Three questions: What does an X-ray machine cost? What’s the cost of a failure in quality control? What’s the cost of not having an X-ray system? The answers to these questions, of course, vary depending on the product in question. And while the other two have bearing, we’ll focus on answering the first of these questions here.
It’s among the most common question we get: “what does an X-ray machine cost?”. It’s true that the honest answer to this question is “it depends.” And since we’re not trying to be coy, let’s take a look at why it depends, and the things it depends on. We’ll start with the primary drivers of cost, first and foremost, the system’s key components: X-ray tube, detector, cabinet, and software.
X-ray tubes vary in two key characteristics, resolution and power. For non-destructive testing, systems typically feature X-ray tubes with focal spot sizes from several millimeters to a few micrometers (or less for electronics). And, you guessed it, the smaller the focal spot, the higher the tube cost. The power of an X-ray tube, commonly in the range of 50kV to 450kV, is the other primary factor in determining its cost. Most simply, the more power the greater the system’s ability to penetrate the sample being inspected, and as power goes up, so too does cost. High power and small focal spot means lots of money.
In addition to the X-ray tube, another critical component in determining a system’s performance is its imaging detector. Like X-ray tubes, there are a wide variety, and their cost is primarily influenced by their sensitivity, pixel size and number of pixels. Different materials respond better or worse to X-ray photons, thus impacting their ability to convert a few (or many) X-rays to visible light. Smaller pixels help in resolving small features of your sample, and a big detector can fit more of your sample in the image.
We’re not done yet. Unless you are working with a portable system, all of the components must be housed in a shielded and safe cabinet. Radiation leakage is no joke, and safety is always job number one. Big samples need big cabinets since your sample needs to go inside the cabinet. Really big samples (airplane wings, for example) don’t need a cabinet, but that’s a topic for a future discussion.
How much an X-ray system costs is not simply a product of its components, but also of its functionality. Software with sophisticated analysis tools can increase both capabilities and cost. Manually operated systems, as you might imagine, are among the least expensive machines available. If inspection relies on an experienced operator in relatively low volume environment, a manual system might be just the ticket. But for high volume, production facilities demanding short cycle times, investing in an automated inspection system will likely pay dividends. When you consider the real cost of training and retaining experienced operators, autonomous inspection enabled by artificial intelligence may be the best choice for the most demanding applications. Autonomous is not the same as automated. In an autonomous X-ray machine, the system not only moves samples in and out the cabinet automatically, it also makes pass/fail decisions on its own.
So, if you are asking the question, “How much does an X-ray machine cost?”, we haven’t answered your question quite yet. But, we can get there if you can help us with a bit more detail. Here are some of the criteria we need to help answer your question:
– Sample size: the larger the sample, the larger the X-ray cabinet you’ll need.
– Sample density: denser samples need more power from the x-ray tube.
– Resolution: higher resolution allows you to resolve more details of your sample.
– Magnification: how small are the features you need imaged?
– Throughput: how many samples do you need inspected per day?
– Defect detection automation: do you need the X-ray machine to make pass/fail decisions? Or will an operator make these decisions?
Whether you are simply budgeting for an upcoming project, or have an urgent need for a solution, please contact us today. Armed with the above details, we will get you an answer to the question: “How much will my X-ray machine cost?”
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