Quality Innovations: The Six-Second Scan
June 2, 2010
For those with a need for speed, North Star Imaging (NSI, Rogers, MN) has launched a computed tomography (CT) system that scans in six seconds.
Other technologies are capable of nondestructive internal product inspection, but no other single system has the speed and 100% 3-D in-line CT inspection capabilities of the eXpress-CT, says Julien Noel, North Star Imaging’s computed tomography product manager. As far as direct competitors go, “There really are none,” says Noel. “Other companies make standard CT systems, but none of them are capable of this speed as far as we know.”
The eXpress-CT system currently is the only X-ray computed tomography system capable of achieving complete six-second CT scans on the production line with part handling and automatic defect recognition software, he says.
The system was designed and built for speed and automation. Scan speed is the greatest benefit of the eXpress-CT system, Noel says, and the company optimizes the CT scan speed for each application. Only a few years ago, one complete CT scan (acquisition plus reconstruction) could take hours, meaning complete 100% 3-D inspection on a production line was not an option. Now, with the eXpress-CT system, 100% 3-D CT inspection on the production line is a reality and operators have another quality control tool at their disposal. However, the scan speed is highly dependant on the size and density of the object as well as the required resolution. For example, a large high-density part such as an engine block would take longer than six seconds to scan.
The first eXpress-CT system currently being built for a customer performs complete CT scans of a small assembly device every six seconds. The system uses high-speed precision robots for part handling and manipulation and uses custom automatic defect recognition (ADR) software for automatic part quality verification and sorting. This ADR software, which is designed and customized for each application, performs defect detection, automatic measurements, sorting (good vs. bad) and reporting.
“The greatest innovation with this system was optimizing every aspect of a CT scan for speed and repeatability,” says Noel. “Recent internal tests have even achieved a successful CT scan in two seconds.”
This system achieves fast X-ray acquisition by using fast, high resolution X-ray detectors coupled with custom acquisition hardware and NSI’s software. North Star Imaging also is a partner with NVIDIA (Santa Clara, CA) and utilizes graphics processing unit (GPU) technology in the system for CT reconstructions 200 times faster than conventional CT hardware.
The eXpress-CT systems still provide all the same benefits as a traditional CT system, says Noel. It is able to nondestructively inspect the internal components, structures and parts of an object, and provides much higher detail and resolution than 2-D X-ray. It delivers quantitative and repeatable results, including measurements, density analysis, porosity analysis, metrology analysis and reverse engineering. It can be used for research and development, failure analysis, rapid prototyping, 3-D scanning and more.
Applications include defect detection, foreign material detection, missing material (density analysis), missing or misplaced components, as well as 2-D and 3-D measurements, 3-D metrology-compare to computer- aided design (CAD) file or standardized CT scan-and porosity analysis.
When a client purchases this system, NSI manufactures, provides and installs everything; the client does not need to work with multiple contacts and vendors for various components to complete a system. Each eXpress-CT system is customized for each client’s application; it can be entirely automated with robotic part handling and sorting or designed for manual user intervention or anywhere in between, says Noel.
A new developing innovation with this system is 4-Dimensional Computed Tomography Scanning (4DCT). North Star Imaging is developing a CT scanning process capable of reconstructing a 3-D model complete with part movement.
For more information, contact:
North Star Imaging Inc.
19875 S. Diamond Lake Rd., Suite 10
Rogers, MN 55374