Year In Review 2016

Year in Review - Avonix Imaging

As we begin 2017, Avonix Imaging has much to celebrate from the past year. We’d like to share some highlights as we look at our year in review.

Growth

As Avonix Imaging continues to grow its reputation and name in the industrial x-ray and computed tomography (CT) industry, we’ve also grown our staff to accommodate our clients’ needs. In 2016, our staff doubled, adding top-quality personnel to strengthen the areas of electrical engineering, equipment services, and contract inspection services. Our team is dedicated to exceeding expectations both in the quality of the imaging and the customer service provided, and continues to operate with the high standards and values of company founders Jeff Diehm and Brian Ruether.

Equipment

In 2016, we embarked on a project to develop and build our own walk-in x-ray enclosure with an Avonix large-format manipulator system that will allow us to inspect larger parts and higher density materials with a dual 225/450 kV Nikon micro-focus system configuration. This will be an immense benefit for our customers, whether they are looking to purchase a system of this caliber or utilize our contract inspection services.

New Location

The year’s most visible change for Avonix Imaging was the move to our new location. We purchased a building and relocated from our original office in Plymouth, Minnesota, to a larger facility in Maple Grove, Minnesota, with an expanded applications and demo lab as well as a high-quality assembly area for our systems integration efforts. As a result, this allows us additional capabilities in all aspects of our business.

Looking Ahead

Even as we celebrate our 2016 successes, we’re looking forward to what’s in store for us in 2017 as we continue to grow and enhance our products and processes. April will mark our fifth anniversary, and we want to celebrate with you. Look for more details soon about an open house anniversary celebration.

We’d like to offer our sincere thanks to our colleagues, our partners, and, most of all, our customers. You’ve been instrumental in the success of Avonix Imaging and we appreciate your support. Here’s to another great year at Avonix Imaging.

Nikon Metrology Case Story: Mindarika

Nikon Metrology Case Story: Mindarika

Nikon Metrology Case Story: Mindarika

For needed improvements in their quality assurance department, award-winning Mindarika turned to Nikon Metrology for computed tomography (CT) capabilities. Mindarika, India’s largest four-wheeler automotive switch manufacturer, has since seen a global improvement in its productivity, and continues to explore the full potential and capabilities of the CT system.

Avonix Imaging partners with Nikon Metrology to provide world-class industrial x-ray and CT imaging equipment to companies like Mindarika in the U.S. and internationally.

Read more from Nikon Metrology.

Contract Inspection

Avonix Imaging Logo, Minneapolis Imaging, Digital X-Rays, CT ScansIn any industry, being unable to find a failure in materials, products, or components can be frustrating and costly. You lose valuable time and dollars testing the part again and again. The failure may result in significant production delays or even greater losses when you can no longer move forward with the project. Avonix Imaging can help.

Avonix Imaging is a leading provider of industrial x-ray and computed technology (CT) imaging services to a multitude of industries, including aerospace, automotive, electronics, food, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and many others. In addition, 2D x-ray and CT can be utilized in a multitude of applications within each industry, and new uses continue to emerge.

We offer industrial x-ray imaging and CT systems from Nikon Metrology as well as custom solutions. However, not every company has a need for on-site equipment. That’s where our inspection services come in. On an as-needed basis, we can provide 2D or CT imaging scans at our state-of-the-art Center of Excellence in Plymouth, Minnesota.

Our inspection process is simple. Call us to discuss your application and potential solutions. You can upload a high resolution photo, up to 5 MB, so that we can have a clear picture and a better understanding of the product or part. Once we discuss and agree to the scope of the project and associated costs, ship the part to our lab. When your part arrives, we complete your scan with the fastest turnaround in the industry. We’ll return the part and deliver superior imaging results via WebEx, a flash drive, or a personal visit, whichever you prefer.

Founded on the expertise and guiding principles of its owners, Jeff Diehm and Brian Ruether, Avonix Imaging is committed to providing the best imaging available in the market, in a timely manner and at a price that makes this exceptional service an exceptional value as well.

Solve your manufacturing challenges with Avonix Imaging. Call us to learn more.

