Ajat is an excellent example of a successful small business that has made it to the global market from Otaniemi, home to many research and development organisations in Finland. The company making X-ray imaging sensors used in medicine and industry plans to retain its technology development and production in Finland.
Ajat began as a three-person company funded by private investors and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation in cooperation with VTT. Today, 15 years later, the company is presenting a new type of x-ray technology: direct conversion.
– Within dental medicine, we have 20 percent of the global extraoral imaging market, projected to be 40 percent by 2016. We have also managed to get a foothold in the oil and gas industry in the inspection of girth welds for pipes, and inline inspection in the food industry and NDT, says Managing Director Konstantinos Spartiotis.
Limitations a thing of the past
Ajat and VTT are working together to develop and manufacture next-generation sensors used in x-ray imaging.
Earlier X-ray imaging systems used intermediate phosphor or scintillation stages to convert X-rays into light before detection. This indirect method of detection limited the technology’s speed, resolution and efficiency.
Generally only 50% of the X-rays were converted into light, meaning that about half of the X-ray dose is wasted as the image is created by means of indirect conversion.
– Ajat is the first company that banished these limitations to history raising X-ray imaging on to a whole new level. With direct conversion, X-rays impinge on a pure crystalline Cadmium Telluride or Silicon semiconductor substrate and are directly converted into electronic signals, describes Mr Spartiotis.
This results in a much clearer image, thus making it easier to make more accurate diagnoses. Because the stage that converts X-rays to light is no longer necessary, blurring caused by photon scattering is eliminated.
Ajat not only develops and manufactures X-ray sensors but also delivers proprietary software and post-image processing tools.
The company is currently working with VTT in the RADI2014 project to develop an intraoral X-ray sensor based on Silicon direct conversion.
– Ajat is one of the major external users of Micronova cleanroom facilities. It is important to achieve as high an utilisation rate as possible for expensive infrastructures, and it is obviously a benefit to VTT if we can offer companies a production environment. With the RADI2014 project, we are in a position to develop new silicon-based X-ray sensors for Ajat, which will hopefully lead to more business between VTT and Ajat, says VTT’s Key Account Manager Kai-Erik Elers.
Ajat has protected exclusive rights to their inventions and expertise through patents, among other things. The technology applied in the X-ray sensors, imaging and focusing that is used in direct conversion has been protected in Europe, the US and Korea.
Direct conversion technology has been developed and brought to the market largely through cooperation with Siemens’ Japanese subsidiary, Acrorad.
– Our sensors are suitable not only for dental 2D and 3D imaging but also medicinal science and industry purposes. We respond to customer needs and also tailor solutions for challenging applications. We want to improve imaging products and their quality and functionality, and to reduce production costs by the use of smart processes and automation, says Spartiotis.
Full blooded export company
Ajat works in cooperation with equipment manufacturers that use direct conversion sensors in dental X-ray imaging devices based on pure crystalline Cadmium Telluride.
The company is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hydridised semiconductor components used in X-ray imaging, making 2,500 pure-crystal cadmium telluride hybrids per month, with a monthly capacity of 4,000. Other capacity has been directed to new market areas.
Ajat has been using the VTT Micronova cleanroom facilities right from the start in Otaniemi, Espoo. The company has a staff of 42. Net sales were EUR 8.5 million in 2014, expected to climb to EUR 10 million this year.
The biggest overseas customers are from Germany, Japan, Italy, the US, Netherlands and Denmark.