NTS News Center

Latest News in Testing, Inspection and Certification

NTS News Center - Latest News in Testing, Inspection and Certification

Non-Destructive Evaluations

Non-destructive evaluations (NDEs) are a critical first step in the failure analysis of a product or component. NDE testing looks closely at a device under test without altering it in any permanent way. This is the fastest and most economical way of collecting data that can be used to pinpoint the root cause of a failure or make other improvements that will enhance quality control or performance.

NTS offers a range of non-destructive inspection services from our Chesapeake laboratory. Leveraging sophisticated equipment and the expertise of our engineers, we can design testing programs that provide actionable information and accurate results for a range of products.

NDE Testing Services

Different products with different issues demand different testing programs. Non-destructive failure testing at NTS may involve any of the following:

  • Visual inspections: A thorough visual inspection is the most basic form of NDE testing. We can inspect a nonfunctioning component to confirm the product meets original specs, and to determine when and how any physical damage occurred.
  • Optical microscopy: Optical microscopy gives our engineers a closer look at a device under test. It is often required to understand how a material has degraded or identify how a component has become contaminated or corroded.
  • CT scanning: X-ray CT scanning provides high-resolution 3D images of the internal components of your product, letting our team pinpoint failure modes without altering the device under test. Our Chesapeake facility features a 450kV microfocus system that can scan objects up to 37” in diameter, creating a sophisticated data set that includes information from internal features and surfaces that would be otherwise hidden.
  • 3D metrology: Our 3D metrology services provide fast, accurate internal surface dimension measurements with a resolution of 0.001” or better. Results are fully traceable and testing takes just minutes. 3D metrology NDE testing is useful for geometric inspections and reverse-engineering.
  • Laser mapping: Our nondestructive testing facilities include a BEMIS-SC™ laser mapper — a sophisticated tool specifically for measuring gun bores ranging from .22 to .50-cal. As a result, we are able to provide certification, recertification and other commercial gun barrel inspection services.

Using the above technologies and other powerful tools, we can perform qualitative and quantitative nondestructive testing for clients ranging from defense and aerospace contractors to commercial electronics manufacturers. Our labs are ISO 17025- and A2LA-accredited to perform root failure analyses for highly-complex components and products.

Benefits of NDE Testing

Non-destructive inspections have multiple benefits for manufacturers. Powerful imaging equipment allows for accurate, in-depth analyses of failed components. Testing early in the manufacturing cycle can reduce the risk of liability issues down the line, saving you money without having to sacrifice an expensive prototype. This, in turn, leads to a higher-quality product at a lower cost.

NTS engineers will work closely with you to identify your testing needs and put together a non-destructive testing program that provides you with useful, usable information. With these results, we can recommend improvements that will reduce the risk of future failure.

For more information, use our online form to request a quote.

Micro CT Scanning

Micro CT scanning — alternately known as micro-focus and nanosat imaging — is a form of non-destructive testing used to create a high-resolution 3D map of an object. The technology is similar to CAT scanning used in medical imaging, though on a smaller scale which produces more detailed results.

NTS provides micro CT scanning from our Chesapeake laboratory. We offer this service to clients in a variety of industries and sectors, ranging from electronics manufacturing to defense and aerospace. Combined with other imaging and processing tools, micro CT scanning plays a major role in failure analysis and other problem-solving investigations.

Our Capabilities

NTS’ Chesapeake lab features a walk-in 450kV microfocus CT system — one of the most advanced available today. With it, we can scan objects up to 37” in diameter, obtaining detailed 3D images of their internal surfaces and components. These images contain information not only about the object’s dimensional characteristics but also about the density and void content of its materials. As a result, CT scanning is highly useful for performing materials testing of metal or plastic components.

Micro-focus X-ray scanning is a cost- and time-effective alternative to destructive testing. It allows our engineers to visually and analytically evaluate all aspects of the device under test, including areas that would be otherwise inaccessible. Micro CT scanning can be used to pinpoint the cause of a device failure or perform other testing necessary for quality control or certification.

How It Works

Micro CT scanning involves collecting a series of projection images using an X-ray camera that rotates either fully or partially around the object under test. Then, these images are reconstructed as a volumetric set, producing a 3D image of exceptional clarity that contains data from all areas of the object.

The main difference between micro CT imaging and conventional CAT scanning is that, because the item under test is not alive, it is possible to use higher doses of radiation. In doing do, micro CT scanning tools are able to penetrate deeper below the object’s surface and obtain higher-quality images.

