This week we head up to San Luis Obispo to chat with our good friends at ifixit. We had a great time talking technology, teardowns, and of course, x-rays! This was a great opportunity to show off the capabilities of our new tomography system, the TruView Fusion CT. Check it out as we took the 3D x-ray inspection of an Apple AirPod!
We’re excited to share with you the new generation of TruView Cube! What’s new? Well, let’s start by the major upgrade – the x-ray sensor. The new TruView Cube is now equipped with a high resolution image intensifier – a sensor that produces incredible images. Not only that, the 4″ field of view gives you enough coverage to image a large portion of the your sample. We also added a 10″ HD monitor mounted right on top of the door to mirror the image you get from the 24″ HD monitor. That means you can use the TruView Cube with or without the large monitor, allowing for a very small operating footprint – the smallest in the market! Perfect for your lab where every inch matters.
Enough said, give us a call today to learn more about the new TruView Cube!
The last teardown of the year goes to the Apple AirPods! Just in time to make your Christmas list – in case you’re one of us procrastinators – the AirPods went on sale yesterday! The AirPods’ repairability index of 0 (yes, basically impossible to fix without breaking it even further) may not matter if you loose them before they need repairs.
Our good friends at ifixit took the AirPods apart for our delight. Check the full teardown here and let us know what you think! Also enjoy the amazing details of the AirPod in this video:
Creative Electron launched today a new division focused on the sale and rental of refurbished x-ray inspection systems. Led by industry veteran and Customer Service Manager David Phillips, this new division focuses on meeting the needs of customers looking for cost effective x-ray machines.
“The acquisition of FocalSpot gave us access to a large number of high quality x-ray machines we received as trade ins. These machines have been completely refurbished and are fully warranted by our technical team. We currently have the largest inventory of x-ray systems ready to ship. These systems are also available for rental to supply our customers with a temporary x-ray solution,” said David Phillips. You can check our current inventory of refurbished x-ray systems here.
All refurbished x-ray machines come with a factory 90-day warranty and are powered by Creative Electron’s TruView IP, a state of the art image processing unit running on the latest Microsoft OS. TruView IP can also include powerful apps – BGA Inspector, Dual Energy, WISE, Pad Voiding, 3D Rendering, Database Browser, Measurement, Annotation, Image Filters. These apps bring new life to any x-ray inspection system.
Contact us today for more information!
It’s no secret I’ve been using MacBook Pros as my primary computer for over a decade now. I must admit that in the past couple of years I’ve found myself looking jealously at my colleagues who brag about their Surface Pros. The Surface Pro 4 is an amazing machine, one I’ve considered as my next laptop. However, when I think about all the apps I’d have to give up… well, I’m back to the MacBook Pro. Needless to say the launch of the new line of MacBook Pros last week was very exciting news – perhaps the excuse I need to upgrade my 2013 machine!
We received our 13″ MacBook Pro this morning, and the first stop was inside TruView Prime S with a 17″x17″ flat panel. We also took a few photos showing the 2013 MacBook Pro against its successor. For a more detailed teardown please visit our friends at ifixit and let us know what you think!
MacBook Pro 2013
MacBook Pro 2016
The launch of the new generation of Google phones, the Google Pixel, gained a much larger dimension since the debacle with the Samsung Note 7. In this post we share with you the x-ray teardown of the Google Pixel XL, the large form-factor device Google released today. As per usual, our friends at ifixit did a complete teardown, which you can find here.
Here’re the x-ray images of the new Google Pixel XL:
We also got a cool video of the vibration motor in the Pixel XL:
If you were wondering how similar this vibration motor looks when compared to the taptic engine in the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, here’s a side-by-side video of both engines in action:
We used a high magnification x-ray machine (the TruView Prime) to check some of the details around the phone:
We are happy to announce the launch of our new x-ray inspection platform, the TruView™ Fusion! This platform replaces the Number Series (TruView™ 100, 200, 180, etc.). The TruView™ Fusion comes equipped with state of the art software that automatically takes an x-ray image of the whole stage so you can Point-and-Click navigate your inspection using the x-ray image of your entire board. You can also do the same using the optical image of the stage – via an automated vision system installed in the system. These inspection packages make automated batch inspection a simple and easy drag and drop operation!
The TruView™ Fusion also has a tilt compensation system for oblique view inspection. The stage rotation comes handy when inspecting complex components.
What’s even more exciting about the TruView™ Fusion is the wide range of configurations you can choose. The TruView™ Fusion X-Ray is a powerful platform that can be configured in 6 different ways to meet your cost and performance requirements:
TruView™ Fusion A: Load/unload samples using the system’s sliding front door.
TruView™ Fusion B: Load/unload samples using the system’s single side door via conveyor belt.
TruView™ Fusion C: Load samples using the system’s left side door and unload using right door via conveyor belt.
TruView™ Fusion S: Large field of view sensor, up to 17″x17″
TruView™ Fusion R: Reel-to-reel inspection
TruView™ Fusion X: Large format inspection to boards up to 48″x20″
Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information!
In another collaboration with ifixit, here’re the details of the new headphone adapter for the iPhone 7. We’re surprised how much electronics Apple was able to include inside this little cable. More details at ifixit!
The all new Samsung Galaxy Charm is the smallest wearable fitness band we’ve seen so far! That’s why we couldn’t wait to figure out what was inside it. Check out the video for more details:
German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen is usually credited as the discoverer of X-rays in 1895, because he was the first to systematically study them, though he is not the first to have observed their effects. Roentgen called it “X” to indicate it was an unknown type of radiation. The name stuck, although (over Roentgen’s objections), many of his colleagues suggested calling them Roentgen rays. They are still occasionally referred to as Roentgen rays in German-speaking countries.
The methodology used to create x-ray images is still a matter of confusion to many people. The fact you need an x-ray source and a special x-ray sensor to produce an image makes the fabrication of the infamous “X-Ray Specs” a matter of science fiction. That’s why Chris Baraniuk’s article titled “The Secret History of X-Ray Specs” caught my eyes. The single fact you need to ask the question shines some light on the confusion about the technology. Remember that in the early days some people made money riding the wave of mystery and confusion with “products” like these:
Unfortunately some x-ray companies still rely on these “smoke and mirrors” techniques to sell x-ray machines. That’s why we spend a lot of our time doing the best we can to educate our customers about x-ray inspection. What’s possible, and perhaps more importantly, what’s not possible.
For more information about x-ray specs, and how to get yours, check out Chris’ article here.
The all new Samsung Note 7 is an impressive super smartphone. Want to use it under water? No problems, the Note 7 is rated to IP68 water protection. Check the video for more details!
The new BLU R1 HD is a very well built Android smartphone from the Florida company BLU. It’s an incredible deal at $50 for Amazon Prime members (if you don’t mind the ads). We got some insights on the new design of the iPhone from the BLU R1, check the video to learn more!
Here’s the complete video with the teardown and some extra x-ray images, enjoy!
We’re looking forward to presenting and exhibiting at the upcoming Symposium on Counterfeit Parts and Materials. We’ll be in booth #1. Our paper “The Next Challenge For X-Ray Counterfeit Detection: Electronic Equipment” will show new challenges OEMs are facing with elaborate counterfeit schema.
