We’ve got X-ray eyes – and XXL panoramic vision

August 17, 2014 7:45 AM by Julia Rupprecht; Video in German language.

It’s an attribute normally associated with comic-book heroes, but believe it or not real people can do it too, with the right technology. At a single glance, we can see through the walls of shipping containers and other large objects such as aircraft components and entire cars. Our X-ray eyes penetrate to the farthest corners of these structures and reveal the finest details – without having to open them up or take them apart. Since March 2013, our test center in Fürth-Atzenhof has boasted the largest computed tomography (CT) system in Europe. It consists of two eight-meter-tall scaffolding towers and a turntable with a diameter of three meters, housed in a building covering a surface area of 400 square meters and rising to a height of 14 meters. We use this XXL X-ray chamber, encased in protective concrete walls meters thick, to obtain an inside view of large and outsized objects sent to us for testing by our partners and customers.

One of our most exciting recent projects involved producing X-ray images of an Audi A1, a project that we conducted in collaboration with the auto manufacturer. The result was an impressive graphic journey through its structure, as you can see in the video.

Why are full scans of large objects so important? Because they enable us to save both time and costs by conducting a wide range of tests in a minimum of time without having to disassemble the object into its constituent parts. For instance, the results permit us to check for the absence of assembly defects in the vehicle. “With an effective resolution of below 0.8 millimeters when scanning large objects, we are able to detect even minuscule defects. And we are already working on enhancements that will double the level of detail,” reports Nils Reims, research associate in Fürth. The new facility also allows quality testing of objects that previously could only be tested to a limited extent or not at all using traditional methods. So far, we have used the XXL CT scanner to image shipping containers and even an entire mechanical excavator. Dr. Michael Böhnel comments, »It’s really exciting to be able to generate three-dimensional images of such large and complex objects. Being able to work on this type of scientific and technological challenge is a rare and exceptional privilege.«

In brief, the technique works in the following manner. The object under test is placed on a turntable with a diameter of three meters. In each measurement cycle, the synchronized beam source and detector travel up and down the towers once, scanning the object line by line to produce individual projections. Then the object is repositioned by rotating the turntable and scanned again. The result of these separate measurement cycles is a complete set of projections recorded from different beam directions. The computer software then reconstructs these image data to create a three-dimensional dataset, providing a see-through image of the entire object, such as the Audi A1.

More about our X-ray technologies