Benefits of Micro CT Imaging

Micro CT imaging produces results that are up to 100 times more detailed than conventional medical imaging. Aside from superior results, however, the process has several additional benefits.

Preparing samples is easy — there’s no need for staining or preparation — and the scanning itself produces no destructive effects. This allows for further testing and analyses as necessary and eliminates the need to have multiple samples available for testing.

Working With NTS

We are continually expanding our imaging capabilities to provide better service and better results for our clients. Our micro CT imaging capabilities are complemented by additional tools for performing fiber orientation characterization, FEA mesh integration and other computational material analyses. Our Chesapeake micro-focus testing lab is certified to ISO 17025 and A2LA standards for root failure testing, among other services.

To learn more about our micro and nano X-ray imaging capabilities, submit a quote request online. One of our engineers will be happy to go over your requirements and suggest a customized testing program.

Failure Analysis with X-Ray CT Scanning

Failure Analysis Laboratory

Failure analysis is a critical step in addressing a reliability or performance issue with one of your products. Sophisticated tools help you get to the root of the problem quickly and determine how to correct the underlying issue. As part of our commitment to bringing innovative testing solutions to demanding clients, NTS offers x-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning and other services through our Chesapeake failure analysis laboratory.

Our acquisition of Maryland’s Chesapeake Testing has expanded our ability to deliver fast and accurate scanning services that go beyond visible or mechanical inspections to identify why and how a product has failed.

Non-Destructive vs. Destructive Testing

Non-destructive failure analysis testing can range from visual inspections to CT scanning, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and other methods. Non-destructive testing methods are typically employed first, as they don’t permanently alter the device being tested. Destructive testing, such as thermal and cross-section analyses, provide information non-destructive testing can’t, but render the device unusable and, in many cases, unsuitable for further testing.

Both non-destructive and destructive testing methods may be required to get to the root cause of a product failure. One of the benefits of working with an expert team like NTS is that we tailor our investigations to deliver the best results for the situation.

Markets Served

NTS’ expanded testing capabilities allow our team to provide a range of failure analysis services. We can perform testing on:

  • Printed circuit boards: Depending on the specifics of the issue, we use a combination of X-ray scanning, contamination testing and solderability testing to determine why a printed circuit board is falling out or failing in other ways.
  • Batteries: NTS provides CT scanning of failed battery components in our Chesapeake facility. Prior to being absorbed into NTS, Chesapeake Testing was routinely called on by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to aid in investigations and provide non-destructive failure analyses of lithium-ion-type battery cells.
  • Plastic components: Plastics and composites may fail due to stress, bending, extreme heat and other conditions. Plastic failure analysis requires the use of sophisticated tools such as microscopic and spectroscopic analyzers to look at the product at a molecular level.
  • Metal components: Metal and other material failure analyses demand a customized approach. An appropriate testing program may involve impact and fatigue testing, corrosion studies and more.

These are just a few of the many applications and testing services we offer in our Chesapeake laboratory. The facility, located conveniently outside of Washington, DC, is an ISO/IEC 17025:2005-accredited lab that is fully certified to perform demanding work for government clients such as the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Army and U.S. Department of State.

Contact NTS to Get Started Today

Our Chesapeake, MD lab is fully equipped to test devices of any size or configuration. We can help you quickly and accurately diagnose an issue and suggest corrective action that will limit your liability and improve the performance of your product.

To learn more about the failure testing capabilities at our Chesapeake facility or for more information about failure analysis in general, please submit an RFQ using our online form.

Do you have questions about our capabilities? Fill out the form below to ask our experts.

Seeing Beyond Boundaries: Industrial CT Scanning

Have you see the NTS sponsored white paper “The Basics, Common Applications, and 4 Tips to Maximize Results from Industrial CT Scanning Inspection” on the InCompliance EERC Resources page? Check it out today to learn about the history of CT scanning, X-ray and CT scanning imaging process, the difference between medical and industrial scanning, common applications and industry examples. Most importantly, learn how to maximize results with industrial CT scanning inspection! Click here to download the white paper. Click here to learn more about NTS non-destructive and CT Scanning services!

Advanced Testing Technology Meets Art Conservation: NTS lab assists in the digital exploration of medieval boxwood sculptures.

Thanks to the help and participation of our NTS Chesapeake Non-destructive Imaging Laboratory (formerly Chesapeake Testing), researchers have made advances in the study of medieval boxwood sculptures. The pieces are currently being featured in the exhibition Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures at the Met Cloisters, the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to medieval art and architecture.