X-Ray CT System Installation at Mexican University

Avonix Imaging, Nikon Metrology, M1 CT X-ray scanning systemA Mexican university has a brand-new CT scanning system thanks to Nikon Metrology and Avonix Imaging. This May, Avonix ventured south of the border to build and install a Nikon Metrology dual-source 225kV and 450kV M1 CT X-ray Inspection System at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP).

The M1 Configurable CT X-Ray Inspection System provides the power needed to penetrate through high-density parts and generate scatter-free CT volumes with micron accuracy. The M1 is available in a walk-in room or a self-contained standalone cabinet and takes configurable and customizable design to the next level.

Located in Puebla, BUAP is excited to utilize the cutting-edge technology for chemical, automotive and food industries in the region and conduct research in biochemistry, forensics and archeology. While the institution has past experience with x-ray technology, the university is new to the world of x-ray scanning. BUAP is planning to use the machine to partner with nearby Volkswagen and Audi plants and develop national testing standards for Mexico.

Here at Avonix, we are proud to partner with one of Mexico’s oldest and most prestigious public universities. We hope the M1 CT system will bring BUAP a new world of discoveries and opportunities!

Meet Our Newest Employee

“I live by the philosophy that our customers are the reason we exist as a company, and deserve to be treated as such. My responsibility is to maintain their trust and help nurture that relationship.”
Dave Theisen

Dave Theisen has been specializing in the industrial x-ray and maintenance business for nearly 20 years. In 1994,Dave went to work for Park Industries, Inc. in St.Cloud, MN performing welding, machine fabrication and assembly of large stone working saws, CNC routers, edger’s, and polishing equipment. This led to becoming a Field Service Technician and eventually to a Field Service Coordinator/ Customer Service position, where Dave practiced a strong focus on building and maintaining good customer relations. After graduating from St. Cloud Community and Technical College in 2011 with a degree in Industrial Electronics/Mechatronics, Dave joined North Star Imaging (NSI) in 2011 as a Field Service Technician who focused on installation, repair, and preventative maintenance of industrial x-ray equipment. He also provided customer service phone support when in the office while having the strong ability to troubleshoot complex electrical and system performance issues. Dave has a strong belief in a “Customer” focused service experience.

Welcome to the Avonix team, Dave!

Our Process

From start to finish, our process is simple:

  1. Contact Us – via email or phone to discuss your application and the potential solutions. A picture is worth a thousand words!
  2. Send the Part – Once we agree on the scope and cost, simply send us your parts for scanning.
  3. We Scan It – We have the fastest turnaround in the industry – as quick as one day!
  4. Data Delivery – We’ll return your parts & deliver the results in your desired method (WebEx, Flash drive or personal visit)

Please contact us to discuss your imaging needs! We can quickly guide you through your questions on imaging services or equipment.

2355 Polaris Lane North, Suite 104
Plymouth, MN 55447

Phone: 763-447-4187
Toll Free: 855-2AVONIX (855-228-6649)

Who Is Avonix?

Avonix Imaging is an industry leading x-ray and CT imaging source, providing world-class industrial x-ray and CT (computed tomography) imaging services and equipment.

Avonix Imaging has new, state-of-the art CT imaging equipment located in its applications lab in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area, with the technical expertise to meet a wide variety of x-ray imaging needs. Avonix provides 2-dimensional digital realtime x-ray imaging (DDA/DR) as well as the more advanced, 3-dimensional CT scanning method for an unparalleled view of the internal configuration of customer components. In addition, Avonix represents Nikon Metrology with its complete line of x-ray CT systems and has equipment service capabilities and consulting services available to offer a well-rounded suite of products and services.

Before Avonix launched, we recognized there was a need for a more customer-focused approach to both the contract services and systems sales segment. We wanted to develop a system where the needs of the customer came first and the profitability of the company would follow.

We knew if we put our clients at the forefront of our efforts on a daily basis, constructing a true “Win-Win” scenario in which the value of the service or equipment made it beneficial to all parties, then everyone would prosper from our efforts.