For the past years our R&D team has presented new algorithms and technologies related to the use of x-ray inspection to identify counterfeit electronic components. Although a critical part of the electronic industry’s value chain, single components are not the only target of criminal enterprises. This year our presentation will focus on another equally important stage of the value chain: electronic equipment. The work presented reflects research and development of hardware, software, and algorithms needed to perform x-ray inspection of routers, switches, and other high monetary value equipment. In specific, we will focus on a case study where a number of routers and switches that were not only counterfeited, but also replaced with other electronics. X-ray images of these devices will be presented, as well as the algorithms utilized to assess the authenticity of these equipment.
It’s time to bring your x-ray machine to the 21st century. The all new TruView Image Processor (TruView IP) is here. Now you can use the state of the art TruView 6 software with your Nicolet, FocalSpot, Faxitron – or other brands – x-ray machines. Improve your ability to identify defects in your samples with the comprehensive set of Apps available in the TruView IP package. Contact us today for more details!
The TruView™ XL X-Ray Machine was designed to inspect large printed circuit boards – up to 20″x40″. If you have one of these large panels to inspect, options are limited. To meet these requirements we added side boxes to our Number Series cabinet to give you the extra room. You deserve it. Here’s more details about the TruView™ XL X-Ray Inspection System.
That Amazon Tap is Amazon’s latest step in its pursuit to fully connect us to information. This portable Alexa-enabled speaker is here to make your life easier. Need to know how hot is it going to be this weekend, or the score of the game – just ask Alexa. I’m not sure how quickly will people adapt this new technology, but I can see some of its merits. Anyway, what’s inside is what counts, so here’s ifixit’s teardown of the Amazon Tap with our x-ray images. Enjoy!
This week we’ll cross the country giving presentations about wearables in San Diego on Tuesday (4/26) and Philadelphia on Wednesday and Thursday (4/27-28). We look forward to seeing you there!
IMAPS San Diego: “Teardowns of IoT and Wearable Devices”
Tuesday, April 26th at 12:00 PM. Lunch will be provided.
Qualcomm Bldg. R
10185 McKellar Ct San Diego, CA 92121-4233
Space is limited to 30 participants, please register asap.
ACI Tech Expo: “Apple Watch Teardown”
Wednesday, April 27th at 4:00 PM.
Thursday, April 28th at 9:30AM.
ACI Technologies, Inc.
1 International Plaza, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19113
Join us this week as we discuss Apple’s latest wearable – the Apple Watch. We will see what makes the Apple Watch tick. We’ll also see the inside of many other devices.
We look forward to seeing you – register today!
Wednesday, April 20 at 5:30PM – Creative Electron, San Marcos, CA
Thursday, April 21 at 6:00PM – JT Schmid’s Restaurant & Brewery, Anaheim, CA
The new iPhone from Apple is an improved iPhone 5S. The 4″ device looks very similar to its predecessors – the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S, as the following video clearly shows:
Here’s the complete video with the teardown and some extra x-ray images, enjoy!
We are happy to share with you that today we launched the all new TruView Prime S. Designed to x-ray larger objects – up to 17″x17″ – that require low magnification, the TruView Prime S is the ideal x-ray machine for applications including seed inspection, NDT, forensics, parts counting, counterfeit detection, animal imaging, and plenty more. For more information please click here and contact us if you’d like more information.
For millions of people around the world, having an Epinephrine auto-injector can mean the difference between life and death. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Epinephrine injection is used along with emergency medical treatment to treat life-threatening allergic reactions caused by insect bites or stings, foods, medications, latex, and other causes. Epinephrine is in a class of medications called alpha- and beta-adrenergic agonists (sympathomimetic agents). It works by relaxing the muscles in the airways and tightening the blood vessels.
According to Reporterlinker.com, 2.45 billion of these syringe units were sold in 2011 with an expected 3.59 billion to be sold in 2015. Pre-filled syringes form one of the fastest growing markets in healthcare.The devices contain a spring-loaded needle that exits the tip of the device (in some cases through a sterile membrane) and penetrates the recipient’s skin, to deliver the medication via intramuscular injection.
To show you how these incredible devices work, we did the teardown of one of the most Epinephrine Auto-Injectors in the market, the Epipen®. As you can see in the following x-ray image, there are 5 key parts of this auto-injector. Let’s start from the top of the Epipen® (5), which is the actuator (or button) you press to trigger the pen. This trigger releases a powerful spring (4) that can apply several pounds of force to release the medication inside the syringe (3). This force also causes the needle (2) to exit the auto-injector and penetrate the patient’s skin. To absorb some of that impact, the release spring (1) takes some of that shock to provide the patient with a smooth experience (similar to the shock absorbers in your car).
There’s a lot of information on this topic online. We found the Mayo Clinic website specially useful.
EpiPen® is a registered trademark owned by the Mylan companies
This Thursday you’ll have a chance to meet our own Dr. Glen Thomas in Dallas, TX during the SMTA Expo and Forum. Dr. Thomas will present the Apple Watch teardown and discuss how teardowns can help us figure out where the industry is going.
Here are the details:
Location: Plano Centre
2000 E. Spring Creek Pkwy
Plano, TX 75074
8:30AM – 9:15AM
Teardown: Why is it Important to See What’s Inside Our Gadgets?
Dr. Glenn Thomas, Creative Electron
The impulse to break a new gadget to “see what’s inside” is often the first sign someone will become an engineer. However, modern teardowns go far beyond pure curiosity: they provide us critical insights into the nature and construction of these devices. In this talk we will cover the teardown of several gadgets, from the early Blackberries to the Apple Watch, to understand how the SMT industry has changed. These findings will also help us forecast where we are going as a community by discussing miniaturization and packaging, automation and labor force location, device features, and other important topics. These are key issues we need to address to keep U.S. SMT manufacturing relevant.
The success of our global economy relies on the free flow of information and products across multiple geographical boundaries. In a networked society, markets transcend political borders to reach every corner of the globe. With such connectivity come serious challenges to protect the homeland from foreign and domestic threats. The influx of counterfeit electronic components in our supply chain is an ever-increasing threat to our economy. The latest report issued by the US Department of Commerce states that the number of counterfeit incidents almost tripled between 2005 and 2008.
Radiography (or x-ray inspection) is a ubiquitous technique to all recent and upcoming counterfeit component detection standards, including IDEA 1010B, CCAP 101, AS5553, AS6081, and AS6171. X-ray inspection gives you the unique ability to “see” what is inside an electronic component without damaging it.
Our team has been working for several years to bring to market solutions that allow our customers to inspect 100% of parts in tape and reel, tubes, and trays. We are proud to share with you today that another major step in our patent-pending Reel-to-Reel (R2R) system was completed: it is faster than ever! Not long ago it took our R2R over 30 minutes to inspect 1,000 parts. That was a breakthrough at the time, but we were not satisfied. Continuous work on this technology have lead us to a new R2R system that can inspect up to 1,000 parts in 5 minutes. This performance allows our partners to drive up inspection of components, thus greatly reducing the chances counterfeit components will be inserted in the supply chain. For more details please take a look at the following video:
In a world of Apple Pencils and styluses, sometimes we forget the the old writing instruments that have almost been completely replaced by finger swipes and keyboards. Although I consider myself a geek at heart, I still carry around an old style paper notebook to write ideas and to do lists. Nothing better to share your ideas with than a clean sheet of paper. And the mechanical pencil is your best friend there! So today we will look in detail on how this nice mechanical pencil is built, starting with a couple of animations showing the action of pushing the lead out.