These intricately carved objects, some over 500 years old, are simply miraculous in the level of detail created in such small objects. The 3D digital data captured via micro CT scanning helped researchers shed light on the techniques and craftsmanship required to construct these pieces of art with such fine detail.

Micro CT scanning, much like medical CAT scan imaging, uses the material penetrating properties of x-rays to provide information from within an object, whiteout any destructive effects. Unlike medical CAT scanning, micro CT has the ability to obtain extremely high resolution images, thanks to the use of highly focused x-ray sources and higher resolution imaging panels.

This data gives historians and researchers a unique ability to virtually cross section the artifacts, without any risk of damage. In addition to being able to analyze the internal structure, the scanning process also captures full 3D surface information which can be used later on to 3D print replicas and allow for enriched public interaction with these delicate pieces of medieval history.

To learn more about these fantastic carvings, visit The Met website here: http://www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2016/small-wonders. The exhibition runs from February 22 through May 21, 2017.



X-Ray Computed Tomography Scanning & Composite Materials

X-ray inspection technology has come a long way over the past several decades. Since its inception in the 1970s, x-ray computed tomography, or CT scanning, has completely revolutionized medical diagnostic practices. In the 1980s, we saw the introduction of micro-focus x-ray technology, which had large implications for non-destructive testing in the industrial and scientific communities. It wasn’t however, until the new millennium that improvements in x-ray detection technology and computing power enabled commercially-viable micro-focus x-ray CT scanning.

With micro-focus CT scanning, data can be captured at incredibly high resolution, sometimes even at the sub-micron level. This makes CT scanning an extremely valuable tool in materials research, especially when analyzing composite materials and their internal structures. The raw scan data, which is usually several gigabytes (20 GB+), can be rendered in 3D and even numerically analyzed. The image below shows a 3D rendering of a small section of a carbon-epoxy structure captured at approximately a 4 micron resolution.

In this particular sample, a small composite block, the x-ray and imaging settings were optimized to enhance the contrast between the carbon fibers and epoxy resin. This enabled us to virtually segment and remove the resin material in order to expose the fiber structure. This data can be extremely valuable in evaluating structural properties of materials and different manufacturing processes. There are even software tools commercially available today that can numerically evaluate fiber consistency and orientation over an entire structure.

X-ray CT scanning is a very versatile process that can be performed on many different materials and even at different stages of a manufacturing process. The images above, show a high-resolution CT scan of a prepreg composite that has not yet been fully cured. In the image on the left (a single cross section), the brighter areas are the uncured resin material, and small openings and voids can be seen inside. These can also be numerically analyzed to provide far more data, including fiber volume fraction, both locally, and over a larger area.

Even on the more “macro” scale, micro-CT can be a very powerful tool in structural and failure analysis. Small defects such as porosity and thin delaminations can be visualized with high resolution images. Failure modes can be spotted and easily identified in even the most complex of structures. The image above shows a cross section image from a high-load bearing structure that failed during mechanical load testing. The origins and full extent of the failure can be studied without the use of any destructive techniques that may compromise the sample and data.

There are many applications of x-ray CT scanning in composite materials, and the list is rapidly growing. This type of testing has proven to be very beneficial in identifying damage and failure modes that previously had gone undetected, and has also provided the benefit of avoiding, often time-consuming, destructive analysis.

NTS Chesapeake operates one of the most powerful, high-resolution CT systems in use today. A large walk-in 450kV micro-focus system enables large objects (up to 37 inches in diameter) to be imaged with extremely high resolution. This system, combined with NTS’s other x-ray capabilities and state-of-the-art processing and visualization tools, allows this technology to solve numerous problems spanning many different industries.


3D Modeling Aids the “Digitization of Science”

CT ScannerIn January 2016, Popular Mechanics paid a visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland and met with Nick Pyenson, paleontologist and curator  of the Marine Mammal Collection, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the world.  The team at NTS Chesapeake has been providing CT X-ray scanning support to Pyenson in its large scale scanner, enabling him to study larger specimens from the collection, such as blue whale skulls.

Check out the Popular Mechanics article by Matt Blitz here.

X-Ray Computed Tomography (CT) Scanning & Battery Cells

Next-generation energy storage technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, are changing the landscape of just about every major industry – from advanced aerospace applications to everyday consumer products. With the major advantage storing very high energy densities while remaining small in both size and weight, lithium-ion batteries are becoming more and more prevalent in electronic devices.  These batteries function differently than their predecessors and can be susceptible to different kinds of failure modes, including the very well-publicized “thermal runaway”, which has plagued even the largest aerospace programs and some of the most well-known consumer brands.