From the customer-centric business philosophy, Avonix Imaging was born in 2012. Jeffrey Diehm and Brian Ruether have a combined 55+ years in the industrial x-ray business. The proven leadership, passion and dedication of the Avonix team is unique to the industry and evident in the quality of work by Avonix Imaging.

X-Ray Computed Tomography expands horizons of anthropology at Duke university

At Duke University (Durham, NC), the school’s X-ray micro Computed Tomography equipment spans a growing number of disciplines and users. One of the main researches is related to anthropology studying the origin of mankind. But also biotech firms, electronic materials companies, government research organizations, and many others have interest in using CT to investigate and characterize materials on a micron scale.

Duke training

Housed at the Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility (SMIF) at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, the XT H 225 ST micro CT X-ray machine from Nikon Metrology (Brighton, MI) along with Nikon’s 3D reconstruction software was installed in March 2013 and envisioned from the start as a shared university resource. The concept of shared capabilities was the driver for establishing SMIF in 2002, according to Dr. Mark D. Walters, SMIF’s director. “The whole idea is to supply shared resources and equipment among the various Duke departments and research groups as well as the external organizations we partner with,” he says. Said resources include 4,000 square feet of class 100 and class 1000 clean room space, and over 2,600 square feet of specialized laboratory space; including a segregated bio room within the clean room designed for the integration of biomaterials with nano, opto, and electrical devices and structures.

“Researchers at Duke as well as biotech firms, electronic materials companies, government research organizations, and many others have world-class yet cost-effective resources for the characterization and imaging of materials on the micro and nano scale,” he adds.

Cataloging life’s diversity

Dr. Doug M. Boyer, assistant professor in Duke’s Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, considered access to micro CT X-ray technology essential. “The research I do relies on micro CT data 100 percent,” he says. “We were really pleased that Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences also saw the acquisition of this equipment as a good investment for the research environment on campus.”

Scanned foot

Daubentonia madagascariensis (name “Aye aye”) foot scanned at Duke’s Micro CT facility, included in MorphoSource, Duke’s digital 3D museum.

Anthropology, literally the study of humankind, is often perceived as socio-cultural science (as in cultural anthropology and its emphasis on a culture’s beliefs, history, and behaviors). “Then there’s physical anthropology – how diversity in biology of humans and other non-human primates provides evidence for questions about human nature and origins,” Boyer adds. “You probably have a more accurate perspective of the kind of research my colleagues and I do here if you think of it as a subfield of evolutionary biology. Diversity in skeletal and anatomical structure among primates (including humans) is my area of focus.

But the approaches I take and the broader implications of the questions I address are directly applicable to biological research generally. Raw data are the measured quantities of anatomical samples, and documenting them is essential for repeatability.”

Micro CT ameliorates a number of difficulties involved with evolutionary anthropology, Boyer further explains. For one thing, there are the skeletal and anatomical samples themselves needing to be cataloged and referenced. Many are one-of-a-kind specimens housed in university and museum collections around the world. Time and travel expenses just getting to them are significant. “If we can post digital images of the bones in our studies, then it takes the field to a new level of accountability: not only can a skeptical researcher re-analyze the measurements I put in my appendix tables, but he/she can directly check the individual measurements I provide. This is impossible (or at least fundamentally impractical) currently.”

XT H 225 ST

The XT H 225 ST micro-focus CT system is perfectly suited for analysis of small to larger samples.

As in its well-documented medical experience, X-ray Computed Tomography not only provides a non-destructive means to image and examine a specimen, it provides details such as porosity and density mapping unobtainable by other means. Thousands of digital images can be produced from a single sample by rotating the specimen around its axis and capturing each 2D x-ray image. And each twodimensional pixel in each image contributes to a three-dimensional voxel as computer algorithms reconstruct 3D volumes. The result is a 3D volumetric map of the object, where each voxel is a 3D cube with a discrete location (x,y,z) and a density (ρ). Not only is the external surface information known, such as with a 3D point cloud from laser scanning, but internal surfaces and additional information about what is in between the surfaces from the fourth dimension (density) is provided. Furthermore, “slices” produced by the process and accompanying software can yield much information without destroying the sample. As with the growth of computing power in many applications, what took days a decade ago to assemble 3D micro CT information now takes minutes, yielding much more information to users.

