Using high-tech ultrasound equipment to simplify and improve the work of doctors all over the world; that is what the team of seventy employees at Oldelft are working on every day. Oldelft Ultrasound develops, manufactures and supplies miniature ultrasound transducers for producers of medical devices. CEO Rob Smallenburg and commercial manager Stefan Roggeveen tell us enthusiastically about their innovations. “Our tiniest transducer is used during surgery for new-born and premature babies with a heart defect and is unique in the world.”
The company owes its name ‘Oldelft’ to the address of its first premises, on the Oude Delft canal in Delft. Smallenburg – who has a background in physics – has been involved with the company since its inception. “The ‘old’ Oldelft was specialised in optics with only a small section working on ultrasound. I was part of the group that split off to form Oldelft Ultrasound in 1998.” In 2008 Oldelft became completely independent. Soon after Roggeveen joined in 2012, the decision was made to focus the company on 4D imaging, a crucial new direction for Oldelft.
4D ultrasound is on its way
Oldelft is standing on the threshold of a product introduction that they have been working on since 2015: a 4D ultrasound pediatric transducer (transducer for children) that visualizes the heart in real time in 3D. This technique already exists for adults, but is not yet in use for children. The transducer is small enough to be inserted via the mouth and throat into the oesophagus to produce an image of the heart. The end of the TEE probe, as the esophageal transducer is also called, reflects high-frequency waves it emits that create a very clear image for the doctor. Close to the heart you have a much better view of the anatomy and possible medical problem than if you look from the outside, with the ribs and lungs still in between.. Roggeveen shows two models of transducers: “The future lies in 4D transducers. 4D means we can show 3D images in real time. This real-time imaging can monitor the heart constantly, which is of course a huge advantage during an operation.”
Technology of tomorrow
Launching a new medical product on the market is not something that happens overnight. “You have to realise that this product won’t be on the market until next year,” tells Roggeveen. Oldelft is one of the few organizations in the world making this type of product – producing around 2,000 per year – and selling them to companies such as Philips, General Electric, Siemens and Canon. The product has already been fully developed, but it takes a lot of time to go through the approval processes and to synchronise with existing systems. Smallenburg and Roggeveen are looking forward to the moment when the 4D transducer is actually used in medical practice. But they are not sitting still: “We’re already looking out for the next innovation: we think up the technology of tomorrow!”