Now in more detail so you can observe the mechanism at the end of the pencil. Isn’t it incredible the fine mechanics in this piece?
And the eraser end and its attachment to the pencil:
Finally a close look at the lead and its control mechanism:
Creative Electron had a fantastic 2015, and we’re expecting an even better 2016. To keep us in this growth trajectory, we need more super talented people to join our team. If you’re passionate about developing and building the best x-ray machines in the world, Creative Electron is the place to be. With a pet friendly policy (Jesse and Harper in the photo) and unlimited vacation time, we do have a good time creating technology. Learn more about it at our Open Opportunities page.
Counting parts is an integral part of any inventory control activity. Inventory is cash, and the ability to quickly assess how many parts you have in inventory is critical to the success of any manufacturing company. Counting parts on reels has been a daunting task: open the ESD bag, load the reel-to-reel counter, run it, re-reel, place reel back in the ESD bag. Of course, hope no damage was done to the components in the process. Ah, since the parts counter counts the number of holes in the tape (not the components per se), also hope the count is close enough to reality.
Large area x-ray detectors allow us to take a large image of a reel of components, like the one seen here:
Then using custom software, we count how many components are in the reel. That’s it, simple and direct – and accurate – counting for your inventory control. To make things even easier, we embedded this functionally to our TruView SRT, which gives you simple and fast operation.
Check out our demonstration video, and as usual, contact us if you have any questions.
TruView™ SRT with Parts Counter
As it is true with most technology companies, our R&D team works tirelessly in the development of algorithms, software, and hardware that improves our products. In this continues – and perhaps limitless – pursuit of a “better” product, we must be careful not to loose touch with the end user. We live in a very pragmatic world populated by educated users who come to us with deep knowledge of their needs. For that reason, sometimes the biggest technological advances come in the simplicity of the machines we make.
We designed the TruView SRT with a “less is more” motto. An interface with a few discrete push buttons replaces the traditional keyboard/mouse user interface. A minimalist software design replaces the app driven environment of TruView 6. We recognize that some users need a Swiss Army knife and some only need a good screwdriver. The TruView SRT is a plugin system ready for action!
Check the introductory video for more information, and as usual, contact us if you have any questions.
TruView™ SRT Introduction Video
It’s finally here, the all new Apple Pencil! The perfect companion for your iPad Pro. What’s inside the Apple Pencil you ask? Well, check it out!
Apple Pencil – The Tip
Cool Animation Showing the X-Ray of the tip
Apple Pencil – Control Board
Apple Pencil – The End
We’re really excited to share with you that Tharium Corporation started selling our TruView X-Ray inspection systems in Mexico. This is an exclusive deal that will allow Tharium to not only provide Mexico with a local sales team, but more importantly, a competent local technical team. Here’s a word from our friend Francisco Sanchez, Tharium’s General Manager: “We are thrilled with the opportunity to offer and service the award winning TruView X-Ray inspection systems in Mexico. I’ve been working in the manufacturing industry in Mexico for 20 years, and the TruView equipment by far offers the highest price to performance ratio in the market. What’s more exciting is our ability to tap into Creative Electron’s R&D team in California to customize solutions to our customers.”
Tharium offers other products as well, including rework stations, vision products, magnifying lenses, and AOI machines. For more information please visit their website at www.tharium.com.
Francisco can be reached at email@example.com.
Over the years we’ve seen several reports of criminals inserting foreign objects in Halloween candy. For that reason we use x-rays to make sure the candy our kids collect is safe for consumption. This year we decided to offer this service to the whole community. If you’d like to have you kid’s candy inspected with x-rays, please come by our facility in San Marcos this Sunday, November 1, from 9AM to 11AM. We’re located at 253 Pawnee St., San Marcos, CA. If you like more information, feel free to contact us here. This is not only an opportunity to check candy for foreign objects, but also a chance to show your kids how x-rays work. We look forward to seeing you this Sunday!
To give you an idea of what we can see if x-rays, check these images of what an innocent Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup can hide!
Halloween candy x-ray: Snickers bar with needle
Halloween candy x-ray: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with razor blade
Although both examples are simulated, I can’t imagine finding these objects in my kids’ bowl of candy like other parents have! Here’s an example of the x-ray of the whole bowl showing the needle and the razor blade.
What can we find inside Halloween candy using x-rays?
Before we get into the details of what we can and cannot see inside our kids’ candy, let’s review how x-ray imaging works. A special source located underneath the candy produces x-ray photons (x-rays photons are similar to visible light photons, but they vibrate at different frequencies) that travel thru the candy and reach a special sensor located on top of the candy. Unlike visible light, these x-ray photons travel go thru matter. However, we can tune the energy of the x-rays so they stop at some heavy materials (like metals), thus creating a shadow on the sensor. Now imagine we collect a bunch of these x-rays and create a image based on the density of the material they are travelling thru. Like you can see in the above image, the heavy parts of the candy are darker than the light parts of the candy. The metal foreign objects can be seen because they stop almost all x-rays, thus creating a very dark profile of the object (see the needle and the razor blade). What’s really cool is that we can also see the peanuts inside the Snickers bar and little air bubbles inside the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup! What we can’t see, however, include materials that don’t cast a shadow with the x-ray light. That includes poisons, paper, aluminum, plastic, and other light materials. Like everything in life, technology can’t replace good judgement. X-rays can help us some things, but not absolutely everything a criminal might decide to insert in a candy.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
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
Electronic components can survive a high amount of radiation exposure. We get asked from time to time if their x-ray inspection system will in any way negatively change the parts they’re inspecting. The answer is no, but to better qualify it, we put together some slides to go over the details.
We had a great time this week at the SMTA Capital Chapter Expo and Conference. But don’t worry if you missed the presentation, here it is!
The ifixit team pulled another incredible teardown. The Sony a7R II is the second generation of professional mirrorless interchangeable lens camera from the japanese manufacturer. It’s definitely not cheap: the $3,199 price tag will likely scare away the casual photographer. Check out the complete teardown here.
It took us a while, but the TruView Flex is finally here! For those who have not been part of this development, the TruView Flex is a unique x-ray inspection system because it can be used as an offline or as an inline machine. It has shutters on both sides of the machine and a conveyor belt inside, so that we insert a sample from one side, perform a full automated inspection of the sample, and spill it out from the other side. In offline mode, the system automatically closes the shutters so that you can run a manual or automated inspection using the joystick in front of the system. We also added a pass through mode so that the TruView Flex behaves like a standard conveyor belt to move the samples from one side to the other.
Let us know if you have any questions about the TruView Flex. You can call us at 760.751.1192, emails us here, or chat live with us right here –>.
Here’s another awesome teardown with our great friends at iFixit. The OnePlus 2 is the OnePlus’ newest venture in the world of smartphones. The self proclaimed “Flagship Killer”, the OnePlus 2 (can we call it 3?) has very competitive specs. Starting at $329, this is an interesting option to those looking for an Android experience.