Megaladapis front

Megaladapis (koala lemur) skull, front view. As this genus is extinct, non-destructive scanning and a permanent 3D record are vital to research.

Not only yielding information, but sharing it as well. MorphoSource (www.morphosource.org) is Duke’s initiative to build a digital 3D specimen archive to better enable a worldwide user base to study the diversity of life in its anatomical form. Researchers not only can store, organize, share, and distribute their own 3D data, any registered user can immediately search for and download 3D morphological data sets that have been made accessible through the consent of data authors.

Duke has begun by scanning thousands of samples from its own extensive collections and also those of other institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, among others.

“Digitization of skeletal specimens in 3D to which you can provide worldwide access is changing the nature of biological study,” Boyer says. “Retention and sharing of 3D is a problem facing the greater academic community who study one-of-a-kind samples. MorphoSource is taking a data-driven field and applying new means of obtaining and interpreting that data.”

A slightly more lofty goal is to tap the potential for automation of analysis of anatomical structural data on a broad scale. “Right now analysis of molecular data (on DNA, the genetic code) is highly automated.

Big data sets are relatively easy to amass because of digital sharing: morphological data hasn’t reach this point, for obvious reasons – scanning is the only way to generate comprehensive numerical representations of bones, but such data have been few and far between until recently. MorphoSource will start to build the large-scale samples needed to bring the study of anatomical structure in-line with the genome,” Boyer says. He is currently working with applied mathematicians and statisticians at Duke to “automate” the measurement and analysis of biological structures. “Another reason why the skeleton is under-studied is that most researchers don’t have the expertise to identify or define relevant measurements. With automated algorithmic routines, we hope to avail morphological data to any interested researcher.”

Training and certification

Duke not only provides micro CT scanning for the school’s medical, sciences, and engineering departments, it also trains and certifies users on how to use the equipment. “This isn’t a 9 to 5 operation, it’s 24-7,” says R&D engineer and CT specialist Jimmy Thostenson. Users interested in certification are trained in lab safety and procedures as well as equipment operation, working one-on-one with SMIF’s micro CT staff.

Users are not limited to Duke students and faculty; interest is rapidly growing from many local and regional companies and organizations Industrial users include a biomedical company researching pharmaceutical delivery devices, another inspecting components for microwave radios, and another involved in providing next-generation refrigerators.

The pool of people uneducated to the advantages of X-ray CT is orders-of-magnitude bigger than the educated, one expert has said. And even among the educated, a significant percentage are operating blind, unable to see or make use of the full potential in front of them because of a lack of training or a thorough understanding of the technology. By not only installing and using micro CT, but being actively involved in expanding outreach and education, Duke is at the forefront of changing all that.

Megaladapis(koala lemur) skull, front view. As this genus is extinct, non-destructive scanning and a permanent 3D record are vital to research.

Megaladapis(koala lemur) skull, front view. As this genus is extinct, non-destructive scanning and a permanent 3D record are vital to research.

About Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility

The Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility (SMIF) at Duke University operates as an interdisciplinary shared use facility. It was established in 2002 as part of the University’s Materials Initiative with funding from the Provost’s office. The mission of the facility is to provide researchers and educators with high quality and cost-effective access to advanced materials characterization and fabrication capabilities.

SMIF is available to Duke University researchers and educators from the various schools and departments as well as to “external” users from other Universities, government laboratories or industry. Hourly-based user fees are charged as a means of recovering the direct costs associated with operating the facility.

 

University Applies Metrology CT

Many components and assemblies have internal features that are difficult to inspect nondestructively, as conventional metrology requires them to be sectioned. Examples are a hollow hydroformed camshaft, a 3D printed mould with conformal cooling channels, or a plastic injection moulded electrical connector with metal inserts. Now, the PMA division of Leuven’s university is using X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) machines to research measuring the interiors of such components in 3D.

