Not All Scans Are Created Equal

Read about the factors that can affect the quality of an industrial computed tomography scan.

Victoria Russman
Victoria Russman

Industrial computed tomography (CT) is a fast and accurate inspection method used to evaluate the internal structure of objects. CT scans are used in a wide array of industries, including but not limited to aerospace, automotive, medical device, and semiconductor manufacturing. Industrial CT scanners are an essential part of a manufacturer's toolkit especially as parts are becoming more complex or even smaller. CT is becoming increasingly important in quality assurance and testing processes, but not all scans are created equal!

Scan quality depends on many factors:

  • Operator expertise - The technician's experience and skill level have a significant effect on image quality. An experienced operator will be able to obtain better results than an inexperienced one because they understand how to manipulate the scanner controls and optimize scans for their specific needs. They understand x-ray beams and how they behave with different materials.
  • Material type - Different materials have different densities and therefore require different amounts & wavelengths of radiation exposure during imaging. It's important for industrial CT operators to know what kind of materials can be scanned to achieve optimal results.
  • Filters - Can change how clear an object appears in a scan by adjusting how much & which wavelengths of light pass through them, which affects contrast levels between objects within each scan slice.
  • Resolution – When talking about resolution in industrial computed tomography, there are two types of relevant resolution: contrast & spatial. Contrast resolution refers to the number of gray-scale values (ie. colors) the image covers. More gray-scale values in an image lead to higher degrees of contrast resolution. Spatial resolution describes the smallest feature which can be detected in each scan.
  • Interrogation Software - Industrial CT scanners produce enormous amounts of data, which can be difficult to analyze. Visualization software takes the raw scan data and reconstructs it in a way that is easy to understand. Each software company has a different set of tools available to analyze the many attributes of your part.
Volume Graphics Color Map Analysis Tools

The most common issue we see with industrial CT scans is operator expertise. In some cases, operators may not have been trained properly or may not fully understand how to use the scanner correctly. This can result in poor resolution and unclear images of areas of interest. This also means that if you're considering outsourcing your industrial CT scanning needs, you should make sure you're working with a company that has highly trained CT operators who know how to optimize your scans for quality. To that end, not all industrial CT scanner machines are created equal, either. Even the most advanced equipment may not be able to clearly illustrate defects in an area of interest unless used properly.

If you choose to outsource your industrial CT scanning, communication between the metrology supplier and customer is very important: if you can't get a clear picture of what you need to see, how can you fix it? As such, it's crucial that the laboratory you choose understands how your part or component works, what results you might be looking for, and which scanning parameters will provide the highest quality images possible.

This isn't just about getting an accurate test report or delivering the right product—it can affect everything from research and development to manufacturing processes!

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