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The role of industrial computed tomography in manufacturing

Measurement News from Q-Tech

Industrial computed tomography (iCT) is revolutionizing the industry. This advanced technology allows us to look inside objects without physically dismantling or damaging them. Due to its properties, it is also used in medicine as well as industry. It allows detailed testing and analysis of various materials and components.

What advantages does this technology offer and how is it used in practice? Industrial computed tomography is an imaging technique that creates three-dimensional images of the internal structure of an object. It is used in a variety of industries ranging from automotive to aerospace. Industrial computed tomography therefore allows precise measurements of a component.

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What is industrial computed tomography?

Industrial computed tomography (CT) is one of the non-destructive testing methods used in measurement technology, which is used in industry and the technical sector to check and analyze various components and materials. It works by generating and processing X-rays that penetrate an object.

Using this method, CT can provide a detailed 3D image of the internal structure of an object. This allows an in-depth examination from the inside without physically destroying or opening the object.

The resulting images of the component are high-resolution. This allows the inspector to identify defects, faults or other characteristics.

Industrial computed tomography is widely used in numerous industries. These include, for example, the automotive and aerospace industries. In these sectors, it plays a crucial role in quality assurance, product development and research.

What is industrial computed tomography used for?

Industrial computed tomography (iCT) is used in a wide range of areas and offers considerable advantages in quality control and product development.

A key area for the use of iCT is the manufacturing industry. Here, this technology enables accurate inspection of components to ensure that they meet technical requirements. iCT is often used to identify defects and irregularities within certain materials and to check the dimensional accuracy of components.

These include, for example:

  • Morphological properties of components
  • Pores and blowholes in castings
  • Fiber characteristics of plastic components
  • Wall thickness determination through target/actual comparisons

In addition, iCT is used in product development to optimize design and manufacturing processes. By visualizing the internal structure of an object, engineers can gain a better understanding of the component's behaviour under different conditions.

Finally, iCT is also used in archaeology, where it is used to analyze valuable artefacts and fossils without physically damaging the valuable find.

Industrial computed tomography offers a number of advantages that make it an important tool in various industries and research fields. Some key benefits are listed below:

  • Non-destructive testing: iCT makes it possible to examine the internal structures and features of objects without damaging or dismantling them. This is particularly valuable when testing expensive or unique components and in archaeology, where artifacts must be preserved.

  • Precise and detailed visualizations: iCT delivers high-resolution images that provide detailed information about the internal structure of an object. This enables precise analysis and evaluation of materials and components.

  • Time and cost savings: Compared to traditional inspection methods, iCT can often be faster and more cost-effective as it requires less manual labor while providing more comprehensive information.

  • Quality control and defect detection: The ability to detect defects and irregularities that would not be visible to the naked eye or by other inspection methods makes iCT an important tool in quality control.

  • Optimization of design and manufacturing processes: By providing detailed insights into the behavior of materials and objects under different conditions, iCT can help improve design and manufacturing processes.

Disadvantages of industrial computed tomography

Although industrial computed tomography offers numerous advantages, there are also some challenges and limitations that should be considered:

  • High costs: The purchase and maintenance of iCT devices can be expensive, especially for high-resolution systems. Costs can also increase if special training is required for employees to operate the devices.

  • Time-intensive: While iCT can save time in certain applications, the scanning process for complex or large objects is time-consuming. Data processing and analysis can take a considerable amount of time because the object has to be scanned from all sides.

  • Material limitations: Although iCT can scan a wide range of materials, there are limitations. For example, very dense materials, such as certain metals, can be difficult to scan and provide less detailed results. In this case, the X-ray intensity must be increased in order to penetrate the material. In many cases, more exposure time is then required, which in turn extends the measurement times.

  • Complexity of data interpretation: The data generated by iCT can be extremely complex and often requires specialized knowledge for correct interpretation and analysis. This requires well-trained measurement specialists who know how to classify the data correctly in terms of its relevance in order to draw correct conclusions about the technical function of the respective component.