Here’s one of the x-ray images you’ll find in the teardown. One of the highly publicized items of the OnePlus 2 is its 13MP camera. Wonder what OnePlus has to say about it?
“Despite being a go-to measure for smartphone cameras, megapixels fail to tell the whole story. The true test of a camera is the quality of its image sensor and optics. Our sensor contains large 1.3µm light-collecting pixels—the biggest ever in a 13MP smartphone camera—for unmatched low-light performance. A six-element lens prevents distortion, making sure that photos are clear and crisp. Day or night, make every shot beautiful.”
And here it is from the inside out!
Guess what the OnePlus 2 looks when taken apart? No need to guess, here it is.
For these and much more, check out the complete teardown here. And don’t miss the amazing video:
The new Amazon Dash Button – now available to Prime members – is the ultimate step in convenience shopping. If you haven’t seen it yet, the Amazon Dash Button allows you to buy a specific product – in this case Huggies diapers – at the click of a button. This little device communicates to your Amazon Prime account using the local WIFI network. The setup of the device is easy, all you need is a smartphone (iPhone or Android) with the Amazon App. Follow a few steps, and your account settings are sent to the Dash Button using the speaker of your phone to the microphone in the Dash. You can actually hear as your data is sent to the Dash!
Now let’s look inside this new Amazon device, starting with a 360 rotation of the Dash and the animated overlay:
1. Negative side of AAA battery – note 2 of the 3 screws used to keep the Dash together
2. Detail profile of the push button, and a profile of the PCB showing its many copper layers
5. Top view of the positive side of the Dash’s AAA battery. At the edge is the microphone used to receive the configuration data from your smartphone
7. Detailed electronics – WIFI radio, power supply module, and the dedicated microprocessor that turns a push button into a buying machine
We’re happy to report that we’ve been granted patent US 9084057 titled “Compact acoustic mirror array system and method”. Microphone or sound detecting systems typically comprise a single microphone physically encased in an isotropic material (e.g., wood or plastic) with an open aperture for omnidirectional or for hemispherical sensitivity. Consequently, the bulk of improvements in modern microphoning technology have primarily been directed to developing better microphonic circuits (e.g., amplifiers, signal processing) or to better microphonic hardware (e.g., piezoelectrics or electromagnetic microphones). Accordingly, there has not been any significant advancement in the use and configuration of specialized materials for the microphone casing or for lensing/amplifying effects.
Therefore, there has been a long-standing need in the sound and microphoning community for new methods and systems that address these and other deficiencies, as further detailed below.
The following presents a simplified summary in order to provide a basic understanding of some aspects of the claimed subject matter. This summary is not an extensive overview, and is not intended to identify key/critical elements or to delineate the scope of the claimed subject matter. Its purpose is to present some concepts in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description that is presented later.
In one aspect of the disclosed embodiments, a microphoning assembly is provided, comprising: a sound directing structure having an acoustic focus, a portion of the structure having a sound-affecting physical property that that directs a wave front of incoming sound to the focus; and a microphone situated substantially proximate to the focus to pick up the directed sound, wherein an increase of at least 10 dB is experienced at the microphone as compared to non-directed sound.
In another aspect of the disclosed embodiments, a method of enhancing the detection of sound is provided, comprising: forming a sound directing structure having an acoustic focus, a portion of the structure having a sound-affecting physical property that that directs a wave front of incoming sound to the focus; and situating a microphone substantially proximate to the focus to pick up the directed sound, wherein an increase of at least 10 dB is experienced at the microphone as compared to non-directed sound.
Did you think one teardown a week is much? Not to our friends at ifixit! With warping speed they were able to fit another incredible teardown this week – the all new iPod Touch 6th generation. Some say this is the first glance at a new iPhone form factor coming out in September. This 4″ display iPhone would join the lineup with the larger 4.7″ and 5.5″. Will they call it the new 5S? Or the brand new iPhone 6 minus? Until we find out, don’t miss the teardown here.
Full rotation of the iPod Touch 6th generation in x-rays!
This week our good friends at ifixit ran an awesome teardown of the new GoPro Hero4 Session camera. Don’t miss this incredible teardown. You won’t believe what it took to open this camera. Here’s the link to the full teardown.
This week we will take a look at an item ubiquitous to all of us: credit cards. Not sure if you noticed, but the old credit card that you used to swipe at the store is slowly being replaced by Smart Cards that you instead insert in the payment machine. Perhaps Smart Cards will be obsolete before taking over if the electronic wallets of Apple, Google, PayPal, and others take off fast enough. Since the adoption rate of electronic payment system (e.g. Apple Watch) is reasonably slow, the Smart Card has a fighting chance. After all, the Smart Card Alliance estimates 600 million Smart Cards will be in use by the end of 2015 in the US alone.
The “smarts” in the Smart Card come from the tiny microchip embedded in the card, as you can see on the left top corner of the following image. As usual, we give you the photo of the card overlaid with the x-ray of the card.
Smart Card x-ray image and photo
So why bother putting a tiny microchip in your credit card? Other than being super cool to we geeks out there, this microchip was designed to reduce the ability of criminals to steal your credit card. How? Simple: the old credit card has a magnetic strip with all your data (remember old cassette tapes – similar technology). Well, to copy or clone your credit card all the criminal needs to do is to read the data in the magnetic strip and record it into a blank card. Voila, your card has now a twin sister!
To make criminals’ life harder, the microchip in the Smart Card generates a new code each time you use it. Once used, the code is no longer valid. This code is specially generated so that the credit card companies know it’s your card being used. It’s useless for the thief to steal the code, since it changes with every use. Pretty cool, right?! Here are more details of the chip itself, and the little wires that connect the chip to the pads on the credit card. These are the golden looking areas on the corner of the card. They are used to complete the electrical contact between the payment machine at the cashier and the microchip inside the card.
X-Ray image of microchip inside Smart Card
X-Ray image of wirebond connecting parts of the Smart Card to microchip pads
I’m sure you won’t see your credit cards the same way again. And please use your card responsibly!
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…
In the world of superconductivity, it is true that “the colder the better”. Although electrons enjoy the freedom of cryogenic temperatures, the same cannot be said to connectors. Dr. Marcos Turqueti, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) has to deal with the challenges of interfacing to very cold electronics. In recent work with Griffin Lemaster, Creative Electron’s VP of Engineering, Dr. Turqueti is exploring x-ray inspection as a means to “see” inside the connectors at cryogenic temperatures. “Our objective is to determine if the cold temperature will create any disruption in the utilization of these RF connectors,” said Griffin. “For this reason we take images of the connectors at room temperature and compare to the x-ray images takes at lower temperatures”. As seen in the following image (taken using the Dual Energy Software), it is clear when the connection inside the couple connectors break.
For more information about this study and all other ongoing research at Creative Electron, please contacts us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 760.752.1192.
You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure: How Statistical Analysis Help Improve Your Manufacturing Process
We recently launched a new automated x-ray inspection system called the TruView AXI. This machine, other than able to take beautiful x-ray images, was also designed to collect important data about your manufacturing process. In this video we go over the details on how to collect relevant metrics on your product. We also describe how to build a set of important metrics on a dashboard that is critical in diagnosing problems with your SMT line.
