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X-ray Inspection Tutorial at SMTA International

As we prepare to head back to California after a great week in Chicago, we thought it would be nice to share with you the slides we presented at the SMTA International Conference. Our thanks to the SMTA team for organizing another fantastic conference and expo.


Dr. Thomas and Dr. Cardoso presented our tutorial this year. A total of 6 presentations were covered, and slides you can find in the following links. For those who were able to join us this year, our sincere appreciation! We hope to see you again soon!

X-Ray Inspection and Applications

Apple Watch Teardown and More!

How to Find Defects in SMT Electronics Manufacturing

LED, BGA, and QFN Assembly and Inspection: Case Studies

New Algorithms to Improve X-Ray Inspection

Statistical Process Control for SMT Electronic Manufacturing

How does WISE improve x-ray inspection?

X-ray inspections need good quality images so that features in the material can be observed. The Wavelet Image Spectra Enhancement (WISE) technique was developed as a set of powerful filters designed to improve the quality of x-ray images. The overall quality of these images is critical to a successful  x-ray inspection. In this paper we describe…

TruView Dual Energy: a New Way to See X-Ray Inspection

Since the first x-ray images were created, operators of radiography systems have been challenged by a fundamental shortcoming of x-ray inspection: material density variation. While inspecting a sample of any sort, it is usual to find materials of different densities sitting side-by-side. Examples of this situation include dense electronic components (transformers, power amplifiers, etc.) mounted on boards, BGA balls, heat sinks, bones, and metal casings.

The challenge is that operators have to turn down the power of their x-ray system to image the low density materials. However, the low energy x-rays do not penetrate the high density materials, which will not create an image (under-expose). As a result, the power of the x-ray source must be increased to expose the dense parts of the sample at the expense of over-exposing the low density parts.

With the Dual Energy toolbox in your TruView X-Ray system this is finally no longer a problem! The patent-pending algorithm allows you to first take the low energy image of your sample. The next step is to take a high energy image to expose the high density parts of the sample. The Dual Energy toolbox automatically blends both images – low and high energies – to produce incredible images that show you what you’ve never seen before: high and low density materials beautifully exposed side by side!

The first example is a wire crimped connector. The connector has a low density plastic casing that houses the high density metal crimps and wires. As seen in Figure 1, the attempt to image the high density material completely washes away the low density plastic housing. Au contraire, the image in Figure 2 shows that the low energy image perfectly displays the plastic housing of the connector while completely masking the wires and crimps.


Figure 1 – High energy x-ray image of wire connector showing crimped wire and high density material


Figure 2 – Low energy x-ray image of wire connector showing plastic case and low density material

The patent-pending Dual Energy toolbox in TruView 5 Software was used to image both low and high energy parts of the connector and show them simultaneously, as seen in Figure 3.


Figure 3 – Dual energy of the crimped wire connector using TruView patent-pending Dual Energy toolbox

The second example we will analyse is the classical ball grid array (BGA). The solder balls in the BGA are very dense, thus a high energy setting of the x-ray source is needed to produce a good image as seen in Figure 4. However, the low density parts around the BGA are over exposed, and therefore cannot be seen. Figure 5 reveals all low energy details of the low density parts of the PCB to expose traces and other features and devices in the board.


Figure 4 – High energy image of a ball grid array (BGA) component showing the high density details. The voids in each ball are clearly visible.


Figure 5 – Low energy image of a ball grid array (BGA) component showing the low density details. The details around each ball are clearly visible.

Once again the Dual Energy toolbox in the TruView 5 Software was used to merge both images in Figure 6. This figure shows how the Dual Energy image can show both high and low density materials with high resolution.


Figure 6 – Dual Energy image of a ball grid array (BGA) component showing the high and low density details. The voids in each ball – and the pads, components, traces, and vias – are also are clearly visible.

The last example we’d like to share with you is of a transformer mounted onto a PCB. As seen in Figure 7, the high energy image shows all the details in the of the transformer. The individual wires are visible in this image. The low energy image in Figure 8 shows all the details of the PCB.


Figure 7 – High energy image of transformer. Individual wires are visible around the magnetic core.


Figure 8 – Low energy image of transformer. All traces on the PCB are clearly visible.

The video in Figure 9 shows the Dual Energy process in action. Please feel free to leave a comment and to contact us for more information.

Figure 9 – Dual Energy toolbox for x-ray inspection in action

X-Ray Phone Cases

As you know we’ve been x-raying phones for a while now. As a tribute to the uber geek, we decided to customized cell phone cases with the x-ray image of the phone. We have cases for the iPhone 5/5S, 6, 6 Plus, and also for the Samsung S5.

Ever wondered where the vibration motor of your phone is located? Now you can! Check the video for more details.

