How Healthcare + Industry Breeds Better Inspection Technology

Healthcare and industrial inspection technologies seem worlds apart; but overlapping areas of expertise like those are among the things that makes GE unique. They also uniquely position the company to create better, faster, more efficient products by sharing ideas, insight, and experience across businesses.   We call that transfer of knowledge and talent across GE’s diverse businesses the “GE Store.”

It all starts at GE Global Research with teams that work independently, yet communicate regularly, to transfer knowledge and kick-start new ideas.

“Global Research really embraces diversity by encouraging internal networking,” said Siavash Yazdanfar, manager of the Global Research Ultrasound Lab. “There are lots of opportunities to have discussions with people in other fields, which really promotes the GE Store concept of leveraging advances in one field to fuel innovation in another.”

Siavash’s team develops core ultrasound technologies for clinical diagnostics like radiology, cardiovascular imaging, and breast cancer screening. Their scope includes physical and digital components, spanning materials, electrical systems, and signal processing, with the goal of improving image quality and speed.

“Capabilities expand as computational power increases, so evolution is constant. Our program is driven by the needs of healthcare providers and with strong competition, we must leverage the strength and uniqueness of GE to create innovation and stand out,” Siavash said.

(from left to right) Mark Osterlitz, Waseem Faidi, and Siavash Yazdanfar look at a 3D-printed part being prepared for inspection with a CT scanner.
(from left to right) Mark Osterlitz, Waseem Faidi, and Siavash Yazdanfar look at a 3D-printed part being prepared for inspection with a CT scanner.

 

This includes working with Waseem Faidi, manager of the Global Research Inspection and Metrology Lab, which is tasked with developing industrial inspection technologies like industrial digital x-ray, phased array ultrasonic systems, and industrial imaging capabilities.

“There are a lot of similarities between medical imaging and industrial inspection,” Waseem said, “but one major difference is that medical applications need to overcome imaging artifacts due to body motion during scanning. While this challenge doesn’t exist for industrial applications we have been able to borrow the novel, fast-imaging technology solutions developed by the medical imaging teams to achieve significant inspection throughput advancement in the industrial imaging world.”

For example, an echocardiogram provides an ultrasound of the size and shape of a beating heart, while a similar tool can be used to scan industrial parts to evaluate remaining life. The technology has also traveled upstream to GE’s own manufacturing lines as a way to ensure structural integrity and product quality. For example, Global Research has created and implemented inspection technologies to support the development and production of high-temperature composite parts for GE gas turbines and aircraft engines.

(from left to right) Jennifer Gavin, Mark Osterlitz, and Siavash Yazdanfar bring different areas of expertise together in researching the ways medical imaging technologies like CT scan can be used for industrial inspection.
(from left to right) Jennifer Gavin, Mark Osterlitz, and Siavash Yazdanfar bring different areas of expertise together in researching the ways medical imaging technologies like CT scan can be used for industrial inspection.

 

This transfer of technology among the two teams has been taking place for decades and has yielded many notable innovations. The Inspection and Metrology Lab has leveraged the GE Healthcare high-resolution x-ray flat panel digital imaging and phased array ultrasound imaging for the creation of industrial applications. Likewise, the Ultrasound Lab has leveraged electronics miniaturization and packaging technologies developed for industrial systems for the creation of smaller, more powerful ultrasound probes that allow ultrasound technology to be brought to entirely new markets and regions of the world.

The healthcare and industrial teams also collaborated in the late 1990s when GE introduced the first digital x-ray products to the healthcare market. “Our engineers worked hand-in-hand with the application developers in Healthcare to determine how digitization could best be implemented in our industrial applications,” Waseem said. “This streamlined the process and allowed our team to bring a better product to market faster.”

It’s ultimately a technology push or an application pull that brings the teams together, meaning that the innovation used in one product is shared with the other team and found to be useful or that the development of an application prompts an inquiry with the other team for possible ideas and input. Either way, it works. And Siavash and Waseem will continue to tap into each other’s resources to advance their products and ensure quality for GE’s customers.

Inspection Tech-2Waseem Faidi, manager of the Global Research Inspection and Metrology Lab, places a 3D-printed part on the bed of a CT scanner for inspection.
Waseem Faidi, manager of the Global Research Inspection and Metrology Lab, places a 3D-printed part on the bed of a CT scanner for inspection.