Creative Electron launched its new line of automated x-ray inspection (AXI) equipment at the 2015 IPC APEX EXPO in San Diego. At the show, the company demonstrated the unique capabilities of the new TruView AXI.
“We spent the past two years working with our customers to develop an automated solution platform that meets and exceeds the x-ray inspection requirements of the surface mount industry, with emphasis in LED, BGA, QFN, and CSP analysis and diagnostics,” said Dr. Glen Thomas, Creative Electron’s VP of Marketing. Dr. Thomas added, “One of the key benefits of the Creative Electron TruView AXI’s performance is the flexibility – a major advantage for customers that are inspecting batteries and other mechanical assemblies.”
The new TruView AXI platform automatically captures and analyses x-ray images from PCBAs, providing consistent inspection results and eliminating operator error. What differentiates the TruView AXI from other systems in the market is a set of exclusive algorithms used to determine sample is defective or not. To further improve the operator’s ability to diagnose a PCBA, the TruView AXI includes ICARUS, Creative Electron’s image analysis software package. “The layering of image processing algorithms – AXI and ICARUS – gives the TruView AXI unique capabilities that will help our customers find defects in their assemblies with higher confidence than ever before,” said Griffin Lemaster, Creative Electron’s VP of Engineering.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The proper application of solder paste onto a printed circuit board is critical to the success of PCB manufacturing process. Stencils are widely used in SMT applications. In this presentation, we will explore examples of how x-ray inspection can be used to diagnose problems with your stencils.
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
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!
Not long ago my 3-year old son found this antique 1989 Game Boy. Against all odds the Game Boy survived the hands of a super active boy. To rescue the Game Boy, I brought it to the office and made it the theme for this week’s teardown. Here’s the YouTube video, enjoy it!
8-bit DMG-01 Processor
Volume Control Switch
As we close another successful year, it’s time to remember the 10 most popular posts of 2014. This year we saw new technologies introduced, products inspected, and the X-Ray University launched.
1. Good Vibrations: A Look at iPhone Vibration Motors
2. LED Assembly and Inspection: A Case Study
3. TITANN – TruView Infrared Tracking with Artificial Neural Networks
4. How to find defects in SMT manufacturing
5. When Counterfeit Components Explode
6. Solder Paste Selection
7. X-Ray Inspection of PCB
8. iPhone 6 Plus Teardown
9. How is the X-Ray Image Created?
10. How to Use X-Rays to Find Counterfeit Components
In this week’s teardown we take a close look at the vibration motor of the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6 Plus. Check out the video showing these devices working in real time inside a x-ray machine*!
* No iPhones were harmed in the making of this video.
It has been several years since we started developing image comparison algorithms for a wide range of x-ray applications. Working on a Homeland Security program, the first application of these algorithms was the automated detection of counterfeit components, where we compared x-ray images of components in reels or trays looking for lot discrepancies. Since then, we have deployed image comparison algorithms for quality control in a variety of applications. A very popular use of image comparison algorithms, for example, is with our x-ray rental and custom units, where these algorithms serve to assist operators in finding defects. For this reason, an algorithm that can tell you what’s different from sample to sample is very powerful.
Although applications change, the premise is the same: a reference image is compared against a set of images that must look identical. Discrepancies must be carefully documented, as they likely signal defects.
The Image Comparison Algorithms for Radiography Unified Software – ICARUS – is the convergence of over a decade of algorithm development into a unified software platform. ICARUS combines several image comparison algorithms under one umbrella to give you the exact location in the x-ray images that differ from the reference image. ICARUS is a standalone software that works independently of other programs. However, when working in tandem with TruView 5 applications, it allows the user to stop automated acquisitions upon discovery of a fail.
ICARUS can find microscopic differences in the shape, size, and location of features, like broken or bent wire bonds.
To illustrate the power of ICARUS, the following example shows two images with small differences between them. The reference image on the left shows a module without any defects. The acquired image on the center presents a couple of subtle defects: a broken wire bond and a damaged solder ball. These defects were all correctly identified by ICARUS in the right image.
To improve the effectiveness of its algorithms, ICARUS allows you to select a comparison mask to focus analysis on regions of the image. For example, if you are interested in looking at the wire bonds only, all you need to do is to use the drawing tool in ICARUS to highlight the regions on the image that are of interest. ICARUS also has a powerful registration algorithm used to rotate and translate the acquired image to optimally match the reference image. ICARUS also outputs a complete report of all findings, including a PASS/FAIL result based on image similarity and a programmable threshold. ICARUS is currently in pre-release, and it is scheduled to start shipping November 1.
Please contact us today to see how ICARUS can improve the efficiency of your quality control program.
I know you’re probably expecting another teardown post, but we have something really interesting to share with you today. It’s another post in the series “how counterfeit components can complicate your life”. In the last post on this theme we were lucky to get a video of an electrolytic capacitor exploding. This time we did not get the video, but a photo to share with you – and the x-ray of the damaged part, of course.
There is a lot of talk nowadays on the problems caused by counterfeit components. The problem we see is that the conversation tends to stay at a very high level. The lack of real life examples of counterfeit components creating havoc weakens the discussion. For this reason we will share with you real life counterfeit examples anytime we can to better illustrate the conversation about counterfeit electronic components.
The board in question was supplied to us from a customer – who will need to remain nameless as per their request. We can share that the board is a power supply controller. We can also share with you that this customer uses our x-ray system for overall quality inspection of the PCB they manufacture (BGA, QFN, POP, etc.). However, they currently do not have a counterfeit component mitigation program in place. As a medium size contract manufacturer, they rely on their component distributors to provide them good parts.
The post mortem in this case is straightforward: a component with a lower power rating was remarked with a higher power rating. For most applications that have a large design tolerance, these counterfeited parts might have worked. This application, however, resulted in a nasty RMA. The very first batch of boards tested by the customer led to the flash and smoke shown in the following photo.
The x-ray image of this component clearly shows that the power wire bonds, on the same top-right border of the component, have been destroyed.
The consequences for the contract manufacturer and their customer in this case, fortunately, were only financial. The CM lost the cost of raw materials and labor to manufacture hundreds of these boards. Their customer is receiving product delayed. As a result of this experience the CM is implementing a counterfeit mitigation program as part of their incoming inspection process. They have also decided to perform periodic audits to distributors in their approved vendors list (AVL) – which, by the way, is rapidly shrinking.
The issue with broken or stuck power buttons in the iPhone 4, 4S, 5, and 5S are well known. A lot of people have complained about them over the years. This issue has also been the subject of at least 2 lawsuits filed against Apple. Some good news is available if you’re using an iPhone 5. Apple offers a replacement program because of the power button. On 25 April 2014, the company confirmed that some iPhone 5 smartphones have defective power buttons and has offered a free replacement. However, do keep in mind that means being without a phone for a few days (read the fine print…).
“Apple has determined that the sleep/wake button mechanism on a small percentage of iPhone 5 models may stop working or work intermittently,” Apple said in an online support document.
If your iPhone is still under warranty, Apple may be able to repair the hardware for free. Check out your iPhone warranty to see what your rights are. You can make an appointment with Apple to find out if you’re covered. If it turns out you’re not covered, a Genius from the Apple Store will be able to tell you how much it’ll cost to get it repaired.