Applications of industrial computed tomography

Industrial computed tomography (iCT) has found revolutionary applications in a number of industries. Thanks to its ability to visualize the inside of objects in a non-invasive way, it provides an in-depth insight into the structure and quality of components and materials.

From product design and quality assurance to failure analysis and materials research - iCT has the potential to make processes more efficient and accurate. In the following sections, we will look at some specific areas of application where iCT comes into its own.

Additive manufacturing

iCT is often used in additive manufacturing for quality control and process optimization. It can create a complete 3D image of the printed part and check it for irregularities or defects. This is particularly important in industries where high precision is of the utmost importance, such as aerospace, automotive and medical technology.

The iCT also delivers good results when checking the powder bed in the 3D printer. This information can be used to optimize the printing process and thus improve the quality of the end product. Finally, iCT can also be used to perform post-production analyses in order to understand and optimize the behaviour of the material during the printing process.

Soft materials

iCT is also an important part of the examination of soft materials. Such materials can be biological tissue, textiles or plastics, for example. Their structure is often complex and fine. Conventional methods can easily damage or alter them. Therefore, iCT offers an invaluable advantage here, as it enables non-destructive examination.

Soft materials can be analyzed in detail with iCT by visualizing their inner structure. This allows researchers to determine parameters such as size, shape or distribution, which is crucial for understanding material properties. In the textile industry, the structure of fibers can be examined in order to assess their quality.

Tactile measurement

Tactile metrology is a traditional method for quality control and inspection of components and often competes with industrial computed tomography (iCT). Although tactile metrology continues to play an essential role in many industries, iCT offers several key advantages.

Initially, tactile measurement technology only enables point measurements on the surface of a component. In contrast, iCT provides a complete 3D model of the object, which shows both the internal structure and the external geometry. This allows for a more detailed and precise examination of the component.

Moreover, tactile measurement technology is time-consuming and can potentially damage or alter the component. iCT, on the other hand, is a non-destructive method that can also be carried out more quickly. This is particularly invaluable for complex or sensitive components, such as those frequently found in aerospace or medical technology.

However, there are also areas in which tactile measurement technology is still superior. For example, it can provide more accurate measurements in certain situations and is often cheaper to purchase and maintain.

Internal structures of electronic and larger components

Industrial computed tomography (iCT) plays an important role in the inspection and testing of both electronic components and larger materials by providing a detailed representation of their internal structures.

Electronic components are often small and complex, which can make their inspection a challenge. With iCT, the finest details within these components can be visualized and analyzed without physically damaging or disassembling them. This makes iCT particularly effective in industries such as electronics manufacturing, where it contributes to quality control, defect detection and the improvement of production processes.

Larger components, such as those found in the automotive or aerospace industries, also benefit from iCT. Despite their size, these components require high accuracy and precision, especially when inspecting internal structures or hidden areas that are difficult to access with conventional inspection methods. The iCT allows these components to be visualized in 3D, providing a detailed insight into their internal geometry and possible defects.

Although iCT can be used to inspect internal structures in components of all sizes, it is important to select the right resolution and settings to achieve optimal results. In this way, reliable and valuable data can be obtained to improve product quality and production processes.

Complex components and dimensional metrology

Dimensional metrology and the inspection of complex components benefit considerably from industrial computed tomography (iCT). iCT offers a method for the precise, non-destructive and complete capture of the shape and dimensions of components that are difficult to capture using conventional measurement methods due to their complexity.

In the manufacturing industry, iCT is used to determine the exact dimensions of components and to check compliance with tolerances. It enables complex components, such as injection-molded parts or 3D-printed components, to be fully measured and checked for any deviations. Compared to tactile measuring methods, iCT allows complete 3D measurement of components, including internal structures.

