What Questions Should Manufacturers Be Asking About 3D Computed Tomography?

While computed tomography (CT) scans are common and well-known as a critical evaluation tool in the medical field, they are becoming increasingly important in industrial settings. Three dimensional (3D) industrial CT for non-destructive testing (NDT) has long been confined to the research and development (R&D) environment and its application restricted to structure and defect analysis of high value, complex components and new materials. But imagine an automotive manufacturer being able to fully examine and measure a cylinder head, or an aerospace component manufacturer being able to inspect and measure highly complex turbine blades or parts made by additive manufacturing technologies.

Recent automation, speed, and accuracy developments are driving the migration of CT technology onto the production floor. There, it can be used as a powerful quality control and process optimization tool, providing fast inspection and accurate 3D measurement of components which are difficult to examine by conventional two dimensional (2D) radiography or coordinate measuring machines (CMMs). Because of technological advancements and speed enhancements, the same internal structure visibility provided to medical professionals by CT technology can now be invaluable for manufacturers and inspectors.

From shortening the prototype process, to reducing processing costs, to getting faster feedback during the production process, the benefits of CT technology are endless. In order to determine whether CT technology is right for their facility, manufacturers must ask the right questions.

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Asking the Right Questions

  • What type of parts am I inspecting? When dealing with critical machinery in the industrial sector, 2D radiography has its limitations. It is sometimes unable to detect, localize, or visualize the indications and internal geometries found in many of today’s complex engineering components. 3D CT can effectively inspect metals, composites, plastics, and additives manufactured or 3D printed parts with complex internal structures.
  • What percentage of parts do I want to inspect? Previous CT speeds once limited the number of parts that could be inspected to only a few per shift. Advances in scan time, part manipulation, workflow, and software now allow many more scans per hour – approaching full production inspection.
  • How can CT analysis improve my operations? CT analysis can be useful in assuring product quality, enabling real-time process optimization, and potentially consolidating inspection steps. High quality 3D CT scans and metrology allow manufacturers to compare completed parts to specifications and tolerances with a high degree of accuracy. Many parts are inspected multiple times with 2D radiography for casting defects and residual materials, in addition to ultrasonic measurement for wall thickness, and sometimes CMM for external measurements. Most of this could be replaced by a single, highly reliable 3D image.
  • How will I manage the large volumes of data? A single 3D CT scan can generate 20GB or larger volumes of data. Advanced data processing, storage, and archiving solutions are available to make it possible to manage, share, and evaluate these large data sets. Including data management as a part of the initial project scope is critical to ensuring a successful transition to production CT.

To find out all of the questions you should be asking, read the full article in Inspectioneering here: https://inspectioneering.com/journal/2015-10-28/4892/what-questions-should-manufact.

By Shana Telesz, Senior Product Manager, GE Measurement & Control

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