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.

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