Seth Taylor, General Manager
Today, people pay greater attention to ensure products they purchase are safe and reliable, be it for personal use or for business purpose. With such demanding expectations to meet, brands and manufacturers need to go the extra mile to ensure their products delight the users. And they require effective testing solutions to that end. Efficient testing solutions granularly check products for safety and reliability.
Non-destructive testing (NDT) can play a crucial role in examining the components and materials used in production. NDT can accurately evaluate product size, surface, subsurface flaws, and defects, regardless of the stage of the production process. Thus, it helps a great deal in the integrity and quality of the end product. As such, NDT has emerged as a boon to organizations; making early replacements and avoiding loss is much easier as the technique quickly detects the materials that fail to meet the requirements.
To prevent accidents in the product manufacturing lifecycle, NDT examines the materials used in production. It does this by following the various inspection processes that can be visual, acoustic, ultrasonic, or radiographic in nature. Of the numerous NDT inspection processes, 3D computed tomography (CT) and digital radiography (DR) are among the most advanced ones. While CT aids organizations in getting a visual understanding of any defect in their products, both internally and externally, DR is a 2D inspection method that uses a digital X-ray detector for real-time product testing.
North Star Imaging (NSI), a subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works (ITW), is a company that provides sophisticated resources for digital real-time non-destructive testing (NDT) equipment, services, training, supplies and accessories. NSI takes pride in designing and building the complete line and custom state-of-the-art Digital X-ray and Computed Tomography (CT) systems. Companies from different industries, including medical devices, electronics, aerospace, research, and more, avail NSI’s unique and intelligent solutions to differentiate in their line of business and stay ahead of the market competition. NSI has worldwide locations, each offering state-of-the-art equipment for X-ray and CT inspection services to test everything, from pacemakers to aircraft wings. NSI’s real-time services verify the integrity of internal components with quick turnaround times. Furthermore, the company partners with nearly all the manufacturers of industrial digital X-ray detectors for better service delivery to the clients.
The other unique aspect of NSI is its skilled team of manufacturing and design experts. Its dedicated employees are committed to meeting clients’ expectations in providing world-class imaging services for continuous business developments. Spread across various locations, they explain the functioning of a particular technology and provide thorough training on the installation of CT and DR.
Companies in the upper Midwestern states of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Iowa have benefited immensely from NSI’s NDT equipment and accessories. In the 1990s, the company expanded its business across the US and manufactured its first computed tomography system.
We are thrilled to be adding high energy to our portfolio to better serve our customers and further enhance the industry’s ability to provide safe, reliable products
With an aim to expand its scope across the NDT arena, NSI formed an inspection services group (ISG), which is a professional team that provides consulting services in X-ray and computed tomography scanning. The company was acquired by ITW in 2010. With this acquisition, NSI became a part of ITW’s test and measurement segment. NSI made significant changes and improvements to its NDT systems in 2013 to increase their efficiency, help clients reduce errors in business processes, and enhance customer satisfaction. NSI has continued its expansion journey across the world and has now become truly global.
Next-Gen Solutions for Better Output
NSI’s CT solution, efX-CT, offers automatic parallelization for systems with multiple CPUs and GPUs. With an intuitive interface and OpenGL based 3D volume rendering, efX-CT helps clients observe the products perpendicularly. Its spherical ‘shell slices’ close-up views aid in avoiding aliasing in the parts of the image sampled far from the direction of view. Companies can utilize the full efX-CT package or just one solution, as per their requirements. The package comprises the solution license as well as numerous other features such as visualization workstation, calibration tools, and high-end CT reconstruction. efX-CT has user-friendly volume viewer, 2D viewer for X-ray images and CT slices, an ultra-fast 3D preview of CT reconstructions, and easy screen capture as well as video recordings of CT slices, among others. It also includes CT reconstruction algorithms like vorteX and Fan-Beam. While vortex conducts CT scanning using spiral acquisition automatically using a digital flat-panel detector to aid clients in scanning elongated objects that is traditionally difficult in a single exposure, fan-beam provides images with superior spatial and contrast resolution.
