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The Future of Endoscopy is CMOS

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Within every industry the development of new technologies, to greatly expand the end-user’s capabilities and effectiveness, is at the heart of innovation. Seldom does an industry make the requisite technological advancements to revolutionize itself. But when it does occur, everybody from the manufacturer to the consumer exponentially benefits from the quantum increase in practicality, versatility and usability. The industry that arguably gains the most from such improvements is the medical industry. Innovations within medical space lead to a more noble and tangible benefits as they result in life-changing or even life-saving events.

Specifically, endoscopy is in the midst of a tectonic transition, where continuous innovation has led to instrumentations and methods of the past to be either vastly improved or to grow obsolete. For decades endoscopic technology has been based on rod lens, fiber or charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensors. The high price of CCC image sensors, coupled with advancements in complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors and wafer level optics technology enabling single-use devices, are two major factors in the changing of the status quo. 

As the advancements in medical science expand, so does the frequency and applicability of endoscopic procedures. While once predominantly used within the gastrointestinal field, endoscopic instruments are now used to diagnose and treat issues within the brain, eyes, ear/nose/throat (ENT), spine, heart, urinary tract, and more. These procedures require entry through smaller openings, no bigger than 3 mm, which is impossible to achieve with CCD-based endoscopes.

CMOS image sensors have become the best solution for endoscopy. CMOS is not a new technology, however some medical device companies are unfamiliar with it, due to their reliance on older CCD methods. CMOS manufactures like OMNIVISION, are able to leverage a well-established, reliable semiconductor manufacturing process that has been tested and proven across varied market segments.

Alongside the proven track record, CMOS technology just simply outperforms older more-outmoded CCD systems, boasting safer single use options, a more compact design at 1/5th the size of traditional CCD, cooler distal tip operating temperatures, due to low power consumption and highly advanced technologies like Nyxel®, global shutter, HDR, 4‑Cell and backside illumination (BSI). This all enables high 60 fps for blur-free imaging, better dynamic range to visualize dark and bright areas clearly and crisper images due to less pixel noise.

Making the switch from the traditional CCD and converting to CMOS only requires retrofitting the imaging system. Given that many CCD suppliers are exiting the market, the availability of CCD sensors will become scarce over the coming years. The optimal time to make the transition to CMOS is now when there is some availability of legacy CCD image sensors and a full portfolio of medical CMOS image sensors to choose from. The entire tower will not require replacement, whereas the camera control unit and endoscope will need to be swapped out.

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