Quality Magazine

Off-Topic: CT Goes Jurassic

October 24, 2008
North Star’s X-View ISG Inspection Services Group was contacted with an exciting and unusual request. The Science Museum of Minnesota wanted X-ray images of a fossilized Jurassic-period crocodile skull that had been discovered on a ranch in Wyoming.

This Jurassic-period crocodile skull was discovered on a ranch in Wyoming. Source: North Star Inspection Services Group


North Star’s X-View ISG Inspection Services Group (Rogers, MN) was contacted with an exciting and unusual request. The Science Museum of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN) wanted X-ray images of a fossilized Jurassic-period crocodile skull that had been discovered on a ranch in Wyoming. X-View ISG provides real-time X-ray inspection services to manufacturers needing to verify the integrity of internal components. The company’s services range from end-of-line inspection to research during the development of a product.

The entire find had been undergoing extensive recovery work at the museum for more than five years. Paleontologist Dr. Bruce Erickson was interested in 2-D X-rays of the Goniopholis skull in order to confirm or reject certain theories regarding its structure and function. When Dr. Erickson and his colleagues arrived at North Star, they were introduced to computed tomography (CT) and the 3-D imaging produced by the technology. They quickly decided that CT scans would be more valuable than 2-D X-rays to their investigative process.

To create 3-D digital recreations, CT uses a series of 2-D images taken at specific intervals around the circumference of the sample. Source: North Star Inspection Services Group

CT uses a series of 2-D images taken at specific intervals around the circumference of the sample. The skull was carefully placed in a sand-filled container, with the snout pointed upward, and images were taken at half-degree increments as the sample was rotated. After acquiring the images, the data was sent to the CT workstation where it was prepared for reconstruction.

A quick preview of the reconstruction results was generated within moments of completing the scan. When this preview appeared on the screen, the Science Museum staff was amazed. “What we were able to see far exceeded our expectations,” says Dr. Erickson. “We came to NSI prepared to analyze the 2-D X-ray images to see if anything valuable could be gleaned from them. What we were presented with was a view of the past that we had never seen before and which we were not prepared for. It was stunning!”

“To provide information to the scientific community that they have never seen before and that will be vital to their efforts is both rewarding and exhilarating,” says Jeff Diehm, NSI’s inspection services manager. “While we are used to providing 2-D and advanced CT imaging on medical devices, aerospace components and a variety of other parts, a 150-million-year-old crocodile skull was a first for us and we’re glad we could be of assistance to Dr. Erickson and the Science Museum in this effort.”
    North Star Inspection Services Group
    (763) 463-5696
    www.xrayinspectionservice.com