While a good picture may be worth a thousand words, a computer-enhanced X-ray image provided by computed tomography (CT) is priceless to diagnosticians. With CT technology, the cross-sectional images produced by X-ray scans reveal the exact location of structural abnormalities in the body. With ultrafast computed tomography, a three-dimensional moving image shows both structural and motion abnormalities.
For more than half a century, Dunlee has been developing and manufacturing the tubes used in medical imaging equipment. Founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1946 by two engineers, Dunmore Dunk and Zed Atlee (hence the name Dunlee), the start-up business produced and distributed the vacuum tubes used in X-ray machines.
Constantly evolving with advances in X-ray technology, the company has become a major supplier of X-ray, cardiovascular, and CT products to a growing international market. In 1994 the operation moved to a new 133,000-square-foot facility in Aurora, Ill. Since moving to Aurora, Dunlee has invested more than $60 million in its manufacturing capabilities and tripled its business along the way. Operations have been ISO 9001 certified since 1994 and EN 46001 certified since 1998.
In October 2001 Dunlee became part of Philips Medical Systems, a multi-billion-dollar division of Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands, one of the largest electronics companies in the world. Prior to that, for 33 years the manufacturer had been part of London-based Marconi plc.
Patrick Fitzgerald, general manager of Dunlee, comments on the synergies of the new union with Philips: “Dunlee should thrive under the new ownership of Philips Medical Systems. Philips has made a major investment in medical imaging over the past several years, which will help foster new sales opportunities worldwide. In addition, we now have two highly talented engineering and manufacturing organizations, in Aurora and Hamburg, to increase the number and speed of new product introductions.”
The Midwest company currently produces thousands of CT tubes per year. The new combined operations of Dunlee and the Philips plant in Hamburg, Germany, make the newly formed enterprise the second largest producer of X-ray and CT tubes in the world.
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David Kuehn, director of global marketing and sales, emphasizes that Dunlee is unique in its capability to produce both the CT tubes for Philips, as well as other brands of imaging systems. He explains that a system consists of three major parts: the gantry, which is the apparatus the body goes through; the CT tube, which spins around the gantry; and the high-voltage generator, which drives the tube.
Focusing on Dunlee’s main product line, he emphasizes, “We manufacture and distribute high-end CT tubes, and we specialize in what the industry calls sub second CT, which can detect motion. This technology requires a very large X-ray tube, and only a handful of manufacturers are capable of producing tubes for this application.”
Kuehn points out that the fast pace of advances in computer technology is an important driver in this medical market. “A regular X-ray picture is still used for simple procedures, but with CT image technology, more complex examinations can be done with a computer-manipulated image.”
Considering that a CT system can cost about $1 million, replacement parts are an important consideration – especially since a high-end tube can cost $100,000 or more. Kuehn says that a CT tube can last up to 24 months, depending on the types of examinations and patient throughput.
Dunlee saw an opportunity in the replacement market. “We had a family of products for our own systems,” states Kuehn, “but we asked ourselves, ‘How are we going to take control of our growth and maximize the return on our investment?’ We decided to manufacture tubes for most other brands of CT systems.”
Dunlee manufactures replacement tubes for more CT systems than any other company in the world. The company’s product line includes more than 70 CT replacements and more than 50 other X-ray replacements. Healthcare providers can typically enjoy savings of 20 to 30 percent on first-quality replacement tubes.
Kuehn describes the growing market for alternative replacement tubes. “With the healthcare directive to reduce costs, hospitals are using multi-vendor services. After a CT system goes out of the original warranty period, hospitals look to other suppliers for less expensive service and replacement parts.”
In addition to providing high-quality CT tubes that are manufactured specifically for Philips Medical Systems and replacement tubes for other high-end systems, Dunlee offers quality and customer service assurances that are unparalleled in the medical imaging market. These include: products that meet or exceed all original OEM specifications; advanced product testing simulating field conditions; exclusive DA Series housings that ensure higher quality and tighter tolerances; customer service and technical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and worldwide inventory for shipment within hours.
Currently, Dunlee’s sales are approximately 60 percent in the United States and 40 percent overseas, mainly to China, Western Europe, and Latin America. The marketing director says that the company will look to expand in foreign markets, especially in Germany and Japan. “At Dunlee, our goal is to become the largest X-ray and CT tube manufacturer in the world.”
Kuehn says that the company will continue to build on its reputation for providing quality and service. “We are a highly creative company. We save people money and give them an alternative. We also provide the service they need and expect. Dunlee is a friendly company that gives people choices.”
It doesn’t take X-ray vision to see that Dunlee has the internal drive to meet its goals.