Published on 16-May-2024

Transforming Automotive Manufacturing with High-Energy Computed Tomography

Transforming Automotive Manufacturing with High-Energy Computed Tomography

Sources - North Star Imaging

Table of Content

In the dynamic landscape of modern manufacturing, advancements in technology are constantly reshaping the way products are designed, produced, and inspected. As industries undergo transformative shifts such as the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) and additive manufacturing, the demand for innovative inspection solutions becomes paramount. One such breakthrough is the emergence of high-energy computed tomography (CT) technology, revolutionizing the inspection process by providing unparalleled detail and insight into complex assemblies.

Traditionally and due to wide availability, low-energy x-ray CT imaging (sub-600kV) is a common choice for industrial parts. Typically, capable of resolutions in the single-digit micron range, this granular detail can easily show fine features such as the individual layers in the latest batteries, but as the complexity and performance standards of modern assemblies continue to escalate, the limitations of traditional methods become increasingly apparent. The shift towards EVs, with their intricate battery modules and large electric motors, underscores the need for more sophisticated inspection capabilities. Large and complex assemblies, such as those found in an Electric Vehicle Battery, require a much higher energy source to penetrate its dense composition.

High-energy computed tomography is a versatile tool that offers comprehensive visibility across the entire manufacturing chain. Unlike low-energy X-ray CT imaging, which is commonly used for industrial parts and offers granular detail but struggles with thick and dense parts, high-energy CT overcomes these limitations. By utilizing a state-of-the-art 9MeV linear accelerator (LINAC), companies are able to achieve unprecedented levels of accuracy and clarity in their scans. The result is higher image quality with reduced noise, reduced scatter and beam hardening artifacts that, negatively impact the image fidelity of a part. 

Also, Read About How Computed Tomography Transformed NDT

What sets high-energy CT apart from its predecessors? 

The answer lies in its ability to penetrate dense materials with remarkable precision, revealing defects, voids, cracks, and other imperfections that may elude conventional inspection methods. From verifying proper assembly to identifying defects and verifying metrological data, high-energy CT offers a comprehensive solution for ensuring quality and safety across the supply chain.

Moreover, high-energy CT accelerates the product development cycle by streamlining processes from design to product release. By providing detailed insights early in the development phase, manufacturers can address potential issues proactively, saving both time and money. This enhanced speed and precision not only drive efficiency but also facilitate innovation, empowering manufacturers to push the boundaries of what's possible.

One of the key advantages of high-energy CT is its ability to inspect fully assembled components, such as large electric motors, battery modules, and transmissions, without the need for disassembly. This NDT approach not only saves time and resources but also minimizes the risk of damage to delicate components. In a single scan, materials ranging from iron and aluminum to steel, copper, plastics, and epoxy can be visualized with exceptional clarity, providing a comprehensive view of the entire assembly. Additionally, it is worthy to note that we are currently scanning battery modules up to 36 inches wide.

One example of how high energy CT can image complicated structures with very dissimilar material density components is discussed below. 

This Hybrid Battery Module is 9.25” x 14.25” and has 35 individual cells to create 120 Volts. The case of the module is made of Stainless Steel and the longest attenuation path is around 9 inches. With 3, 6, and 9 MeV it is possible to not only CT scan individual parts but focus on full assemblies with multiple material densities, and very large attenuative applications.

Hybrid Battery Module Assembly

Utilizing a 9MeV linear accelerator (LINAC) with the increase of penetration capabilities, coupled with advanced technique development procedures, scatter reduction techniques, and backend CT Reconstruction algorithms there is a significant reduction in scatter, streaking, and beam hardening artifacts generally found on multi-material applications. This allows for more accurate and better quality on any assembly with both low and high density materials.

These techniques coupled with this technology for high energy scanning of full assemblies allow for step-by-step slices through this battery module. We see the internal cooling channels that help this battery operate at full capacity without overheating or failure. We can follow the inlet and outlet for the coolant lines from external to internal pathways. As in any pathway the rate of flow is always an important factor. We have captured some basic dimensions of the coolant pathways as well as the openings for the battery housings.