African Fusion

Marco Gonzalez of GammaTec NDT Supplies in Vereeniging summarises the trends being witnessed in the industrial digital X-ray inspection systems market and highlights growth opportunities. 

Gammatec Carestream portable HPX Pro African FusionWhen digital radiography was first introduced for non-destructive testing (NDT) in industrial applications, it was considered to be an ideal alternative to film-based radiography. However, even the staunchest enthusiasts of digital radiography knew that acceptance in such conservative industries such as aerospace, oil and gas, and power generation would be challenging. Now, with the constantly evolving industrial digital radiography market at the cusp of realizing its true potential, it is ironic that aerospace, oil and gas, and the power generation industries are providing the strongest growth opportunities.

The advantages of digital radiography over film-based radiography are well documented and apparent. In summary, these include:

  • Lower dosages are needed with smaller safety zones.
  • Immediate observation of radiographic images.
  • Ability to manipulate, enhance and annotate images.
  • Obviates the need for darkrooms and chemical development.
  • Efficient data storage.
  • Easy to communication electronically.
    • Ease of use.

Portability is the key to success”

With the incremental film-to-digital transition in NDT applications, a trend that is driving and accelerating the adoption of digital radiography is portability. Especially for field applications, portability has provided a different dimension to digital radiography.

As digital flat panel detectors are not flexible and robust enough, they do not lend themselves to applications such as pipeline weld inspection, where computed radiography (CR) is the preferred digital radiography technology. With Carestream NDT's latest product introduction, the HPX-PRO CR system, portability for field applications has taken on a new meaning. As the first step in the transition from film to digital radiography, this portable solution that targets narrow-width applications is expected to be a game changer.

What does the industry need?

For industry, digital radiography needs to retain the fundamentals of radiographic techniques, but it also needs to enable satisfactory and repeatable results to be obtained economically. What this means is that users of the technology need clear, unambiguous guidelines of what and how to measure and monitor basic image quality parameters during technique development and for subsequent production images.

The various ISO 19232-5 and ASTM standards meet this need by providing objective measures and guidance relative to some key image quality considerations. First is basic spatial resolution (SRb) of a digital image, which is a measure of effective pixel size and an indicator of the capability of an imaging system to resolve detail in an object under examination. 

Second, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) can be measured in a given region of interest in a digital image to represent how well a system is able to display or discern object features against random background noise. And finally, clear guidance is given on when and what image quality indicators (IQIs) are to be used to verify the quality and acceptability of an image.

These image quality measures and well-defined procedures make digital radiography a standardised methodology – and move it beyond the ‘art’ and guesswork it once was.

Market overview

Frost & Sullivan research finds that the global industrial digital X-ray inspection systems market generated between US$350-million and $400-million in 2014. Within this, the computed tomography (CT) segment accounted for the maximum revenue, followed by DR and then CR. All these three market segments are experiencing incremental change in product development and end-user adoption.

An increase in end-user productivity is the key driver across all product segments in the industrial digital radiography market. With operational costs increasing and a lack of qualified NDT technicians, especially in digital radiography, products able to simplify the workflow and offer easy-to-use instruments without compromising the quality of inspection will experience the greatest success.

Conclusion

Over the past five years, the industrial digital radiography market has experienced significant development and change, which is driving greater adoption of this technology over film-based radiography. While the advantages are apparent, the evolution of standards, training, and products has taken longer than expected, inhibiting its adoption.

Now, the technology has matured, with products being competitively priced and offering productivity gains. In addition, the process is a greener alternative to film-based radiography. Conservative industries such as aerospace, oil and gas, and power generation, which initially resisted the transition from film to digital radiography, are now more accommodating and are, in fact, driving the adoption of this technology.

Although, film radiography continues to be the preferred choice in emerging economies where the operational costs are lower than in developed economies, it is expected that, over the next three to five years, the evolution of digital technology will render film-based radiography unattractive.

Mega trends, such as Industrial Internet of Things, Big Data, and Industry 4.0, demand the adoption of smart digital solutions that will progressively phase out radiography on film.

Growth opportunities in the industrial digital radiography market are now available to South Africa’s NDT service providers. Carestream, together with GammaTec NDT Supplies, are fully committed and prepared to assist in training the industry in this technique in order to make the transition from conventional films to digital radiography easier.

Reference

1       Nikhil Jain , Frost And Sullivan report.

2       BS EN ISO 17636-2:2013, Non-destructive testing of welds — Radiographic testing.

3       Steven A. Mango , Qualification of a Computed Radiography System’s Exposure Range for Optimum Image Quality.

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