NTS News Center

Latest News in Testing, Inspection and Certification

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

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.


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