CT has been widely used for many years in medicine for imaging and diagnosis, and to inspect materials to identify the presence of internal features, such as unwanted inclusions in a casting. Now, research is being carried out by Prof Jean-Pierre Kruth and his team at the University of Leuven, the oldest and largest university in Belgium, to broaden the application of CT into the field of dimensional metrology.

With CT, components can be inspected externally, as traditionally done with a touch probe or laser scanner, but internal geometry can also be measured non-destructively in the same set-up.

The university, called Katholieke Universiteit Leuven or KU Leuven, is close to the European headquarters of Nikon Metrology. The two organisations are collaborating closely in the development of CT as a tool for geometrical measuring and quality control. Two Nikon Metrology CT machines were recently installed at KU Leuven, enabling Prof Kruth’s PMA division, which is responsible for production engineering, machine design and automation within the university’s department of mechanical engineering, to carry out in-depth research.

CT machines are also used in the metallurgy department at the Leuven university, mainly for materials examination. This department has recently upgraded one its CT machines with a new Nikon Metrology 180 keV X-ray source and control software.

One of the PMA division’s X-ray machines, a 225 keV model XT H 225, includes a microfocus X-ray source, linear scales, better cooling and other enhancements that provide increased accuracy, making it suitable for CT metrology. The second machine is a large cabinet microfocus XT H 450, the highest power CT machine currently installed in Belgium and the Netherlands, providing sufficient X-ray penetration for thicker metal parts to be inspected. As a guide, 450 keV microfocus source can penetrate 35 mm of steel or 110 mm of aluminium.

The Hercules Foundation in Brussels, established by the Flemish Government to offer funding for scientific research, provided a grant to help the university purchase the machines. Prerequisites for receiving the money were that the equipment had to be unique in the area and that it be made available for research by other companies and institutions.

Conventionally machined parts measured as well as 3D printed components

CT is an ideal tool to inspect a servo valve with complex internal channels

Prof Kruth commented, “Our PMA division has a long tradition in production research, starting in the 1960s with milling, drilling and grinding, progressing through spark erosion in the 70s and implementing additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing techniques in the 1990s.

“Dimensional metrology and quality control for components produced using the earlier machining techniques resulted in our installing coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) with touch probes and laser scanning heads.

Today, production techniques including five-axis milling, additive manufacturing and hydroforming make it possible to produce complex products, often with internal features or channels.

Such complex products presented us with a challenge, as it is impossible to non-destructively inspect the internal features without X-raying the parts.

Often, one-off prototypes or small batches of components are produced. Sectioning even one component to inspect it conventionally would result in an unacceptable scrap level in percentage terms.

CT presents its own difficulties, however, as metal in particular is dense and the X-rays tend to scatter and be absorbed unless the power is high. Moreover, the standard machine platforms are not developed with sufficient rigidity and accuracy for precision measuring, as they are traditionally used for material inspection.

“In fact there is a general lack of understanding within the CT community regarding the accuracy and repeatability problems associated with using the technology for measurement and traceability of the results.”

To research the possibilities of using CT for metrology, KU Leuven enlisted the help of two partners, local engineering college, Group T, led by Prof Wim Dewulf, and the DeNayer Institute in nearby Sint-Katelijne-Waver, which merged with the university on 1st October 2013.

Three groups of components were targeted – additive manufactured parts, conventionally produced precision components and assemblies, and highly complex parts also produced by traditional machining, such as a servo valve that goes into the F16 fighter jet and the Ariane rocket.

As an example the valve has hundreds of intersecting channels whose dimensions need to be measured and there is also a need to check for internal burrs where holes meet, a job that would be difficult without destructively testing the part. Clearly 100% inspection, which is demanded for many such safety-critical parts, is an impossibility without some form of non-destructive testing.

The XT H 450 X-ray source is suited to scan small castings to gain an insight into the inner details of the part.

CT measuring accuracy rivals that of conventional metrology

Initial results from using X-ray CT to measure these parts have proved very promising, according to Prof Kruth. Research carried out at the PMA laboratory indicated that – for some metallic components and depending on the application-, measuring uncertainty (maximum permissible error) both internally and for outer dimensions of the part can be below 10 microns using the Nikon Metrology CT system. This means, its accuracy lies close to that of a typical coordinate measuring machine. For example, one of the CMMs in the laboratory has an uncertainty of 5 microns plus 5 microns per metre of component length.