We will have these cases at the various trade shows we go to around the world. Click here to figure out where to find us.

iPhone 5/5S Slim Case


iPhone 5/5S Protective Case



iPhone 6 Slim Case



iPhone 6 Plus Slim Case


Galaxy S5 Protective Case




New vs Old: X-Ray Teardown of MacBooks from 2007 and 2014

In today’s post we compare the x-ray teardown of two popular Apple laptops: 2007 black MacBook and 2014 MacBook Air. Don’t forget to check out the video with the whole process:

2007 Black MacBook

The 2007 version of the MacBook came in two colors, black and white. At the time, the black MacBook was the top of the line in terms of price and performance. This laptop came with a wide range of interface ports – from composite video (later replaced by Thunderbolt in modern Apple laptops) to a real Ethernet connector. The MacBook also had a DVD player, one of the many media made obsolete by Apple. Here’s an animation showing the MacBook and its x-ray image.


2014 MacBook Air

We move forward in time 7 years to show you the latest MacBook Air. The MacBook Air is thinner, lighter, and smaller than its predecessors. However, these gains came at a cost: a small number of interface ports. The DVD player is long gone, and we’re left with 2 USB ports and a single Thunderbolt port. It can be difficult at times to work with the MacBook Air with such limited interfaces. But its size and weight make it a perfect travel laptop. For users who need more interfaces and horsepower, the answer is the Retina MacBook Pro.


The Battery Revolution

The following x-ray images show that batteries grew considerably over the years – as the electronics shrunk. We’ve seen a similar trend in the cell phones from previous teardowns – see “A Brief History of Cell Phones“. It is clear that these devices can be made much smaller, however at a sacrifice of battery life.

For the next generation of smaller electronics we need a breakthrough in battery technology!

Macbook Air



Apple iPhone 5S Teardown by TruView™ X-Ray … next: iPhone 6!

The iPhone 6 launched last week – and is already out of stock! In preparation to the iPhone 6 teardown, we went ahead with the teardown by TruView™ X-Ray of the Apple iPhone 5S.

Before we begin, let’s take a look at the 5s specs.

  • Apple A7 processor with 64-bit architecture.
  • M7 motion co-processor.
  • 16, 32, or 64 GB Storage.
  • 4-inch retina display with 326 ppi.
  • 8 MP iSight camera (with larger 1.5µ pixels) and a 1.2MP FaceTime camera.
  • Fingerprint identity sensor built into the home button.
  • Available in three different colors: space gray, silver, and gold.

Looks good on the outside, now let’s take a look inside. 

Follow our Guide at iFixIt



The Renaissance of Made in USA at Maker Faire

It’s 6AM in New York City, and my Southwest flight back to San Diego is ready for takeoff. We spent the weekend here to exhibit our x-ray systems at the 2014 International Maker Faire. If you’re not familiar with the Maker Faire, imagine a combination of a tech show, craft show, and Comic-Con. It’s a place where people come together to share their creative drive – and to air the gadgets they build in their basements. Other than a geek fest, Maker Faire is a place where it is cool to be smart.

Over the weekend we had the chance to meet people like Nigell Dennis, an 18-year-old from Brooklyn who developed and built NAVI, his own Arduino-based smartwatch. Next door to our booth we met a group of rocket scientists who got together to design and manufacture APOLLO, a datalogger that packs 11 sensors in a tiny package. And of course, we also met Richard Carter and his Sashimi Tabernacle Choir. Why do you ask… why not they answer!

The unifying factor in the Make movement is a common drive to innovate. For fun or for business, what united us is the simple desire to push the envelope. Nigell didn’t wait for the Apple Watch, he developed his own in his garage. The same way Steve Jobs didn’t wait for IBM to develop a personal computer, he made his own in his garage. What better way to define us as a people than those not satisfied by the status quo? Those who braved the west, put men in the moon, cured diseases, and challenged every concept of stagnation. Innovation is the fabric of our society.

Much has been said about America’s continued motion towards outsourcing. Some go as far as saying that all hope is lost, and that the USA is deemed to a lesser role in history as a country of customers. These critics claim that manufacturing in America is prohibitively expensive and regulated. Some empirical evidence tends to favor these claims – it seems that more things everyday are made somewhere else.

A few weeks ago I wrote the post Made in USA: So What?! to describe a few of the reasons why Creative Electron manufactures x-ray machines in USA. This weekend we met with similar minded inventors and entrepreneurs committed to reclaiming America’s leadership in manufacturing. Needless to say the conversations were more about “how can we make this better” then “how can we cut 2 cents in the manufacturing cost of this unit”.  It was comforting to realize we’re not alone.

The trip to the Maker Faire renewed my hope in the American experiment – a place where innovation and ingenuity meet to create sustainable economies.


10 Basic Principles of X-Ray Inspection

Safety is our first priority when building our cabinets. For this reason, our systems exceed domestic and international safety standards. In the USA the Food and Drug Administration regulates all