Computed Tomography or CT, as it’s commonly known, has been around for a few years. Most people are aware of CT technology when applied in the medical world. Now Industrial CT machines apply it to manufacturing as well and offer added "Product DNA" protection.
Medical CT machines take multiple x-ray slices through human bodies so doctors can get a complete 3D image of the person’s medical issue. The completeness and the clarity of information available to doctors today is amazing compared to looking and probing patients just from the outside when compared to just a few years ago.
• A modern CT system can measure parts inside and out.
• A modern CT system can measure assemblies and see why they don’t work or go together very well.
• A modern CT can measure multi-material assemblies and isolate the individual components if they have a different density and it can even analyze the material flow in plastic and composite parts.
Industrial CT offers the same huge step forward when compared to engineers trying to understand what is wrong with a component or assembly when just being able to probe from the outside only. One important difference between the medical and Industrial CT machines, like those produced by Wenzel, is that we add a much higher degree of dimensional accuracy to the images.
CT System Capabilities
A CT machines can look at the inside of a part in extensive detail as well as the outside, but relative to CMM’s or other devices they are quite expensive and the volume of machines sold is still extremely low. Why is this if CT can offer so much?
Firstly, it is a matter of awareness. Are you familiar with the capabilities of a modern CT system like those made by Wenzel?
View showing a wall thickness analysis of a fountain cup lid. This is vital to plastics molders to ensure that they meet the product specification with the minimum amount of material used and to beverage vendors to make sure that their product is delivered safely to its customers.
Secondly, it’s a matter of price, or is it? I would challenge any manufacturer that they cannot afford NOT to have a CT machine or at least have access to one. The three words I would like you to remember are compromise, liability and reputation.
Throughout the history of industrial metrology, quality and R&D engineers have had to compromise and make decisions on what they should measure based on the technology and time they have had available to them. They have asked, “What are the dimensions that I believe to be critical?”, “What do I think is wrong with my component or complex assembly?” and “Why doesn’t it work?”
View showing how different materials in an assembly (a lipstick in this case) can be isolated, enabling a full analysis of how the mechanisms interact.
With CT you can capture the complete part (the shape and dimensions, the density, the material flow, any porosity, cracks or inclusions). This data is stored in “Voxels” (like 4D pixels), at Wenzel America we call this the “Part DNA” – It’s everything that the part is, it’s everything that defines the part or finished assembly.
If engineers have the Part DNA, they can do everything they need to do, now or later – inspection, NDT, archiving, reverse engineering and investigation.
If you have taken the time, effort and money to develop a significant product, such as a new smart phone, the cost to keep its “DNA” on file is insignificant compared to the potential benefits.
The engineer also has the option to store this Product’s DNA for later measurement or for full archiving of everything to do with the part for future ‘protection’ of the supplier.
This leads us to my second word – liability.
Often the parts measured by CT machines have quite low value in themselves, but failure of such parts in the field can lead to disastrous effects, particularly where human safety is an issue. This could be parts for aircraft or automobiles, but also medical devices and electrical equipment or connectors. Also, simpler consumer products that are sold in the millions can fail with equally expensive effects on recall and company reputation. Archiving the Product DNA of parts allows them to be re-analyzed in the event of a field failure to provide rapid correction or disprove a potential lawsuit.
Expert investigators can also use CT data to prevent counterfeiting of copyrighted or patented products again reducing liability and retaining profits. In fact the “Part DNA” generated by the CT system could be a part of the patent.
Potential users of CT data can ask themselves the question “What is the cost of not using CT data to make sure I have no future liability?” All of a sudden the price of a CT machine or the use of a CT bureau service could become very attractive.
Our final word to consider is reputation.
What is the cost of a recall to a car company because something doesn’t work? What is the cost of loss of market share to a medical device manufacturer or antiperspirant manufacturer if the device does not function properly? Besides potential lawsuits, the loss in reputation and market share could be a financial disaster.
Industrial Computed Tomography is not too new, but the justification and the reason for its existence (it’s DNA) has not been explained well to its potential customer base so far. Rather than seeing CT as expensive, the real cost of not using the technology must really be understood. If this is really thought through, the pay back for such an ‘expensive’ machine can be made in days, not years.
Doctors and hospital administrators use some 20,000 medical CT scanners in the United States so that they don’t compromise with patient care and diagnosis, but also use them in order to reduce their potential liability and to ensure that they do not damage their reputation.
Contact the team at Precision to learn how Computed Tomography can benefit your company and to schedule a demonstration.
Article written by Andy Woodward, President of Wenzel America Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wenzel Group of Germany. The company sells and supports the full range of Wenzel products including the range of industrial CT scanners produced by Wenzel Volumetrik. The exaCT brand, offers a range of machines from low-cost bench-top systems to very powerful models capable of scanning multi-material assemblies and aluminum castings.