How CT Scans Are Having a Big Impact on the Industrial Sector’s Success
Human innovation and invention is one of the greatest things about our species. Not only do we create new tools, machines, thought processes, and more that help our society run smoother and at a greater pace, but we can adapt our existing materials to do different tasks or assist us in other ways. The computerized tomography scan (known best as CT scans) is one such example of this. Although they were first predominantly used in the medical field, industrial CT scanning and X-ray inspection services through computed tomography have become essential to major industrial companies. They can do everything from running wall thickness analysis to checking for defects or imperfections in products, and so much more. However, the average person may not know too much about the industrial CT scan and how it evolved from being primarily used in medicine to its current form.
Computerized Tomography? What Does That Even Mean?
Put more simply, computerized tomography is the process under which a computer collects data from a series of X-ray images that show structures inside a human, animal, or other object’s body and converts them into a picture we can see on a computer monitor. Tomography simply means how a 2-D image of a slice or section is generated through a 3-D object.
Where Did CT Scans Begin?
CT scans are actually not that old — they were first invented in 1972, thanks to a British engineer and a South African-born physicist. Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Laboratories, England and Allan Cormack of Tufts University, Massachusetts were the inventors of the CT scan (and were later given a Nobel Peace Prize for their contribution to medicine and science for their efforts). The first clinical CT scanners went public between 1974 and 1976 and originally focused on just head imaging. In 1976 though, “whole body” systems that had larger openings for patients became available. By 1980, CT was more readily available to everyone and today, there are around 6,000 CT scanners in the United States and around 30,000 all around the world.
Although today, wall thickness analysis can be run by a CT scanner in the blink of an eye, the first CT scanner that Hounsfield developed took several hours to get raw data for one scan (or “slice) and it took days to reconstruct just one image from the raw data. Today, multi-slice CT systems can get four slices of data in around 350 ms and construct an image from millions of raw data points in under a second. How’s that for improvement?
Why Are CT Scans So Popular in the Industrial Sector?
CT scans are letting industrial companies carry out product inspection (such as wall thickness analysis) and other innovations such as reverse engineering with greater ease and fewer costs. Using the CT scanning process means that customers cut down their new product inspection and failure analysis costs by anywhere from 25-75%, as compared to using existing technology. Furthermore, it’s a fast-moving field, so companies are interested in seeing how quickly it can change their existing processes and routines. Years ago, it would take hours to generate just a few CT slices, but today complete 3D models with billions of voxels can be constructed in a matter of seconds. Fields such as 3D reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, 3D metrology, and far more are fairly giddy at the possibilities CT scanning is opening up.
Furthermore, applications like wall thickness analysis or making sure products adhere to industry standard is made simpler. A number of predetermined GDandT (geometric dimensioning and tolerance) points can be checked at one time to make sure they’re meeting PPAP (production part approval process) requirements. And the accuracy of the CT scanning equipment is anywhere from 5-200 microns, dependent on part size and density. Plus, parts that are small as .55 in length to parts that are as big as 660 mm in diameter to parts that are x 1m in length can be digitally X-rayed!
When we look at the history of CT scans, it’s amazing how far we’ve come in under 50 years with its application! In years to come, the technology may develop even further and faster.