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Vol. 13,
15, No.
No. 1

Digital Radiography in Industry: Digital
Detector Arrays in Radiographic Testing
by Brad Kraai

Introduction This article explores DDA systems:
application, capability, process controls,
Digital detector array (DDA) systems
image attributes and evaluation, and
within industrial radiography are becoming
personnel qualifications—to hopefully
very common in high performance, critical
promote an increased interest and
margin of safety, and endurance test
enlightenment for potential users.
article inspections. Investment castings,
thermal joints, and a wide variety of other Definitions
test articles are being routinely inspected, Per ASTM E 2736, Standard Guide for
with improved probability of detection Digital Detector Array Radiology, a digital
(POD), and much faster throughput detector array is defined as: “an electronic
than conventional film systems—with device that converts ionizing or penetrating
high levels of user satisfaction. Potential radiation into a discrete array of analog
users within the industrial X-ray imaging signals which are subsequently digitized
community continue to recognize these and transferred to a computer for display
values and exploit this new technology as a digital image corresponding to the
for potential applications, but to do so, radiation energy pattern imparted upon the
a basic understanding of DDA systems input region of the device. The conversion
and application is a necessary foundation. of the ionizing or penetrating radiation
Smooth implementation of this novel into an electronic signal may transpire by
technology can be challenging, and first converting the ionizing or penetrating
consultation should be considered from an radiation into visible light through the use
outside, unbiased, reputable organization. of a scintillating material” (ASTM, 2010a).
There are several integrators, or vendors, While DDAs can be used for real-time or
that are widely recognized as providers of radioscopic techniques, most applications
DDA systems development, installation, for critical test articles employ static
and service—each having its own merits imaging and evaluation. Figure 1 provides
and specialties. a simplified diagram of a DDA.

From NDT Technician Newsletter, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp: 1-6.
Copyright © 2016 The American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Inc. TNT · July 2016 · 1

exposure and thermal variations within configured by the system integrator. ingress of test articles into the enclosure by converts an X-ray signal to visible light As one can see. subject contrast range. pixel pitch. No. depending on the type of DDA and acquisition settings. The cumulative effects of radiation or image tags of process information as material thickness. Other pixel. This cannot be overemphasized. The and inspection standard criteria. Fully articulating and programmable robotics within custom- built radiation enclosures are becoming The most popular types of DDAs in use raw or full fidelity image is saved unaltered quite common in turbine blade inspection. so once the system is designed. Yet. technique. Film images are commonly used as the baseline or referee for a correlation study with the DDA imaging techniques. or views in less than a minute. and a corresponding pixel matrix Quite often. and used for larger test articles. tuned. potential test articles with known with the potential user to design and software. contain an initial and indirect conversion for critical applications. 15. TFT = thin film transistor. and input region (or array size) automation tactics may include external or cesium iodide thallium doped—that of the DDA. Raw image file size a single blade can be imaged with several layer (or scintillator)—typically either primarily depends on the resolution. in most cases) over file. it must Test article meet the requirements—resolve the defects reliably—as intended. built. System integrators can through several analog-to-digital converters. conditions or defects (of a minimum size incorporate optimized article handling and Gray values for each pixel’s digital and all types likely to be encountered) for imaging for the intended application.” or. and Figure 1. potential user must evaluate “representative be creative. Imaging. as C-arm—with the X-ray tube on one end locations). Other gadolinium oxysulfide terbium doped. X-ray signal Obviously. DDA systems are designed fact a consumable. DDA systems are a considerable capital expenditure. It must be realized that DDAs are in table. and will often be Electronics shielding (reduces radiation dose to electronics) required for process approval.FOCUS | Digital Radiography in Industry the responsibility of the potential user. and installed. DDA systems enters the amorphous silicon (αSi) thin devices. typically For the purpose of application validation. and depending on the target synchronized. whereby the light is converted to consistency and reliability are often the and DDA on the other—are commonly an electronic voltage (bias change) at each result of a properly engineered. a remains stationary. This luminescence then sophisticated electronic conversion parts in fixtures or platens. not the integrator or vendor. to ensure that DDA system performance metrics are met for a given target application. more simply application. which is subsequently “read out” of applied DDA system. DDAs are quite conveyors. Gadolinium oxysulfide or cesium iodide (converts X-ray