One of the fastest, cheapest, and most accurate methods of non destructive testing for a new manufactured product is through industrial x-ray, or computerized tomography (CT) scanning. In fact, industrial CT scanning can save 25 to 75 percent over conventional new product inspection and failure analysis methods.
Computerized tomography, or “CT,” scanning is a type of x-ray which produces two-dimensional cross-sections of three-dimensional objects and displays them on a computer monitor. Computerized tomography scanning was invented in 1972 by Godfrey Housnfield, a British engineer at EMI labratories, and Allan Cormack, a South African physicist from Tufts University in Massachusetts. It took Housnfield and Cormack’s machine several hours to accumulate the raw data for a single frame of the tomography scan’s trademark two-dimensional “slices,” and several days to assimilate that data into a readable image. In 1974 the first clinical CT scanners, which scanned only the head, were first installed in medical facilities, and full-body scanners were implemented beginning in 1976. In 1979, Housnfield and Cormack were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their revolutionary contribution to the medical field via the invention of the CT scan.
Since its invention, computerized tomography has advanced by leaps and bounds, and CT scanners have differentiated to meet the needs of both medicine and industry. Modern industrial CT scanning takes only seconds to scan an entire piece and put an actionable complete 3D model of the scanned component up on a monitor. Industrial x-ray equipment can take x-rays at up to 30 frames per seconds at incredibly high resolution; a micro-CT scan used in industry can have up to 100 times the resolution of the best medical CAT scan.
Industrial x-ray can be implemented for the inspection of an impressive spectrum of items. CT machines can render images of components ranging from .5mm to 660mm in diameter and up to 1m in length. Precise images are taken by using differently sized focal spots correlating to the relative size of the component to be scanned. For example, focal spots under 1mm are generally used in the automotive industry, while semiconductors or thin welds are inspected with micron-focus tubes at a focal spot size below 100 microns. Due to this pinpoint focus, and depending on the size and density of the part being scanned, the metrology of an industrial CT scan is accurate to within 5-200 microns.
Industrial CT scanning is not only astonishingly precise, but also an impressively efficient means of both new product inspection and routine quality assurance. A single scan with such detail can allow for composite analysis, fiber analysis, porosity measurement, and wall thickness analysis, all in seconds rather than the hours or days it could take to tear down and analyze the manufactured piece in a lab. Facilitation of this method of NDT can also greatly benefit the process of reverse engineering, allowing for a detailed look at the whole, functioning piece, inside and out.
Aside from all its practical benefits, industrial x-ray is the future. The CT scan is an impressive piece of technology that has come a long way in the past four decades and will continue to be improved upon as the supporting technology advances. Adopting tomography scanning now could potentially save your company a great deal in the short term, and advance your production quality in the long run.