The CNI is planning for a significant equipment upgrade, which we expect to be available in about a year. This message describes our plans, which are rather uncertain. Despite this uncertainty, we thought it best to write this note to give you plenty of time to plan.
About a year ago, Siemens released a new scanner (Prisma) that has particularly strong gradients. Many NIH grants are now being written with the specification of matching the Prisma performance. Bob has worked hard at the CNI to implement the sequences and reach the quality of images that are required for these grants. The CNI team have documented the SNR of the data, and we think it is pretty good and should make us eligible for these NIH awards.
GE is responding to the competition. In particular, they have told us that they expect make available a gradient system upgrade within the next year. The stronger gradients will make our scanner competitive with (GE says better than) the Siemens Prisma.
We are funding this upgrade through a GE non-obsolescence service contract that costs about $100k per year for the next three years. The funds for this service contract are coming from user fees (which have barely gone up over the 5 years of operation). We can afford this because of the heavy usage at the CNI and our efforts to keep other costs in check. An additional $200k was needed to bring our system up to the current GE hardware platform, and this funding was provided by the Dean of Research. This upgrade was implemented last year and involved a faster host computer and reconstruction server. Some of you may have noticed this upgrade in the form of reduced delays between multiband scans. (It did not affect the data acquisition systems, so it has no impact on data quality.)
We will keep you informed as we learn about the likely delivery dates for the scanner upgrade. We expect the new hardware to be available in about a year, and the system will likely be down for about 2 weeks during the installation process. The new gradients can be run at the current system’s lower performance level to maintain compatibility with data collected pre-upgrade. Diffusion sequences and a few others will benefit significantly from the new gradients (not such much for fMRI).
Feel free to post questions about the upgrade here. We will let you know more as we learn more.
Brian and Bob