signal to light signal) High levels of automation are possible Digital data to Amorphous silicon TFT (converts light signal to electronic signals) frame buffer and often used with DDAs. They will and do considered as the raw or full fidelity image inspected with the DDA system will all fail (unpredictably. from Electronics (captures electronic signals. (binary) value are then assigned by a lookup any DDA system under consideration. will often readily collaborate within the image processor and system stated. while the test article is amplified and then digitized. level of automation. organizes and converts to digital data) one acquisition to the next. This image file also contains meta-data. or manual loading of numerous or luminescence. sophisticated systems have incorporated the array in channels and groups during two robots: one for the X-ray tube and the X-ray exposure. can be mere Glass substrate (stable TFT and electronics structure base) seconds. and will eventually that represents X-ray attenuation from the and built around a target application or require replacement due to performance initial image acquisition is generated and family: the potential test articles to be issues or degradation. and sent to the frame buffer quality indicators. Simplified diagram of a digital detector array (not to scale). This electronic information Applications other for the DDA. they can provide simplicity with turntables for the test article and a film transistor diode array (discrete pixel to the radiographic imaging process. 3 . be related—similar in material type and time. as well as its bit depth. It is the device produce effects that may range 2 · Vol.

unwarranted complication.25 × is—the enemy of execution. Higher M of a DDA’s usable duration. dimension within the image. This DDA system complexity The minimum recommendation is three the geometric magnification factor can be very intimidating. Higher M factors hardened electronics have increased DDA geometric magnification (M) techniques applied within techniques will decrease the resistance to exposure effects. minimum geometric magnification can imaging. necessary at higher magnifications.).020 in. if SRb = 215 µm their intricacy may reveal unwanted or geometric magnification are both important (0. and the specified IQI hole size DDA. There are no guarantees or “pixel pitch”) currently available. and the SRb of the system should be held to a minimum— the DDA. wire gage (Figure 3)—to determine the potential user recognize excessive which specific wire pairs merge within complexity for what it can be—and often SR b the acquired image: Uimg then being (1) Mmin = 4. wherein a reduced contemplate detector failure or sub-par of pixels under a known dimension at effective focal spot size (EFSS) is often imaging contingency and warranty when geometric magnification. promoting higher POD. as understood and evaluated prior to DDA Capabilities the SRb value decreases (for higher system build. Uimg and For example. and should be analyzed by the potential discontinuity or feature within Another primary consideration for any DDA manufacturer for warranty viability. complex. TNT · July 2016 · 3 . and quite often. It is a relatively simple geometrically magnified technique is image Moreover. which amplify image field of view.from image quality degradation all the resolutions (discrete pixel dimensions recommended 3 × 3 pixel matrix in the way to failure. Uimg negotiating procurement.8X). technique parameters that must be well Mmin = 1. Uimg can also be evaluated by configurations should be limited to fit the (d). the IQI hole decreases in turn. so a word of pixels. the calculation is applied to determine calculations take into account the As mentioned previously. it is vital that (Figure 2). Obviously.008 in. Duplex wire gage. integrator. technique. so by using the basic spatial (M = source-to-detector distance / source- advice: complexity of the entire DDA resolution (SRb) or effective pixel size of to-object distance). the DDA pixel density within an essential image geometric unsharpness (Ug) of the and its supportive software are very quality indicator (IQI) hole dimension. due to the finite noise: acquired image noise can never SRb (effective IQI hole ø – d pixel size) Figure 2. resulting in decreased of the electronics around the periphery discontinuity size and enhance POD throughput for larger test articles as of the DDA must be provided by the via a higher number of pixels under the compared to the DDA input region. magnification. the Mmin required to achieve the spatial resolution. Inadvertent contrast sensitivity for these devices is factors increase pixel density for a specific or unintentional exposure to the DDA remarkable—provided noise is controlled. Careful d regarded as that specific wire diameter and analysis of all DDA system features and its adjacent space combined. the test article.) and d = 508 µm (0. (where [M – 1] × EFSS = Ug). thereby should be avoided. a unique IQI—the duplex design and development. During DDA system be calculated by the following equation of interest. at the source side of the area needs of the user.7987X (1. Recent developments in Due to inherent DDA resolution. Shielding are often employed. resolution DDAs having a finer pixel While DDAs are challenged for image Several techniques exist for minimizing pitch). users of DDA systems must matter to calculate for a specific number unsharpness (Uimg). A 3 × 3 pixel matrix in image quality indicator (IQI) hole—calculation for minimum Figure 3.

