Portwell Article: Medical OEMs Can Upgrade to the Latest Chip Technology while Protecting Legacy Investments

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    By Colin McCracken, American Portwell Technology Inc.


    The demands for medical imaging systems remain consistent. Solutions must contain high-performance, yet power-efficient processors with graphics capabilities that allow medical professionals to correctly and efficiently view and interpret scan results. To provide these solutions, medical original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) need to deliver high-end processing. They also must meet the medical industry’s requirements for long-term supply, revision control, notification of changes, and commitment to quality standards like ISO 13485. Implementing such high-end processing can require an investment in new form factors. Fortunately, viable alternatives exist.

    A Journey with Two Paths

    Upgrade: In the current economy, medical OEMs are operating under constrained resources. Often, a single engineer is responsible for new designs and upgrades in addition to sustaining products that are already in production. Reuse is therefore key. Any opportunity to upgrade to the latest central processing unit (CPU) without starting over on all other system aspects is a preferred choice. After all, it can speed software development for new features while minimizing validation and FDA certification re-filings.

    PICMG: Medical OEMs that have either a brand new product or buy only at the system or chassis level can use a complete solution—single-board computer (SBC), backplane, and chassis—based on PICMG 1.3. It offers proven dependability, long lifecycle support, and functional density when compared to some newer form factors like ATCA. Because those newer form factors are optimized for communications, they’re currently less established in medical markets. The PICMG alternative allows easy field service due to minimized downtime.

    Benefits of Both Paths

    Both paths can enable medical OEMs to embrace Intel’s new micro-architecture, which is codenamed Sandy Bridge. This micro-architecture features the second-generation Core i7 processor with a choice of high-performance C206 server chipset or Q67 Express desktop chipset. Backward compatibility reduces risks while speeding time to market.

    The success of both alternatives begins with a commitment to product longevity. In this instance, lifecycle commitment is bolstered by continued product development. Such development uses established form factors, such as PICMG 1.3, to allow OEMs to simply upgrade an existing rackmount or shoebox system to Sandy Bridge. They don’t have to start over with new form-factor blades.

    Within the medical environment, there’s still a large amount of superstructure built around these older standards. Many system-host-board (SHB, another term for SBC) manufacturers, such as Portwell Inc., provide solutions that are an excellent upgrade path for existing systems. These solutions function extremely well in today’s low-profile technology.



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