MicroCT is a very powerful technology, though it does not come for free.
When running a project, either in academic or industry settings, we are always faced with budget restrictions. The challenge is getting the most out of the money we invest.
This post wants to give you an idea on where the microCT costs come from. To do that, it is useful to break down the microCT activities into the following: Administration, Measurement and Reconstruction, Analysis, and Reporting. Costs may vary depending whom you talk to, but I believe the following pie chart gives a good idea about cost breakdown.
If your study must be run under Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), you will have to multiply the total cost times 1.2 or 1.3, but let’s leave GLP out of the equation. Of the above activities, only three are associated to deliverables that the end-user would probably consider as useful, i.e. Measurement and Reconstruction, Analysis, and Reporting.
The cost for Administration can be considered fixed, whereas the Measurement and Reconstruction cost, despite variable, is something one has obviously to pay for if you want to use micro-computed tomography. So there is a 60% left that is linked to activities we may or not want to do, depending on what outcome we are interested in.
A cost efficient approach applicable to some studies, like for example a formulation screening study, may consider two steps:
- Measurement and Reconstruction: assess your product qualitatively by looking at the 2D images. Images already tell a lot, e.g. they give hints on the presence of defects in a sample, or on the efficacy of a certain treatment, or on its mechanism of action.
- Analysis and Reporting: only after step 1 decide whether it is worth running the analysis, or maybe restrict it to a subgroup of samples
If you have read this post hoping to find out how much a scan costs, I will try not to disappoint you. Cost depends on many factors, as on whether you work with a company or a university lab; on the country where the service is performed; on how many samples you want to process; on the sample size and resolution; on the complexity of the project. Indicatively, a company can charge from 100 EUR for a simple scan, up to 1’000 EUR for a large sample that requires custom analysis. A university lab can be cheaper, say 50 to 500 EUR. Working with a company or university lab depends on the type of services one is looking for.
It would be great to read your comments and hear from your personal experience!