One of our engineers, Carlos, has an iPhone 5 with the broken power button. Surprise, surprise… To figure out exactly what was going on we decided to x-ray the heck out of it. Here’s an image of the broken power button:
In this same image you can see the small MEMS microphone (bottom) located near the iSight camera (right). You can also see the bright LED (center) used for flash photography. The power button is located on top of the image. It is much easier to figure out the problem with this image if we have a good iPhone 5 to compare to. And we do, so here’s how a good power button should look like.
The issue here, as you can see, is that the membrane under the tactile switch – the part that makes electrical contact to power the iPhone – is bent upwards. The dislodging of this membrane does not allow the button to properly travel to close the contact. For that reason you get that “stuck” feeling that a lot of people reported on the issue.
For a better view of the problem, here are some detail images of the power button.
If you are not planning to upgrade to another phone and prefer to fix it yourself, there are several guides online showing you how to repair this switch yourself. Keep in mind opening an iPhone is not trivial, and you can break it in the process. There are also software fixes to this problem. The idea is to route the function of the power button to the screen of your iPhone, so you can turn it off by clicking on an icon. You will need to connect it to the power USB to turn it back on. Best of luck, we hope this was useful!
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
The determination of where the sample is located inside the x-ray chamber is critical to automated applications where several sample locations are inspected continuously and without operator intervention. The ability to go to the same location in the stage reliably and accurately is highly desirable. The state of the art in sample manipulation for x-ray inspections relies on the use of step motors connected to actuators that move a stage inside the x-ray chamber. The main problem with the use of step motors is that a number of steps is sent to motor so it can move, but there is no certainty the motor shaft turned the correct amount of times. Thus it is impossible to determine by how much the sample moved. Modern manipulation systems utilize encoders connected to the shaft of the step motor to count the number of turns of the motor. This feedback method improves the repeatability of the system and reduces the overall error. However, it is still prone to deviations between the number of turns of the motor and the actual movement of the sample. Another major shortcoming of this tracking method is that the error is cumulative. As the system is used the motion error compounds. As a result, these systems need to be regularly calibrated.
The TruView Infrared Tracking with Artificial Neural Networks (TITANN) is a patent pending technology that utilizes an optical target to locate the stage inside the x-ray chamber. These targets are infrared LEDs used to minimize noise in the image caused by visible light. By tracking the location of the infrared LED, the TruView software can determine the location of the stage/sample within 500um without the need for calibration. Better resolutions have been achieved for applications that require better sample control, including computed tomography (CT), laminography, and tomosynthesis.
We’ve also designed a custom infrared camera to track the location of the infrared LED on the stage. This megapixel camera is specially suited to operate inside the x-ray chamber.
Artificial neural networks are ideal for repetitive applications – thus a perfect fit for an x-ray sample tracking control. The artificial neural networks utilized in TITANN greatly reduce system errors and optimize travel of the stage. The custom artificial neural network algorithms in TITANN keep track of the location errors at each stage movement and automatically adjust the control system to the motors to minimize the distance between desired and achieved location.
The TITANN technology is currently available on a selected number of TruView inspection systems. Contact us today for more information.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with one of our competitors. He and I have an amicable relationship, and we get together occasionally. I share this with you because that meeting motivated me to write this post. During lunch he bragged how his Chinese-made cabinets are at least 30% cheaper than our USA made ones (he swears these savings already account for all logistics issues). He went further to brag about his software team in India, and the kind of skill set he can hire for $20k per year. Finally, he was proud that his US based team was mostly sales and marketing with a few people “operating screwdrivers”.
I don’t have anything against outsourcing to China, India, or any other country. I enjoy as much as anyone else buying $0.99 Hot Wheels cars at Walmart for my kids. That’s not the point. I run a high-tech company. Creative Electron, the company I started in my garage in 2008, develops and manufacturers x-ray inspection systems. As the company grew over the years, we had plenty of opportunities to outsource. We didn’t.
Creative Electron team in one of our production lines in San Marcos, CA – 2014
Instead, we developed a business model around the core belief that made in USA is the right thing to do. Part of this strategy is gratitude to a country that gave me a lot. I moved to the USA in 1998 to work for the Department of Energy, at a place called Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). It was my first job after college, so I started as an entry-level engineer. I went to back to school nights and weekends to get a MS, PhD, and MBA while working full time at Fermilab. In a few years I was promoted to Department Head, leading an incredible team of scientists, engineers, and technicians in the development of complex electronic systems for nuclear and high-energy physics research. This country is one of the very few places in the world where hard work and perseverance are proportionally rewarded.
After almost a decade at Fermilab, it was time to move on. The entrepreneurial bug called me to San Diego to start Creative Electron. Our first customers were the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. Together with other US government agencies that joined us later on, funding was secured for the development of an incredible product line. We are very proud of the services and products we are able to deliver to these organizations.
But gratitude is part of the reason we still make our x-ray machines in California. It still makes a lot of business sense to make things in USA. Forget about the 30, 40, or 60% savings people talk about. Innovation is priceless!
Here are some other important reasons to keep manufacturing in America:
1. Quality Control: This one is easy. It is much easier to keep an eye on your manufacturing line when it’s a few feet from your office instead of thousands of miles away. If something goes wrong you can address it immediately. It also helps a lot if you don’t need to wait months before getting a new batch of parts.
2. Customer Service Model: From the inception of the company I’ve been a believer that we should not have a customer service department. Instead, we have a customer support manager who is also our director of engineering. He receives support requests and routes them to one of our developers. Yes, that makes hiring developers a bit more challenging, because not only do they have to be awesome technically, but they also need to be awesome with customers. Having customers talking to developers directly allows us to get things fixed fast – without any bureaucratic red tape. The added bonus is that developers think twice before releasing product that might bite them later.
3. Innovation Speed: We are the underdogs in the x-ray inspection market. We don’t have a huge marketing budget or an army of salespeople pushing our products. Instead, we do spend every penny available in innovation. The fact we can change things fast – and learn from our mistakes fast – has allowed us to quickly improve our product line. We are in a constant dialogue with our customers, both big and small, to understand their challenges today and tomorrow. This focus on product performance for ultimate customer satisfaction has landed us major worldwide accounts.
A lot has been said about outsourcing, offshoring, and reshoring. You know what is best for your company – Made in USA is what works for us.
The technology is called APOLLO, and the patent is titled “Long-Lasting Pulseable Compact X-Ray Tube with Optically Illuminated Photocathode”. As you can probably figure out from the title, APOLLO does not rely on a heated filament to generate the electrons needed to make x-rays. Instead, APOLLO uses a special laser to shine a region of the cathode to create free electrons. The material you need to deposit on the cathode can be ytterbium (Yb), gallane-arsenide (Ga-As), cesium-antimony (Cs-Sb), or any variation of all these and other materials. We use a fiber optic to bring the laser into the vacuum-sealed tube, which makes it easy to focus on the cathode target. Some of the things that APOLLO enables us to do is to build an x-ray tube that can produce multiple x-ray beams, to change the focus of the x-ray beam as needed, and to pulse the x-ray beam as much and as fast as needed. And what’s going to make our customers very happy is that no heated filament means there are no parts to break inside the tube. In other words: we can make an x-ray tube that lasts for generations!
