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Industrial CT Enhancing Smart Manufacturing

Waygate Technologies (WT) traces its heritage in X-ray technology back to the times of Seifert whose name is still attached to some of their legacy products. Soon after Roentgen’s discovery of X-Rays in 1895, and imaged the bones in his wife’s hand – “I have seen my death” was her comment on the matter – Seifert launched his first X-ray machine, nearly at the same time as the American General Electric Company.

X-ray technology today has migrated from healthcare to manufacturing and specifically to non-destructive testing. More recently computed tomography has found an increasing role in non-destructive metrology, especially of hidden surfaces inside of complex objects. Merging 125 years of Seifert´s experience in radiography with the leading industrial computed tomography pioneer phoenix|x-ray the former GE Inspection Technologies business led the world and market in Industrial X-ray solutions for two decades. Relatively recently, GE Inspection Technologies was rebranded as Waygate Technologies, now a Baker Hughes business.

With industry going through transition with additive manufacturing, digitization and data integration all taking center stage Metrology News recently met-up with Nicola Jannis, Waygate Technologies CEO, to get his vision on how the role of Industrial Radiography and Computed Tomography will help shape the next industrial revolution.

Q: How do you see the role of Computer Tomography changing over the next 10 years?

I believe that Computed Tomography (CT) is actually on the brink of yet another breakthrough in terms of its usage in an industrial context: After roughly 30 years of industrial X-Ray we can expect a lot of innovations in the next decade. These will help companies to drive inspection speed, increase failure detectability and further automate workflows. We also already witness the increasing integration of artificial intelligence into products for example to take automated defect detection to the next level.

CT will become the tool of choice not just only in research and development but also in production where it will be fully integrated in manufacturing workflows by looping back inspection and measuring results into subsystems that continuously optimize processes and ultimately contribute to a zero-defect production.

We believe that data, will become more and more critical in determining the efficiency and efficacy of the entire inspection process – including but not just in CT.

Q: Additive Manufacturing is starting to challenge Subtractive Manufacturing. CT is the only ‘game in town’ for the measurement of critical AM parts. Do you envisage CT becoming more integral to the AM process?

Absolutely. We are very excited about the opportunities additive manufacturing means not only for us but for manufacturing in general. AM is allowing part complexity and geometries like we have never seen before. These quite often highly integrated parts require inspections which conventional methods like CMM, optics or others cannot capture any more.

There are various quality related issues which play an important role in AM and which can be evaluated with CT, such as powder quality analysis, trapped powder inspection or the identification of porosity, inclusions and voids just to name a few. Our research has found out that feedback from CT can improve design cycle time by a factor of 4 and optimize build quality with 35% less porosity.

So yes, I think that CT is already an integral part of the AM process and I am confident that it will be so even more in the future.

Q: GE is uniquely placed with AM technologies from GE Additive and CT technologies from Waygate Technologies. How do you see this synergy being leveraged in future products and in the market?

We see a lot of potential for CT systems being used in the Additive Manufacturing environment in general. Here, Waygate Technologies works with all additive machine and SW OEMs. This also includes sister companies within our Baker Hughes mother corporation. So regardless of which partner we are working with, we always try to advance Additive Manufacturing along the lines of process stability, automation, closed SW loops and standalone Automated Defect Recognition (ADR).

Furthermore, we have developed and recently announced a unique tool with the Phoenix Power|scan HE high energy CT system, the best game in town to scan even the thickest AM parts or to inspect most complex AM parts 3-4x faster than before.

We also have a cloud platform InspectionWorks that enables the storage and analysis of CT (and other inspection) data. InspectionWorks also enables customers to share data with their entire ecosystem of product/assets – so an AM part built by GE Additive could have its manufacturing data stored on InspectionWorks and then inspected by Waygate Technologies, and the data seamlessly transmitted to the end customer, say an engine manufacturer. This, provider & modality agnostic data solution will drive a new paradigm in CT inspection and set the stage for an ‘Inspection and NDT 4.0 era’.

Waygate Technologies InspectionWorks Cloud Platform

Q: You have mentioned Automated Defect Recognition (ADR). How do you rate the importance of this tool?

From our perspective this tool is key for further productivity gains in our customer base. ADR allows for cycle time reduction and higher failure detection accuracy eliminating the human factor. Our self-learning ADR platform allows for fast adaption of new failure modes and we are working on making it even faster.

ADR is aided by a further suite of data analytics tools which will allow the user to operate the CT even more effective and productive – ultimately saving cost. Furthermore, these tools enable an increase in uptime and less maintenance. All these factors drive the increased adoption of CT in ever more industries and application cases.

The InspectionWorks ecosystem from Waygate Technologies also enables the creation, adaption and delivery of new and improved ADR solutions by leveraging data and enabling the tuning of algorithms to become more efficient as more data is available.

Q: Computed Tomography are deemed expensive when compared to the traditional CMM. Do you see the price point changing to make CT machines more affordable for smaller manufacturers?

First of all, let me say that CT and CMM are not made for the same customer and application base. If you can do the same job better with a CMM, you will always do it with a CMM.

However, CT with integrated metrology replaces a standalone CMM and provides more value and insights for the customer. We expect that as the adoption of the technology proceeds, regulators will ask for the combined measurements and CT data simply because this solution provides extra safety and less interface mistakes than individual measurements.

In combination with automation, integration and software solutions we talked about, CT will be more affordable but also the tool of choice even for smaller manufacturers.

Q: We have seen hybrid CT machines emerge whereby a secondary measuring structure is integrated within the CT enclosure to carry tactile and optical sensors enabling a full analysis of part geometry to be performed. Do you see value in this emerging solution?

We see a value in the further integration, automation and software analytics of CT data in combination with metrology. Technically a lot is possible, but we think that solutions such as those you mentioned will always be isolated solutions. What the market in general demands are faster, more reliable and value adding machines – and this is what we are focussing upon.

As in other industries the easy and effective combination of specialized modules is always more effective than two integrated systems. Each customer has different needs and is looking for a tool kit designed to do a specialized job rather than a multitool. Think of your leatherman multitool: Its great in nature and for camping but in your garage you rather have the real and specialized tools for the more complicated and critical jobs, haven’t you?

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