Understanding the results of battery testing and failure analysis is key to improving design and ensuring the proper functioning of internal safety features. X-ray CT scanning has proven to be an excellent method to obtain internal, three-dimensional data in a non-destructive manner. Industrial CT scanning has been used in the analysis of batteries for several years now, including some very high-profile investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB). The images and data captured using NTS Chesapeake’s state-of-the-art CT scanning equipment were included in several NTSB reports.

Image of a damaged battery unit (left) and CT scan cross section of one of the cells (right), both taken from the NTSB Interim Factual Report on the 787 Dreamliner Investigation in 2013. (http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/DCA13IA037-interim-factual-report.pdf)

Image of a damaged battery unit (left) and CT scan cross section of one of the cells (right), both taken from the NTSB Interim Factual Report on the 787 Dreamliner Investigation in 2013.

The industrial CT scanning process is very similar to a medical CAT scan, which uses high-resolution radio-graphic data captured at multiple angles around a part. Because the objects under test are inanimate and the operators are well-protected from any radiation, industrial techniques typically include higher x-ray energies and longer acquisition times in order to maximize resolution and quality on more dense, metallic components. This process has been accessible to research scientists for decades now, but only recently has it become more cost-effective, thanks in large part to advances in digital x-ray imaging and computer processing. This means that scanning and processing techniques that previously took hours or days, are now completed within minutes.

Two-dimensional digital x-ray radiograph (left) and 3D cross sections (right) from a CT scan of a common lithium ion battery design found in many cellphones and other mobile devices

Two-dimensional digital x-ray radiograph (left) and 3D cross sections (right) from a CT scan of a common lithium ion battery design found in many cellphones and other mobile devices

Much of the recent work including CT scanning of batteries often comes from the need to better understand and control the quality of consumer-grade battery cells. Issues span many types of everyday electronic devices from laptops and mobile phones, to popular motorized scooters and even e-cigarettes. Being able to obtain these internal images non-destructively creates many opportunities for improved quality control and failure analysis techniques. Data can be collected at different stages of charging or after certain types of destructive testing, such as extreme temperature, shock and vibration, and even ballistic and cell puncture testing. When it comes to analysis and high-level investigations involving suspected battery failures, one additional advantage of utilizing CT scanning is evidence preservation.


Two-dimensional image cross sections taken from a CT scan of a small cylindrical battery cell showing the internal structure of the layers (often called the “jelly roll”) and even the gel polymer electrolyte.


In addition to performing inspection and analysis for its clients, Chesapeake Testing has been exploring techniques for optimizing x-ray and CT scanning to better analyze battery cell structure and damage. This includes investigating methods to increase resolution and lower the noise caused by x-ray scatter, which can be detrimental to detailed image analysis, especially within larger cell designs. Academic research also continues into better imaging processes to detect and analyze failures, including in-situ, or real-time, imaging. Just last year, researchers at European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, led by University College London, performed high-speed radio-graphic and CT imaging of battery cells while under thermal runaway. Their results include some extraordinary images and videos taken from the data and can be found here: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms7924.

As echoed in the media and among industry experts, there is a pressing need to improve the quality and safety of these devices. Technologies such as x-ray computed tomography are providing engineers and researchers with the information needed to more effectively analyze failures and ultimately improve battery cell design. Even with all of the negative attention surrounding lithium-ion batteries, if manufactured correctly, there are still so many benefits. There can be little doubt that these battery technologies will continue to drive new advances in energy storage and be implemented in every facet of modern life.

NTS’ Chesapeake, MD division operates one of the most powerful, high-resolution x-ray CT scanning systems in use today. A large walk-in 450kV micro-focus system enables large objects (up to 37 inches in diameter) to be imaged with extremely high resolution. This system, combined with  NTS’s other testing capabilities and state-of-the-art processing and visualization tools, allows this technology to solve numerous problems spanning many different industries.

For additional information, visit the CT Scanning section of our website here: https://www.nts.com/services/non-destructive-testing/ct-scanning

New Species of Extinct River Dolphin Discovered in Smithsonian Collection

A fossil that has spent decades in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has been determined to be a new genus and species after careful study that includes x-ray scanning and support for digital image processing from our Chesapeake Testing division!

The Arktocara yakataga skull was discovered in 1951 in southeastern Alaska. To learn more about this new discovery, check out the Smithosian article here. Click on the image below to experience the Smithsonian X3D model and explore the fossil.smithsonian-dolphin-3d