Why is APOLLO a breakthrough? The general idea behind the construction of an x-ray tube has not changed significantly in the last 100 years: an electron source is placed in an electric field that accelerates electrons towards a target (anode). If the electrons have enough energy, they will generate x-rays when they hit the target. Commercial x-ray tubes utilize a heated filament – which has a limited lifespan – as the electron source. This heated filament is not much different from the filament in the old light bulbs (remember them?). Refurbishing the filament in an x-ray tube is a very expensive process. Other than cost, other major limitations of the heated filament technology are the creation of pulsed x-rays or the changing of the focus of the electron beam. Both properties are highly desirable in a number of scientific and industrial applications.
APOLLO will change how x-ray tubes are made! For more information do not hesitate to contact us.
Cell phones – and now smartphones – have had an ubiquitous presence in our lives for decades now. In this post we take a look on several phones of the past decade, and how they look under the x-ray. We used a TruView Prime to take x-ray pictures of all these phones. Have fun down memory lane!
Nokia 1100a – November 2003
Kyocera ke433 – January 2004
LG a275 – June 2007
Blackberry Curve 8330 – September 2007
iPhone 3G – June 2008
Samsung SPH-M800 – June 2008
Nokia 6350-1B – October 2009
Motorola DROID X – June 2010
HTC PD53100 – January 2011
Motorola Droid Razr – November 2011
iPhone 5 – September 2012
Samsung Galaxy S5 – April 2014
When talking about x-ray inspection, we have noticed over the years that magnification and field of view (FOV) are characteristics not well understood. To set the record straight, in this post we will describe in detail what each one of these parameters mean. The following figure shows a simplified diagram of an x-ray tube. Note that the modern tubes used in our systems are far more complex, but this diagram is very useful to illustrate magnification and FOV. The x-ray tube is the device inside the x-ray source that generates the x-rays that are used to project an image onto the x-ray sensor. The electron beam generated by the cathode is rapidly accelerated against the anode. Upon colliding with the anode, a beam of x-rays is generated.
The random nature of the collision of the electron beam on the anode target creates an x-ray beam that is cone-shaped. As the x-ray beam moves farther from the anode target, the diameter of the beam increases proportionally. The angle of the x-ray cone beam, α, is determined by the angle of the anode target. The following figure shows the FOV at different distances from the source. This measurement is called source to object distance (SOD). It is important to note that the SOD is not measured from x-ray window to the object. Instead, the measurement starts from the target inside the tube to the object. X-ray source manufacturers give us that distance, so we can add it to the distance from the top of the source to the object.
What the previous image shows is that the diameter of the x-ray beam increases as it moves away from the source. For example, at 2” from the source, the diameter of the x-ray beam is 1.4”. To better illustrate this discussion, let us use the TruView Prime x-ray inspection system as an example. The minimum distance between the x-ray source and the x-ray camera in the TruView Prime is 6”. This measurement is called the SID – source to imager (x-ray camera) distance. The SID was designed to accommodate TruView Prime’s large 3”x4” high definition flat panel x-ray camera. That means that we would see vignetting of the image if we placed the camera closer to the source. The following image shows an example of vignette – an x-ray image when the camera is too close to the source. The dark corners in the image represent the regions where the x-ray beam is not shining.
Now that we have a better idea of how to calculate the FOV based on the distance to the x-ray source and the angle of the x-ray beam, the next step is to connect it with the concept of magnification. We will use the TruView Prime as an example again. In the TruView Prime, the camera, or x-ray sensor, can move up and down to change the distance between the camera and the sample, as seen in the following figure.
The magnification, M, of the system is given by:
In the example shown in the previous figure, the magnification of the system is 2:
That means that within the boundaries of the 3”x4” x-ray sensor in the TruView Prime, the sample image will be magnified by 2X. Thus a 100um2 feature in the sample will be projected in a 200um2 area of the x-ray sensor.
We hope this post was able to clarify some of the topics related to x-ray inspection. As usual, we’d love to hear your feedback!
The question of what’s better – a digital Flat Panel Detector (FPD) or an analog Image Intensifier (II) – is a good one and depends on the actual usage of the system. There are multiple factors to consider when designing an x-ray inspection system. Image Intensifiers are old school technology from the late 1950’s and were the standard (only option other than film) up until some where around 2003- 2004. The technology is a vacuum tube (electron multiplier) with input and output windows that are phosphor coated to convert photons/electrons into visible light.
This same technology is used in a smaller scale for night vision. The main advantage of this technology when used in an x-ray inspection system is the ability to image down to 5 or 10kV. There were other advantages to II based systems over FPD; one is the speed. Image Intensifier based systems operate or produce images at 30 FPS (frame per second) – this is considered real-time. Two is gain, 15000 to 36000 gain makes the Image Intensifiers very efficient at converting electron/photons to visible light at low x-ray or light levels. This is key if you are imaging paper or very light density samples but no so important for most Non Destructive Testing or SMT/PCB applications. Third is the easy ability to create magnification that is not pixel based, the magnification can be achieved in the Image Intensifier by reducing the input window size electronically. A four-inch input on a 2/4 Image Intensifier can be reduced to 2 inches and double the inherent magnification above and beyond the physical geometrical magnification. This technique also has disadvantages because as you reduce the input size you also reduce the Photon statistics resulting in a need to increase kV or mA to offset the loss of incoming photons / electrons / light.
Now for the down side of Image Intensifier, the vacuum tube is convex at the input window, there is always an inherent pin cushioning effect on the resulting image and makes measurements difficult without doing some type of correction algorithms. All output windows of Image Intensifier’s are somewhere around 25mm regardless of the input window size, the input can be electronically manipulated but the output remains the somewhere around the same 25mm. By using lenses and cameras that are focused on the output window we can transfer the image to a monitor or computer. Again this is an area that allows us to increase magnification by using a variable lens system ( 7X zoom is typical) or choosing a lens camera combination to maximize magnification. The problems arise from the mechanical camera lensing combinations, the coupling of the camera to the lens and the combination of the two to the output window results in light loss and degradation of the image.
In the old days we used CCD cameras that needed to be run through an A/D converter before the computer processing, today we would use a mega pixel digital camera and avoid the A/D conversion. The camera/lens portion of this set up is very susceptible to dust and vibration and can easily become unfocused and require frequent cleaning and or adjustment. Then we get to the analog portion of the Image Intensifier. No matter what mega digital camera and lens combination you attach to the Image Intensifier it is always going to be 256 levels of grayscale. In other words, you get 256 shades of gray. This was fine for old school visual inspection but is really under utilizing the computing power of the newest image analysis software packages. Then there is the size factor for the standard electronics inspection Image Intensifier, the weight is somewhere around 20 pounds and the physical size is around 18 inches in length depending on the camera combination, the use of the Image Intensifier will require a larger cabinet/x-ray system regardless of the sample size. Then there is the issue of moving the Image Intensifier on a stage, tilting the weight becomes much more difficult and also exposes the camera/lens combination to vibrations which lead to an out of focus condition and reduced resolution. Image Intensifiers (outside of the night vision ones) operate at 24000 volts DC, so there is a chance of the vibrations to contribute to the failure of the HV power supply that is physically attached in some cases to the Image Intensifier.