Further, NSI’s next-gen efX-DR solution delivers high-performance image processing and measurement functions using GPU for faster acquisition. This solution is Windows-based and consists of several functionalities, such as live histogram with multiple color tables for better statistics of the materials, seamless integration with the efX-CT solution to utilize more features, optional CNC motion control and teach-based programming and support for production mode with barcode input and automated system operation, among others. Enabled with impressive functionalities, NSI’s efX-DR solution caters to clients in easier and repeatable inspection sequences for superior image quality, which paves the way for improved product monitoring and increased throughput. Moreover, NSI’s solutions are DICONDE compliant, a file format and communication protocol to ensure all information related to the products is saved in compliance to the international standards.
Accelerating Innovation for Better Outcomes
The highly dedicated innovation team at NSI continues to develop new technologies that improve capabilities and increase the speed of the CT and DR solutions to best serve clients’ evolving needs.
Some of the major innovations by NSI include SubpiX, MosaiX, 4D X-ray CT, and Ring Reduction that help its clients study the products’ form, structure, and function. While SubpiX uses a redesigned motion system to generate images with improved resolution, MosaiX uses a redesigned manipulator to stitch multiple images into one seamless image with a much larger field of view. To create a truly dynamic volumetric dataset, 4D X-ray CT allows clients to reconstruct a 3D CT model that includes parameters like time and motion. Similarly, Ring Reduction improves volume surface quality by utilizing a combination of hardware and a proprietary software algorithm to compensate for the detector pixels’ irregular response during a CT scan.
"NSI takes pride in designing and building the complete line and custom state-of-the-art Digital X-ray and Computed Tomography (CT) systems"
NSI’s newer versions of CT and DR solutions—efX-CT 1.6 and efX-DR 1.0—are tailored for improved speed and automation. These new versions enhance image quality with the help of easy to use beam-hardening correction wizard, an intuitive beam-hardening correction tool, and the CT reconstruction algorithm—vorteX to significantly improve throughput by making more efficient use of projection data. Besides, the automatic system calibration module in both the new CT and DR versions provides an immediate assessment of CT image quality by determining key system parameters, including geometry, magnification, and length scales. Clients can avoid using other volumetric viewing software with efX-CT 1.6 and efX-DR 1.0 as they also comprise an independent file viewing feature, which allows saving an executable file for three-dimensional viewing. All the new features in the CT and DR solutions of NSI solidify the mission of being the easiest, fastest, and most complete industrial CT and DR solution in the market and take forward the company’s envelope of innovation.
Flawless NDT Guaranteed
Apart from offering highly effective NDT solutions, NSI offers technical training programs for level I, II, and III personnel. These certifications follow industry standards as per the guidelines set by The American Society for Non-destructive Testing (ASNT) and NAS 410 in radiography methods. Further, NSI’s ISG team delivers services related to NDT with the latest cutting-edge X-ray imaging technologies for maximized value. It offers real-time product analysis to assist clients in identifying different configurations of the products’ internal components. Team NSI quickly analyzes clients’ failure by providing the products’ high-resolution X-ray imaging from every conceivable angle and view as well as live manipulation to determine any happening during under load and operation. They also assist clients in product screening for the detection of contamination and foreign materials.
Toward A Better Future
NSI is planning to add more improved features to its already existing solution portfolio to increase the capability to scan objects as small as a few microns to objects as large as a 50-gallon barrel in single or multiple batches as quickly as possible. Seth Taylor, General Manager of NSI, said, “We are thrilled to be adding high energy to our portfolio to better serve our customers and further enhance the industry’s ability to provide safe, reliable products. Our customers drive our progression and our intent is to provide premium capabilities to world-class organizations that demand the most challenging of inspections on critical projects. Thank you to all of NSI’s customers and friends who have made this possible.”