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Industrial CT Scanning

CT scanning is a term most often associated with the medical industry, and while it can be used to provide insight to patient anatomy and illness, it can be used for so much more. In this article, we’ll discuss what CT scanning is, how it works, its pros and cons, its applications, and some alternatives to CT scanning. For clarity and simplicity, this article only refers to CT scanning as it relates to industrial applications. 

What is CT Scanning?

Computed Tomography, or CT, is a non-destructive 3D scanning method that takes both internal and external measurements by using X-ray emission to penetrate the material of the part being scanned. The resulting X-rays are 2D slices of the part, which are then compiled one on top of the other to create a digital 3D model. 

In order for the 3D scan to be completed accurately and safely, the part to be scanned is placed on a rotational platform inside a sealed chamber that will contain the X-ray radiation. An X-ray tube, or emitter, projects either an X-ray line or cone that passes through the part. On the other side of the part is an X-ray detector that records data from the X-ray emission. To get a complete image of the part, the platform the object rests upon will rotate for the X-rays to be passed through the object at different angles. Ideally, the part should be scanned from a full 360°. Measurements are taken at intervals varying from 1° down to 0.1°, meaning about 360-3600 X-rays will be taken to complete the scan. The scanning interval you choose will depend on the resolution you desire for the scan. 


Because CT scanning uses X-rays, it has a unique advantage over other 3D scanning technologies. As opposed to optical or touch probe scanners that can only measure surfaces visible to them, CT scanning can provide measurements of internal or hidden geometry without the dismantling or destruction of the part. Furthermore, being able to take complete 2D slice scans with each pass of the X-ray means that you will typically avoid complicated fixtures for setup that other scanning methods often require. CT scanning is also more accurate than its cousins as it can provide point accuracy down to 0.0001”, which far surpasses the capabilities of most other 3D scanners.  


Despite its multiple advantages, CT scanning also has several drawbacks that may hinder you. The first and most glaring of these is