X-rays from anywhere

Industrial computed tomography (CT) has become a fixture of the modern industrial environment and is used in various sectors. Many companies now utilize several CT systems for a wide variety of tasks, from the monitoring of production processes and the sorting of objects to completeness analysis. So that companies can work efficiently with such proliferating masses of machinery, Fraunhofer IIS has developed a new data management software.

“CloudCT” significantly improves the user friendliness of CT and makes it easier to handle the resulting data volumes. The software saves all data centrally in the company’s own cloud, so users can access it from any device.

In particular, large operations running several CT systems were lacking a practical means before now that would enable them to save and access CT data centrally. In addition, users could not view data when on the move. CloudCT is a web-based CT data management system that solves this probem by enabling users to save and visualize various kinds of data that are generated and managed in the industrial CT environment. This includes information such as projection data, volume data and metadata. Now, users can access CT data from anywhere – for example, during a meeting with a client. But that is not all: CloudCT also allows users to monitor the progress of ongoing measurements and to restart them if a problem should arise.

The development of CloudCT was undertaken initially for internal reasons: “At Fraunhofer EZRT, we operate numerous X-ray systems. Because they’re situated in different rooms and even buildings, we wanted a system that would give us access to our CT data from anywhere,” explains Thomas Miller, computer scientist at the Fraunhofer Development Center for X-ray Technology EZRT.

Accessing CT data from any device

Any kind of device can access CloudCT from a regular browser, without having to install additional programs. CloudCT archives all CT data in a standardized format and offers the option of being able to view and edit this data from any computer. Consequently, users are no longer tied to specific computers. This increases the user friendliness of industrial CT and gives a major boost to efficiency. Because the data is no longer distributed across several media, database inconsistencies are a thing of the past. Users no longer have to organize their data stock, as CloudCT does it automatically for them. A search function lets users quickly and conveniently filter data by a series of search criteria, such as name, date or various keywords. In addition, a central RAID system increases data security.

Users can integrate a virtually unlimited number of CT scanners into the CloudCT software and call up real-time information about all scans that are in progress, such as name of the measurement, the start time and the remaining measurement time. Moreover, the results of CT measurements – projection and volume data for example – are automatically transmitted to the system. As such, they are available to the user immediately. The CT scanners can be fitted with sensors and connected to CloudCT via a standardized interface. These sensors transmit condition information such as humidity, temperature and air pressure.

»Users can call up real-time information about all scans that are in progress..«

Flexibility for all users

Companies often operate several CT systems, which can come from different manufacturers and have their own system software. This is why CloudCT was developed so that it could be utilized flexibly by all users. “We held in-depth discussions with various CT manufacturers so we could adapt the CloudCT system to different systems,” Miller explains. CloudCT usually takes no longer than a day to install. The exact amount of time depends on the systems and databases to which CloudCT has to be adapted. However, the time invested in setting up the system is swiftly recovered, as the use of CloudCT permits huge time savings.

The CloudCT system is being continuously developed further. In the future, an app will enable convenient access to the system via smartphones and tablet computers. Push notifications will deliver real-time information to users, such as for the case that a measurement is completed or an error has ocurred.

The online processing of image data will also be expanded in the future: new algorithms will be available to be used on the data directly, such as reconstruction algorithms or algorithms for metrological evaluation. Via a statistics module, it will be possible in the future to call up a wide range of statistics about the connected CTs, such as capacity utilization and outage times. In addition, automatic data compression will ensure efficient handling of the large amounts of data.

“CloudCT is a piece of software, and its development is far from finished with the latest version,” Miller says. “The fact that we are using the software in our own labs is a tremendous help.” Through these ongoing developments, the CloudCT system will further increase the efficiency and user friendliness of industrial computed tomography and thus improve the cost effectiveness of this technology even more.

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