Developing a Revolutionary Veterinary Imaging System Using NI LabVIEW and RIO Technology

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"Using LabVIEW and NI Single-Board RIO, we saved about three man-years of development time, or about $300,000 [USD] in labor costs."

- Matt Antonelli, Animage, LLC

The Challenge:
Quickly developing and deploying an embedded, multimodality diagnostic imaging system for small animal veterinary practices.

The Solution:
Using NI LabVIEW and CompactRIO to rapidly create a functional prototype to demonstrate feasibility, and then quickly migrating 100 percent of the prototype software code to NI Single-Board RIO to create a final solution for deployment.

Matt Antonelli - Animage, LLC
Ivan Charamisinau - Animage, LLC
James Carver - JAMCO Engineering

Animage and Fidex

Animage LLC, a subsidiary of Exxim Computing Corporation and founded in 2008, delivers advanced imaging products to the veterinary market. With expertise in algorithm development for imaging products such as cone-beam computed tomography (CT) scans, we decided to expand into hardware system design and develop an unprecedented product for the veterinary market – a three-in-one imaging system called Fidex. We designed the multiple-modality diagnostic imaging system specifically for small animal veterinary practices.
Fidex produces diagnostic images of three modalities, which previously required three separate devices.
The first modality, digital radiography (X-rays), is often the first imaging conducted on a patient and generally considered the “workhorse” of diagnostic imaging. Sometimes X-rays do not provide enough information to make a diagnosis and more advanced techniques are needed.

Figure 1. Digital radiography is often the first type of image ordered by the veterinarian. 

The second modality uses three-dimensional CTs, which are also known as CAT scans and created by cone-beam technology. This is different from the standard fan-beam technology seen in human medical scanners because cone-beam CTs use a wide cone-shaped X-ray beam that acquires CT data in a volume via a circular rotation of the X-ray source and the detector around the subject with a C-arm. Using cone-beam technology allows the small footprint and the easy-to-use CT component of Fidex.

Figure 2. The CT scans are conducted by rotating the C-arm around the patient and taking thousands of individual images that are then reconstructed. Fidex uses a revolutionary image reconstruction algorithm called cone-beam imaging.

The third modality is fluoroscopy (or motion-capture X-ray video), which can be taken at any angle needed with the C-arm. It is used to study joint motion, swallowing, heart function, or other physiological motion, as well as for a real-time guide for certain surgical and catheterization procedures.

Figure 3. Moving X-ray images, or fluoroscopy, are ideal for a number of diagnostic and clinical applications such as observing joint motion or conducting a swallowing study of a dog while it stands on the platform and eats.

NI LabVIEW and CompactRIO for Prototyping

Phase I of development began in April 2008 and our goal was to develop a benchtop prototype to control the X-ray source, the X-ray detector, and the motion system. We developed the software gradually beginning with the highest-risk elements. Using LabVIEW software, we focused on the key algorithms for the product rather than the detailed hardware design.

We began development by controlling the X-ray source. Then we created the timing code to synchronize the X-ray source generation with the sensor data acquisition. Finally, we integrated our mechanical prototype system with our rack-mounted generation and acquisition system and added motion control to demonstrate the basic mechanics. This functional prototype successfully demonstrated the feasibility of the product, so we felt confident that we could successfully complete the other phases of development. This system based on LabVIEW allowed for easy design modification and the replacement of several units with minimal impact on our schedule, so we were able to build our first prototype in about six months.

NI Single-Board RIO for Deployment

The next phase was to develop the first preproduction imaging system. We finalized the mechanical design, which was based largely on the prototype mechanical system with a few minor improvements. We used NI CompactRIO hardware to control a prototype scanner F-001 with the complete X-ray system, moving gantry, and moving collimator. We completed this system in three months.

Finally, we needed to migrate our prototype to the final deployment technology by developing hazard mitigation code and a rich user interface and moving to single-board computer hardware designed for embedded machine development. With NI Single-Board RIO as our deployment platform, we implemented the same code used in the prototype system. Then we continued development and added patient positioning and the system control panel. We even used LabVIEW under the hood for our user interface design and completed this new system, F-002, in three months. NI Single-Board RIO controlled the end device with the following components:

  • Gantry rotation with encoder and end switches
  • Detector positioning with encoder and end switches
  • Patient table UP/DOWN with encoders and end switches
  • X-ray generator (kilovolts, milliamps, pulse generation, and error handling)
  • Rotating anode
  • Four collimator motors
  • Detector trigger signal
  • Field light and laser for patient positioning
  • Gantry control panel input and status display module

Future Plans

We plan to build two more preproduction units and conduct clinical trials. We expect that additional changes will be necessary, but we are also confident that we can easily add these features using LabVIEW. With LabVIEW and NI Single-Board RIO, we avoided having to develop most of the system from scratch, which shortened time to market and saved an estimated three man-years of development time, or about $300,000 USD in labor costs.

Author Information:
Matt Antonelli
Animage, LLC

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