Flat Panel Detectors became commercially available somewhere around 2000-2001 when computing power became available and more affordable. This availability was also enabled by considerable improvements to the semiconductor fabrication techniques needed to build large tiles of sensors. FPD uses a couple of methods to convert the scintillating layer of visible light to electrical signals that are then converted to a image that can be displayed and analyzed with the latest software/computer advances. The two most prevalent technologies are photodiodes and CMOS. There are a couple other technologies available but they are very cost prohibitive when building general electronics inspection systems.
The advantages of FPD are the size of the physical package, the flat input window and the grayscale or spacial latitude (4096 minimum grayscale vs. 256). The abundance of grayscale has resulted in computer analysis software algorithms that can detect a single grayscale variance thereby producing test results that are impossible to achieve through visual analysis (the human eye can not really detect grayscale past 256 shades). Furthermore, the resultant flat image requires no corrections for accurate image analysis and measurement. The signals produced are also digital, so there is no loss of the signal A/D conversion or image degradation because of lensing or camera configurations.
Larger FPD’s can also be economically produced by connecting multiple photodiodes or CMOS panels together as opposed to large area detectors made from single sheets of amorphous silicon. There are no moving parts (focus – zoom – iris) on a FPD and the requirements to move (z-axis / tilt) are fairly simple as well as no dust or vibration concerns. FPD detectors had only two disadvantages or concerns when compared to Image Intensifiers. One is the speed; typically FPD’s will capture images at speeds of less than 30 FPS although the speeds are increasing as the cost for the increased speed is decreasing. Modern FPDs used in Creative Electron TruView X-Ray Inspection systems come standard with 30 FPS speeds. The second disadvantage is the FPD’s need for high flux or high photon statics. Typically a FPD will require a higher kV \ mA combination (wattage) to achieve a usable x-ray image vs. an image intensified system. However recent advances in FPD technology has greatly bridged this gap.
The original FPD’s were very expensive and painfully slow when compared to Image Intensifier/ camera systems but the trend has been that of larger FOV / Panel sizes running at faster speeds (30 FPS) while at the same time bring the costs in line with Image Intensified systems. The use of FPD’s is pretty much the standard in industrial cabinet x-ray systems today.
There were only a few reasons that an Image Intensifier based systems would excel over a FPD based system, that being a low density sample requiring very low penetration (paper) or speed/FPS and the speed issue is quickly becoming a non-issue. Please let us know what you think about this post by including your feedback in our comments area.
In this new series of posts in our blog, we will be tearing down different products that we have around the office. Please feel free to suggest what you’d like us to teardown in the comments section below. But unlike many of the teardown websites out there, our posts will focus on the x-ray inspection of the product. Instead of physically taking gadgets apart, we will take them apart using x-ray images. That will provide you with a unique insight on how these devices that we love and use everyday are built.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the first device in our series of teardowns. With over 11 million Galaxy S5 sold this past quarter, the Galaxy S5 quickly became a homerun for Samsung. Sales of S5 outpaced S4 sales by over 1 million devices in the fist month in the market. Just a bit larger than its predecessor, the Galaxy S5 stands at 5.59” tall, 2.85” wide, and 0.32” thick. The Galaxy S5 has a beautiful 5.1 inches super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen display that produces an amazing 1080×1920 pixel resolution. To run this beast, Samsung equipped the Galaxy S5 with a powerful Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801 and a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400. A 2,800mAh battery gives the Galaxy S5 up to 21 hours of talk time.
So let’s take a look what’s inside the Samsung Galaxy S5. We took all images in this report using a TruView Elite x-ray configured with a 90kV microfocus source and a 3″x4″ flat panel x-ray sensor. First, here’s a shot of the whole device.
*Keep in mind that the phone was turned on and no parts or animals were harmed during the shooting of this x-ray inspection.
There are several resources you can use to map the x-ray inspection image to the component inside the Samsung Galaxy S5. One of the good sites to consult is ifixit.com. Here’s what a few of the components we were able to find in the Galaxy S5.
The following few x-ray images show details of different regions of the Galaxy S5.
The first detail x-ray image shows the left top corner of the phone, where the antenna is placed. It is also clear to see the loudspeaker. The component in the corner is the Cypress CY8C20075-24LKXI, which is a CapSense capacitive touch-sensing controller.
The next detail x-ray image we took shows the top-right side of the phone, where the antenna, microphone, and battery are visible. Note we can see the layers of the 2,800mAh Lithium Ion battery.
The center of the phone hosts the main interface connector with the USB port. It is also in this location in the Galaxy S5 that the fingerprint scanner is located.
In the next couple of x-ray images we increased the magnification in our TruView Elite x-ray to capture some of the components in the Samsung Galaxy S5 in more detail.
Note the voiding in the ball grid array of the Qualcomm WCD9320 in the following x-ray image:
We hope you liked this x-ray tour inside the Samsung Galaxy S5. What would you like to see next? Let us know and we will make it happen!
Here are a few things to think about before you ask that question.
During my years in the x-ray world I have been asked that question thousands of times and I provide the industry standard answer of some number in microns or how many line pairs per mm. Both methods are totally valid and industry acceptable measurements of x-ray system resolution.
The problem I have always had with this answer is this, both are measurement results that are exacted under the most controlled circumstances imaginable. An individual that has an in-depth understanding of x-ray imaging techniques performs these measurements: penetration, power and magnification are optimized to perfection. This individual in most cases is also an expert on the imaging software suite in question. On top of that the gauges used for taking these measurements are made of very low-density materials and have their own inherent limitations, which limit the use of higher kV and mA settings.
The major reason both of these measurements are not the end all is both are dependent upon magnification, you will always see the “at maximum magnification” behind the Line Pair Per mm (lp/mm) and overall system measurement results. The reason for this is without the magnification it would be impossible to see the extremely small details of the test gauge on the system monitor.
The second reason these two measurements can be deceiving is power or really the lack of power needed to image these two extremely low-density gauges. X-ray tubes with small spot sizes perform best at low power, a 5 micron x-ray tube will provide the best images at 4 or five watts of total power, increase the total wattage to image denser samples and the iso watt control of the x-ray tube will open up the spot size to dissipate the heat on the anode as total power to the x-ray tube is increased. When the spot size is enlarged your resolution has just been decreased from that starting number of say 60 lp/mm to say 20 lp/mm.
If your typical sample has a density above the density of the lp/mm gauge or requires a larger field of view with magnification less than system maximum you can’t assume that you are going to get the maximum resolution results during daily use on your production floor.
I am sure you are getting the idea here … these numbers are not real world numbers and should only be used as a starting point.
So… you’re thinking “ how do I chose an x-ray vendor or x-ray system manufacturer if I don’t use the industry standard measurements as the deciding factor?
The answer is simple; send your typical samples to the x-ray system manufacturer to get a demo. By using your real life samples the x-ray system will be adjusted out of the maximum resolution range into a more realistic operating range for the power required and magnification to image your samples. By using your typical samples you will get to see what the true resolution of the x-ray system will be on your production floor, which is really the only number you care about anyway.
For more information please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d be happy to prepare a complete report with the x-ray inspection images of your samples.