To help achieve this level of CT scanning precision, the team at PMA houses its two Nikon Metrology machines in a temperature controlled environment, despite each machine having its own internal cooling system for maintaining thermal stability.

In operation, a source produces X-rays by projecting electrons onto a target. As X-rays penetrate the workpiece, they are attenuated due to absorption and scattering. The amount of attenuation is determined by the distance travelled into the material and by its composition and density (i.e. attenuation coefficient), as well as by the energy level (keV) of the X-rays. After penetrating the workpiece, the attenuated X-rays are typically captured by means of a flat panel detector, resulting in a 2D grayscale image. 2D images are taken for many rotation steps of the workpiece.

The curved linear diode array detector (CLDA) optimizes the collection of X-rays by eliminating scatter phenomena that typically corrupt 2D radiographs of blades and other metal parts.

Reconstruction of an industrial component based on the projected image slices, analogous to layers in a 3D printed component, leads to a voxel model (a voxel is the 3D analogue of a pixel), where the grey value of the voxels is a measure of the linear attenuation coëfficiënt of the material. The big advantage of CT is that it eliminates the superimposition of structural images outside the area of interest. The voxel data is post-processed using algorithms to detect the edges and features of the workpiece, allowing dimensional measurement and quality control.

The XT H 450 installed in PMA’s laboratory also features a 1D curved linear detector in addition to a conventional 2D flat panel detector. Using the linear detector requires the workpiece to be shifted along the rotational axis in order to measure successive cross-sections of the object in a similar way as medical CT scanners. Research is currently being carried out at PMA to determine whether the linear detector, which allows higher power (higher voltage, current or exposure time and hence larger material penetration) and is less sensitive to X-ray scatter, can be used to inspect large components more accurately than with a flat panel detector.

CT allows to slice through an object for internal analysis

Technical challenges

Various issues are being investigated by Prof. Kruth and his staff, such as optimizing the X-ray illumination parameters and adjusting the grey level thresholding parameters for traceable dimensional measurements, lowering the X-ray spot size for greater accuracy and increasing the power of the X-ray source for greater penetration into large metallic components.

Another research topic is beam hardening, a common problem with a polychromatic CT source whereby lower energy photons are more easily absorbed by the workpiece material. It results in chromatic aberration and deformation of the image, mainly at the edges, causing an erroneous grey value to be detected which gives the impression that the skin of the component is of a different material from the core and implies wrong edge detection. Beam hardening is undesirable when studying material composition and is corrected by beam filtration and software, but for metrology, consideration is being given to harnessing the effect to increase edge definition, making it easier to measure the outside dimensions of the workpiece more accurately.

Collaboration

The close relationship between KU Leuven and Nikon Metrology, which originated from a former company spun off from the university to commercialise its work, was celebrated recently by the inauguration of the PMA’s CT facilities by Kenyi Yoshikawa, CEO of Nikon Metrology. Other university spin-off enterprises, like LayerWise, which specialises in metal additive manufacturing, and Materialise, a world player in rapid prototyping, are today working with the university on how to apply metrology CT to inspect complex parts produced by additive manufacturing.. It is indicative that Prof Kruth was a founding board member of all three companies.

These are just a few of a large number of collaborative affiliations that PMA has with companies and academe internationally, mainly at a European level but also in the US and Japan. Research activities are very much driven by industry and are thus of a practical nature.

A recent European-wide metrology CT collaboration involved 15 companies and Laboratories across Europe measuring the same objects and comparing results, sharing knowledge and best practice in metrology with a view to optimising accuracy and traceability of measurements.

Another European co-operation has just started with the help of a grant from the European Union Marie-Curie programme. KU Leuven has joined Nikon Metrology, the NPL (National Physical Laboratory – the UK’s national measurement institute), the PTB (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt – Germany’s national metrology institute), Materialise in Belgium and a number of other companies and universities in the training of engineers and researchers in CT metrology.

Source: Nikon Metrology