X-ray overview

A form of electromagnetic radiation is referred to as X-radiation (X-ray). X-ray is known to be introduced by Wilhelm Rontgen, who named it X-radiation signifying the “unknown” or “unfamiliar” type of radiation. Very soon after the discovery, X-rays were being utilized for medical purposes. With today’s technological advancements, x-ray technology has many different uses ranging from diagnosing diseases to industrial part inspections.

What is X-ray?

X-ray is a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths shorter that UV rays, although longer than gamma rays. Electromagnetic radiation is radiant energy which is released, transmitted in waves or particles at altering frequencies and wavelengths.  Since X-rays carry high levels of energy, it is classified as ionizing radiation, which can be harmful if high radiation dose is exposed to the human body. X-rays are classified in two different ways:

Soft X-rays: Relatively lower energy x-rays; anything below 5 KeV would be considered a soft x-ray. Soft x-rays can be absorbed in the air.

Hard X-rays: Relatively higher energy; anything above 5 keV would be considered a hard x-ray. Hard x-rays have the ability and energy to penetrate through different types of materials, hence, they are commonly used for industrial purposes to find internal defects in objects or parts.

How X-rays work

There are many different types of X-ray methods for medical and industrial use including radiographs, computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy and real time x-ray. Each method has slight differences, although some factors are common: There is a detector to capture the x-ray images as well as an x-ray source with energy range depending on the purpose of the x-ray. To develop an x-ray, an x-ray source produces a beam of high energy electrons onto a metal film. The beam travels through space until it reaches the subject being x-rayed. The resulting X-ray image will be able to show internal aspects of the subject.

For example – in regards to Computed Tomography (CT) for industrial uses, there is a detector panel, x-ray source and a rotary table. To capture X-rays, the x-ray source shoots through the part and the detector panel captures the X-rays, which are reconstructed into a 3D model.

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Uses of X-rays

With the development of X-ray technology over the years, the use of x-rays have become extremely diverse. From merely medical use, x-ray technology has been able to provide additional value for industrial purposes as well. The following briefly describes the use of X-rays for medical and use of x-ray for industrial aspects, with more emphasis on industry perspective.

  • Industrial Uses:
    • Industrial Computed Tomography
    • Failure investigation – internal cracks/defect
    • Comparison analysis for consistency
    • Airport inspection/border control for truck inspection
    • Industrial Radiography
    • Approve/reject production parts
  • Medical Uses:
    • Patient diagnosis
    • Cancer treatment
    • Detect disease

Applications of X-ray

X-ray technology has two primary application:Medical applications and Industrial applications. For the purpose of this document, focus will be on Industrial X-ray applications. For industry perspective, X-rays are an invaluable source for nondestructive testing applications. X-rays fall under the category of Radiographic Testing (RT) as mentioned by American Society of Nondestructive Testing (ASNT). This non-destructive testing method provides an outlet for internal part analysis in 2D or 3D by utilizing x-ray technology. X-rays are a very common application of RT for accessing internal part analysis in 2D, for identifying failures or foreign material within a part.

Benefits of X-rays

X-ray technology is a non-contact, non-intrusive and non-destructive technology, whether being applied for the medical industry or for industrial use. Although x-ray exposure can be harmful, the benefits of X-ray outweigh the risks if safety procedures are implemented properly. For industrial use, x-ray can be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Non-destructive
  • Internal part analysis
  • Quick and feasible
  • Ability to inspect part of various sizes and materials
  • Allows users to detect failures pre-production
  • Allows users to confirm part credibility and authenticity


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