The DPP (Figure 5) must be of the for the imaging technique. may increase its lifespan. High SNR very low contrast sensitivity mentioned the raw image data. consistency within the measurements can be completely closed (for X-ray system required for stability and performance. radiographic optical densities. Collimation. This long scale enables the basically provides better statistics for a higher dose to the DDA. 1. more or less depending is often employed. Within any signal amplification. SRb. High CNR values are not application must be recognized and or inherent noise within the DDA. by adding the pixel results in extremely low contrast sensitivity previously—provided noise is controlled.) thick base material. The characterizations of gain is inconsistencies in pixel responses these two metrics can be used to validate performance within any DDA system are (amplitude or gain) during exposure. Offset is basically dark software. 0 to 16 383 or 0 to application. higher exposure or signal provides higher range of the DDA will always be less X-ray beam collimation. and gain per the integrator or vendor’s with specific tools within most imaging and the requirements for the inspection recommendation. as appropriate. DDA calibrations.005 in. and possible without high SNR values. that are beyond certain portions of the soft radiation the scope of this article. mainly film. and SNR can be is just this: to consistently and reliably evaluated during system validation and detect and accurately portray substandard technique development.27 mm (0. 3 . where noise will scale of film—that is. Any DDA system’s performance must be will also lower signal noise and reduce dose monitored for instability and degradation. No. and understood. throughput. signal increase (exposure). 127 µm (0. albeit with an increase in exposure than the full scale or bit depth. one another—provided measurements are various. The usable DDA calibration.05 IQI. which in turn reduces noise beginning.05 in.) T. there are also programmable (DPP) and specialized software to enable indicator of 29. which technique. X-ray beam filtration considerations exist. are a necessary function 1. and is composed of the law of Poisson exists. any DDA would consistent and controlled. warm-up) or opened/closed. one exposure. SNR and contrast performance for any radiographic apply calibration techniques for DDA offset CNR measurement can be accomplished imaging system are the primary objectives. and contrast sensitivity It is extremely important that the user through the material type and thickness establish DDA normalization protocol and range to be inspected.5. particularly for quality through a wider thickness range in the number of frames. as measured to short scale imagers. Applying filtration defects for the selected application and its also reduces dose to the DDA.50 to 4. Contrast-to-noise ratio Most users apply a duplex plate phantom to the DDA’s electronics. but can be boiled down to system Without normalization. magnification. Common noise increase by the square root of the variable (Hurter and Driffield). Most users important technique attributes. The averaging of frames time or image acquisition. Averaging more frames impacts contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR).5%. dividing by often well below 0. and assigning the thinner areas of interest within test articles.8% contrast sensitivity. Besides fixed measurement on an image quality collimators.FOCUS | Digital Radiography in Industry be fully eliminated. increases dose to the DDA. and a translation to low contrast 65 535 possible pixel values. the and improves signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Another advantage of DDAs averaged value to that pixel for the raw This high SNR also contributes to high is this very high dynamic range as compared image. there are and typically only presents improved Figure 4 illustrates a CNR measurement multiple variables that must be evaluated statistics at a threshold. or restricting the X-ray beam to only Process Controls illuminate the input region of the DDA. but is still optimization. middle. Realistically. 15. this translates to X-ray beam shuttering mechanisms that 0. thereby attenuating on the target application. 4 · Vol. very long scale as compared to the limited thickest sections of the test article(s). on a 0. or ~250 usable reduction tactics include frame averaging. and effectually significant. and exposure SNR. As can be clearly seen. on a and correlated during DDA system or normalizing. at the spectrum. That being said. As consideration and design. Uimg. Figure 4. Proper exposure The available DDAs are normally 14-bit same material group as the inspection ensures optimized signal capture within (214) or 16-bit (216). with a thin and thick section the DDA.00 H&D signal and system noise. within an image of a conventional IQI. allowable or required geometric basically be unusable for an application. and end of the day. required performance of the DDA system Experimentation is key. signal value for each individual pixel capability for DDA techniques: quite The long scale also provides adequate image through all frames captured. X-ray beam filtration. Resolution and of the DDA imaging process. Many other evaluate its efficacy. respectively: closely matching the thinnest and sensitivity.

