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X-ray or No X-ray, What’s the True Cost?

When asked, “What’s an X-ray inspection system cost?” our instinct is to answer the question with a question.  “What’s the cost of not having X-ray?”  It’s not that we mean to be brash, and we certainly don’t want to be off-putting with a prospect, but the truth is that product failures are costly.  Implementing X-ray inspection into your manufacturing line is among the best defenses against allowing failed product from reaching consumers.  And yes, there is a cost to integrating such technology, but it is fair to weigh that against the reputational cost and potential liability of product failures.

X-ray system cost, like so many tools, varies widely.  The most economical systems are compact, manually operated, bench top machines.  These can be remarkably powerful for validating product in relatively low volume production environments, as well as terrific tools for R&D labs.  System costs start to increase as cabinet size expands, and X-ray source power (the ability of the X-ray to penetrate denser materials) increases, as well as detector size which influences how big an item you can inspect.  Take a standard cabinet and start to customize it, and the cost increases further, but so do capabilities.  X-ray systems can be outfitted with tailored material handling features such conveyors, cobots and robots.  Software can support automation and even artificial intelligence (AI) that in many cases can simultaneously reduce labor demands while eliminating human error associated with tedious manual inspection.  When it comes down to it, price isn’t really the object. Inspection and  quality assurance are the objective, and ultimately the cost of your X-ray inspection system is going to be a function of meeting that objective.

So, back to our second question, “What’s the cost of not having X-ray?”  We’d argue, based on experience, that there are few products that won’t benefit from X-ray inspection.  While substandard golf balls aren’t likely to do much more harm than a bruised ego, inspecting balls with advanced X-ray systems have helped top ball manufacturer ensure the highest consistency, avoid reputational damage, and justify premium prices for their products.  But for many products, like medical devices, the stakes are so much higher.  FDA recalls of medical devices result in billions of dollars in losses every year for device manufacturers, and many of these lead to costly lawsuits as well.  Of course, the greatest cost is born by patients and their families, as device failures often result in injuries and deaths. And this is where the math can get a bit tricky, the first two aren’t that tough to quantify, while the third, well, nobody wants to.

Regarding cost, X-ray inspection is about so much more than just avoiding product failures or recalls.  Advanced inspection can inform your manufacturing process, helping you identify issues before they become failures.  X-ray inspection can surprise you (can’t tell you how many time we’ve seen this), and provide insights that can influence your bottom line.  Automating inspection can reduce labor cost, and free talented operators to contribute to less mundane tasks.  Enhancing automation with AI, can support the absolute highest quality outcomes with unrivaled inspection speeds.

The cost of anything, including your X-ray system, isn’t just a function of it’s price tag.  Think about your operation.  How can it benefit from high resolution X-ray inspection?  Do your production volumes warrant automation?  Can AI help mitigate human error in your QA process?  Imagine the costs of a recall, on people, on your bottom line, and on your reputation.  Now, let’s talk about what an X-ray inspection system costs.

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