in price. We were able to compete against large detector makers such as American firm Varex Imaging and Trixell of Europe because our products offered a better price with good image quality, as well as aggressively provided after-sales services. Since the launch of the new product VIVIX-S 1417N this year, market responses are hot. We’re expecting higher sales, going forward.

Q: Do you have any plan to expand the local business?

A: In the old days, physicians used to have a prejudice that locally made detectors offer low image quality. Now, such bias has eased a little, but doctors still have a higher expectation for expensive devices imported from advanced countries. Local doctors are now getting to learn that locally made products are as good as foreign ones. So, we’re expanding the local business continuously.

Q: What is your goal?

A: It’s been six years since we launched the VIVIX series. We have narrowed the gap with global companies regarding product quality and service. Now, it is consumers’ turn to recognize our brand. Just like iPhone is cited as a typical smartphone, we will make utmost efforts to promote Vieworks’ detector brand VIVIX.


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