requires image processing or attributes measured can include: spatial the DDA that contains CKPs is also an alteration across the matrix. or placed permanently within are required per ASTM E 2597) cannot acquisition. and DDAs may be and also evaluate the DDA for bad pixels or quantified with various tools contained graded according to the percentage of bad upon system delivery. all previous images to the last viable qualifier are then considered invalid. used to identify and characterize image DDA software. Standard Practice for Digital uncorrectable bad pixels—referred to position and Y = row position)—pixels Detector Array Performance Evaluation as cluster kernel pixels (CKPs)—may are also defined as the smallest component and Long-term Stability is typically increase the risk of missed defects to the of the image that may be altered. SNR. nor practical in most indications. Qualifier images are acquired the image provided they do not mask or be corrected and must remain in the and evaluated at a prescribed frequency. within most software platforms. Digital Detector Arrays (ASTM. Most users apply the and possible reductions in usable field processing techniques than can be applied: core image quality tests. and by using of view. upper and lower considerations are all about management. The performance Avoiding imaging within the area of long scale. documented. Any digital image is a matrix of pixels. Line or pixels within the device upon manufacture. 2010b). There are many different pixel distribution. obscure an area of interest. 2014). Any image processing a prescribed baseline period. DDA bad pixel and CKP spatial filters. bad lines most often verified by the use of a qualifier of interest for SNR/CNR measurements or segments (columns or rows). predetermined intervals or as necessary.27 mm (0. window/level adjustments. Duplex plate phantom—used for digital detector array system stability measurements. due to these purposes. and attributes can be analyzed DDAs have bad pixels. to render resolution. Not unlike any nondestructive testing process. Annotation tools are correctable by interpolation within the the automated inspection environment. and their image. regions Connected bad pixels or clusters. and electronic magnification (zoom) being thresholds of ±3σ are determined during through mapping the DDA and evaluating most often utilized. statistical process controls. histograms. providing confidence and value for the user and customer. Bad pixel the bad pixel distribution list.) including duplex Image Attributes and Evaluation wire gage.75 to 0. at and controlled—it could be said that there pixels that are outside of a specific standard. distribution includes mapping and listing for importantly the presence of CKPs. each pixel having a relative value and X.05 in. The is a viewing technique as well as an imaging as defined within ASTM E 2597. contrast sensitivity. If the qualifier does not present the required level of image quality. Standard DDA system user or agent should evaluate technique due to the variety of tools at the Practice for Manufacturing Characteristics of the bad pixel map and distribution list of technician’s disposal. those bad pixels without It is not necessary. considered image artifacts. and most techniques must be validated. to include an IQI within each image an overlay. and are therefore usually at a minimum of once per shift as experience. The user must assess the reprocessing risk and possible burden associated with qualifier frequency and application. burn-in. or image capture of a specific or local image processing. and these images of image evaluation activities. practices for process controls must demonstrate system repeatability and reliability. and can either be saved as enough good neighbors (five minimum cases. an escalation of these the end user or customer. lag. Ti6Al4V titanium alloy 19 to 1. acquired DDA image. being of very (ASTM. Y coordinate address (where X = column ASTM E 2737. qualify all acquired images to the previous qualifier. and scripted work instructions. Depending determined by the user and approved by complement the accuracy and consistency on the application. Ongoing production image quality is area profiles. Most of these pixels in the DDA are other) at a prescribed frequency. linear measurements. and bad reprogramming for test article positioning human vision. Image discontinuities. All the purchased DDA upon system buyoff features. TNT · July 2016 · 5 . offset. Figure 5. acceptable practice but normally involves discontinuity or feature visibility with signal levels. The requisite as a process control mechanism point that DDA replacement is necessary. presence within a DDA will increase over quality indicator (conventional IQIs or and other implements are available for time. Training and production image.

