Technology – The sum of a quality medical thermography systems is far greater than its parts. It cannot be understated that anyone can type up a specification sheet and present it to a customer. However, are these specifications accurate? What about the team of expert hardware and software engineers that are needed to design and build these systems? Are you really getting an infrared imaging system that will do what is advertised?
From the very beginning, Spectron IR set out to build its imaging systems from the ground up using input from experts in the field of medical thermography. Instead of trying to adapt off-the-shelf cameras and industrial software to fit medical uses, Spectron IR started from scratch in order to provide you with the very best technology. Our company asked technicians and doctors with many years of field experience what they wanted in a new medical infrared imaging system. We also teamed up with experts in the field of infrared sensing technology and computerized image processing. What Spectron IR has accomplished is nothing short of providing the finest medical infrared imaging systems available.
Please click here if you wish to go directly to our system specifications. However, you may want to read this short list of commonly asked technology questions first to familiarize yourself with the terminology.
Infrared Sensing Technology –
What is a microbolometer detector? A microbolometer is a specific type of resistor that is used as an infrared detector in a thermal camera. There are three types currently being used to make infrared detectors: Amorphous Silicon, Barium Strontium Titanate, and Vanadium Oxide. Spectron IR has chosen to use the most sensitive detectors in order to provide our customers with the best image possible. Spectron IR chooses to use vanadium oxide exclusively in all our high resolution 640×480 cameras.
What does it mean when I see a camera that has numbers like 320×240?This number refers to the number of individual infrared sensors (pixels) that will be used to produce the image (ex. 320×240 = 76,800 sensors). The infrared sensors are arranged on an array with 320 sensors vertically and 240 sensors horizontally. This is also known as the absolute resolution. Just like when you purchase a digital camera, you get to chose the number of megapixels that will sense the incoming light (1 megapixel = 1000×1000 = 1 million light detectors). In the simplest terms, the more infrared sensors you have the more detailed the image, as long as all other specifications of the hardware are of high quality.
What is Spatial Resolution? Spatial resolution refers to the ability of a camera to detect fine detail. When two different areas of heat are brought close together, the spatial resolution will determine whether or not you will be able to see the two objects as completely distinct areas. Spatial resolution is very important when you need to see fine detail such as blood vessels.
How important is the thermal imaging sensitivity of my camera? This is extremely important; you will see this technical aspect written in the specifications as the NEDT (Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference). Thermal sensitivity is necessary in order to detect minute temperature differences. An infrared camera that is capable of detecting extremely small temperature differences will detect more in all circumstances. When looking at this specification what you want is a low NEDT number.
Another important aspect is “noise”. If a camera has too much “noise” the image will not be clear, but rather appear as if you are looking through a screen door. If enough “noise” is present you may also see lines, jagged edges, and pixilated images.
When evaluating an infrared imaging camera, as long as the rest of the specifications are exceptional (ex. absolute and spatial resolution, lens type, detector type, etc.), the lower the NEDT number the better the image quality.
Is the lens of an infrared camera just as important as a regular camera? Absolutely! The Spectron IR camera uses a large 50 mm lens.· In simplest terms, a larger lens allows for more light or infrared radiation to pass through it. As such more infrared will reach the detector, which means that the detector will react more to this incoming radiation. When making a comparison of cameras with the same detector, the camera with the larger diameter lens will have better NEDT values. Spectron systems use the largest lens that is practical for our detectors providing you with the highest image quality.
Why is Frame Rate important? Frame rate refers to the ability of the camera to image objects in motion. When a camera processes images at a fast frame rate, objects can be viewed moving freely on the screen without blurring. This is also referred to as “live” or “real-time” imaging. This aspect of infrared imaging is very important as an image cannot be focused properly without real-time capability. An infrared image that is not properly focused is useless. Detail is lost and accurate temperature data is severely compromised. Some imaging systems are not able to perform focusing of a live image. This is unacceptable in a modern infrared imaging system. All Spectron IR 640×480 systems have real-time high frame rate capture capability.
Hardware Interface and Operations Software –
Spectron IR’s interface and operations software provides the confidence needed to quickly capture, store, retrieve and analyze images. Temperature reference points, temperature differentiation, isotherms, area temperature averaging, color palette choices and so much more are all accomplished with highly efficient single keystroke commands. This greatly reduces the time that is spent looking for drop down menus, choosing from the menu and then clicking on that choice to initiate a command.
Intuitive Design: Spectron IR software uses the most common sense and simple method for commands. This translates into an incredibly easy to learn system. Feedback from technicians and experts in medical thermography has noted that this is one of the easiest, straight-forward, and efficient software designs they have ever worked with.
Single Keystroke Command: This allows users to quickly capture, store, retrieve and view any image using a simple keystroke command. By eliminating nearly all drop-down menus valuable time is saved in both capturing and analyzing images. The Spectron IR software was created from the ground up to be medical specific and is designed for highly efficient clinical applications.
Computerized Image Processing –
Spectron IR’s post-image processing utilizes a sophisticated, yet interface simplified approach. While maintaining single keystroke commands, a mouse is also used to initiate certain analytical processes that allow for efficient topographical mapping.
Each image is presented in its own frame with all of its radiometric data. This allows for an individual image to be analyzed while being able to view up to 16 images on a single screen. The thermologist may choose among 20 differing color and gray scale palettes while simultaneously performing a quantitative temperature analysis. A quick digital subtraction may also be done in two forms by simply hitting a single key.
Pinpoint, two-point, and area averaging temperature analysis along with arrow coding and annotating are just a few of the many other methods of analysis available to the thermologist. For those who don’t want to use presentation software such as PowerPoint, the Spectron IR software also allows you to build a presentation database of images. These images may be used in presentations or extracted as high-resolution images in one keystroke. The extracted images may be used to build websites and promotional materials such as brochures.
We have covered just a few of the main highlights of our interface, operations, and post-image processing software. To fully appreciate the power of this software, and a complete review of all of the features, please feel free to call for a demonstration.
FDA Information –
Spectron IR is the manufacturer of the TyTron C-500 IR Clinical Infrared Imaging System. The following is the FDA Premarket Notification 510(k) #KO32471 which is applicable to this system.
Indications for use: The TyTron C-500 IR Clinical Infrared Imaging System is intended for adjunctive diagnostic screening for the detection of breast cancer and other uses such as: peripheral vascular disease, neuromusculoskeletal disorders, extracranial cerebral and facial vascular disease, thyroid gland abnormalities, and various other neoplastic, metabolic and inflammatory conditions. Use of the TyTron C-500 is not intended to be a sole diagnostic procedure for these diseases and conditions.
Click link below to go to FDA site.