The iCT is also a valuable tool for checking compliance with specifications and for quality control. With its help, the inspector can quickly and efficiently check components for dimensional accuracy and quality. This minimizes production errors and improves product quality.

Scanned object and examined object

The scanned object plays an essential role in industrial computed tomography. Its properties and characteristics influence both the scanning process and the interpretation of the generated images.

Depending on the material composition and density of the object, the CT scan can provide different depth information. It is therefore important to adjust the parameters in the measurement process depending on the workpiece. 

The physical dimensions and properties of the object can also influence the scanning process: 

For a CT scan, the workpiece must be radiolucent from all sides. 

If this is not the case, there will be problems when creating the 3D image. 

Thanks to the flexibility of the iCT, however, the scan parameters can be changed at any time. As already mentioned, the inspector can adjust the intensity of the X-rays to the density of the material. 

After the scanning process, the scanned 3D image can be digitally exported and loaded into a CAD program, for example, so that the design department can make any necessary changes. This process is known as reverse engineering

Internal structures with a high number of complex internal geometries

Industrial computed tomography (iCT) has proven to be a unique tool for the investigation of structures with high complexity and a large number of internal geometries. Such structures are often found in areas such as the automotive industry, aerospace or medical technology, where complex components such as engines, turbines, gears or implants are manufactured.

In contrast to conventional inspection methods, iCT is able to perform a non-destructive inspection of the internal structures of these components. It provides detailed 3D images of the internal geometries, which can then be analyzed to evaluate aspects such as the shape, size, arrangement and alignment of the internal structures.

The iCT's ability to visualize internal structures in high resolution makes it a great tool for quality assurance and failure analysis. It enables engineers to detect and correct any defects or irregularities inside components before they lead to major problems.

In addition, the iCT can also be used to optimize the manufacturing process of components with complex internal structures. By analyzing the data provided by the iCT, engineers can improve the manufacturing processes and thus increase the quality and performance of the components produced.

However, it should be noted that despite its many benefits, iCT is a complex technology that requires careful handling and calibration to deliver accurate and reliable results. However, when used properly, it is an excellent tool for improving quality and efficiency in numerous industries.

Measurement of control geometry & optical systems

Industrial computed tomography (iCT) has also found its applications in the analysis of control geometries and optical systems.

Standard geometries are simplified shapes that are often used in technical drawings to represent complex geometries. They include basic shapes such as cylinders, cones, spheres and squares. With iCT, these control geometries can be precisely measured and analyzed, allowing potential deviations and errors to be detected and rectified at an early stage. This is of crucial importance in industries where the accuracy of the geometries is directly related to the technical functionality of the component.

Optical systems, such as lenses and prisms, also benefit from iCT. These systems require extremely high precision during production, as the smallest irregularities can lead to significant performance losses. The iCT also allows detailed and non-destructive inspection of these components. It can be used to check aspects such as the thickness of the lenses, the alignment of the optical axes and the presence of internal defects.

Another useful application of iCT in optics is the analysis and improvement of lighting systems. With the help of iCT, light paths can be analyzed and optimized, leading to improved efficiency and performance of the lighting system.

However, it is important to understand that the application of iCT to control geometries and optical systems places special demands on system calibration. For this reason, it should only be carried out by professionals with the appropriate training and experience to ensure accurate and reliable results.


Industrial computed tomography has established itself as a revolutionary technology in many industrial sectors. It offers unique advantages in the inspection and analysis of various materials and components. Additive manufacturing, soft materials, electronic components and complex workpieces are just some of the areas where iCT shines. Despite some disadvantages, such as the high costs and the need for specialized expertise, the advantages of this technology clearly outweigh the disadvantages.

In the future, we will see how industrial computed tomography will continue to develop and move into new areas. With further advances in technology and the potential for falling costs, iCT could play an even more important role in industrial inspection and quality assurance. It has the potential to revolutionize the way we manufacture and test products and offers exciting possibilities for further measurement processes and techniques.