ASTM International. be realized with proper understanding. and user grade monochrome displays are incorporated or in conjunction with. New planning. Inc. 2014. training should be administered by an liquid crystal display (LCD) or LCD/light. 2010. contrast performance of the display Starting from scratch would require ASTM. medium to high resolution. performance. vendor demonstrations. instructor. Digital viewing environment. ASTM The digital image viewing ambient qualification and certification for the DDA International. is presented and evaluated for spatial appropriate. and may be required by the Detector Arrays. but may not be limited to. Formal training is required.. Pennsylvania. and measured end user or customer. images has proven to be much more West Conshohocken. and “pigeon hole” casting carrier The digital image display should be a high training/experience (OJT/OJE). A video test pattern. identical to those of radiographic film ASTM. so initially. OJT or OJE. performance. requirement and application emitting diode type. An audition period Society of Motion Picture and Television or secondary review of a newly certified REFERENCES Engineers’ SMPTE RP-133 or an approved DDA Level 2’s image evaluation is often ASTM. NDT Training. visible contrast. digital driving level (full white) is warranted. 15. SMPTE.. h High luminance (brightness). Pennsylvania. Consulting technicians and Level 3s for this new instead of during or after. Standard Practice for Manufacturing Characteristics of Digital variant. Technicians can then be ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Figure 7 was provided by X-R-I Testing. Conshohocken. and implementation (Figure 7). consistent. 2010a. Troy. and Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions. 3 . efficiency. as measured in delivered under structured planning and candelas per square meter (cd/m2) at 100% documentation. higher POD and disposition accuracy.FOCUS | Digital Radiography in Industry is the revision of the user’s written practice for qualification and certification of DDA personnel. West Conshohocken. medical savvy instructor. DDA system design and application studies. or outside Figure 7. fully qualified by examinations as required Michigan. Experience should be accumulated under supervision or guidance of an examiner. investment and investments for DDA system users can Cameras. The formal (right).kraai@ approach can facilitate the process xrayindustries. Georgia. most often the subsequently certified. Personnel Qualification Potential users must decide if outside AUTHOR Potential users of DDA systems also assistance is necessary—at the beginning Brad Kraai: X-Ray Industries. experienced. and should occur prior to. York. ASTM E 2737. ergonomic and less rigorous throughput. contrast. Most users are making the transition from film-based radiography. agency. to promote high visible and quantified by the employer’s written practice and Suwanee. OJT/OJE should be well organized and of providing. Specifications for than hard copy image handling and Medical Diagnostic Imaging Test Pattern for viewing. Full automated digital detector Figure 6. No.. Television Engineers. ASTM E 2736. but the evaluation of soft copy Conclusion Digital Detector Array Performance Evaluation Increased radiographic inspection and Long-term Stability. Typically. the radiographic testing (RT) Level 3 must be considered for DDA Level 3. SMPTE RP-133. a similar regimen as film radiographer Digital Detector Array Radiology. imaging process—the beginning of which 6 · Vol. The satisfaction that DDA systems are capable into the DDA system viewing workstation. fully articulating robot and gripper and the required hours of on-the-job (top). 1999). and technical conferences. Society of Motion Picture and contentment (Figure 6). e-mail brad. White Plains. Pennsylvania. ASTM E 2597. West precision. Standard Practice for viewing. This proactive & Services Group. 200 µm amorphous silicon DDA Level 2 begins with 40 h of formal training (center). 1999. environment requirements are basically Level 2. Standard Guide for (SMPTE. and any experience gained toward qualification includes. Inc. an have the challenge of fully qualifying of the DDA system selection process— Applus RTD Co. ASTM International. RT Level 2 promotion to DDA array (DDA) system: 225 kVp µ-focus tube (left). reduction in consumable costs. resulting in higher levels of and the anticipated solid return on Television Monitors and Hardcopy Recording technician confidence.