X-ray computed tomography is a well-known method in medical diagnostics; however, an increasing number of industries are discovering that X-ray CT scanning is a vital tool to ensure the highest quality in production of industrial components such as machine parts, cast metal and compound as well as plastic material. It is not just the possibility of detecting internal defects during a quality assurance process which makes X-ray computed tomography interesting. The voluminous information contained in the 3D data permits a quantitative analysis of a defect as well, and the highly accurate 3D model can be compared with the original CAD data. This comparison and the feasibility of reverse engineering are features that can improve analytical support during the development of a new product in terms of time, costs and quality from an early stage of the initial sampling, up to the readiness to go into mass production.
The basic hardware configuration of an industrial CT scanner consists of three key components: the X-ray source, an adequate detection system and a very precise turntable. The turntable and the imaging system are connected to a computer in order to collect 2-dimensional X-ray images and correlate them to the position of the test component. A standard CT scan usually covers a rotation of 360 degrees. Depending on the selected number of increments, multiple images are acquired, with the number potentially totaling up to several thousands. In specific applications a successful scan can even be performed with a limited rotation angle (180° + aperture of the X-ray source), reducing the data volume and saving time.
The recorded images are processed by a dedicated computer software, which uses mathematical reconstruction algorithms, to generate the three-dimensional distribution of the absorption coefficient inside the object. Special visualization software enables a three-dimensional or cross-sectional viewing of the object.
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