Is this the future of Radiographic testing?


Here at NDT Group, we are always looking for ways to improve the quality of our NDT testing service for our clients. We always want to reduce operational disruption, reduce costs and deliver assurance that equipment is safe. So, we were pleased to be asked to help a manufacturing company when they approached us with a product that could potentially aid us in delivering a even better service to our clients and may well be the future of Radiographic testing.  

Who are Sonatest?

Sonatest are the UK’s leading manufacturer of ultrasonic testing equipment for a range of industries, including the aerospace, petrochemical, chemical, automotive and mining industries. The create a range of ultrasonic products, such as thickness gauges, phased array flaw detectors, and wheel probes. They also provide outstanding ultrasonic equipment sourced from other manufacturers. 

Their proposition

Sonatest is one of our equipment suppliers. We have a long-standing relationship with the company. They recently contacted us, to see if we would be interested in trialling the new HPX and HPX-Pro Computer Radiography systems from Carestream. They were interested in finding out the effectiveness of this equipment. We were more than happy to help. 

Our problem

At the moment, when we complete inspections using radiography we use the traditional method of “wet film”. This means we capture our radiographs on conventional film and then process them through an automatic processor. This takes the film through developer and fixer chemicals and then through a wash and final dry. The process reveals the image, and we are able to assess the integrity of the asset for our client.

These films are a consumable which once used cannot be used again. The chemicals in the processor also need replenishing regularly and the processor itself needs servicing. This obviously creates a huge cost and the used films generate waste. The chemicals themselves can cause harm to the environment if not disposed of properly. As a non-destructive testing company, we go through a lot of these consumables each year.

Sonatest’s Solution

Carestream’s HPX and HPX-Pro Scanners are portable digital radiography systems.

The computer radiography process is similar to wet film methods, in that it captures the image on a “phosphor imaging plate”. But rather than being processed with chemicals, the plate can be scanned into the HPX or HPX-Pro scanner. This image is then sent directly to a laptop or computer and the image can be viewed straight away. Once the plate has been scanned it is wiped clear and can then be reused again. No waste is generated.

HPX-Pro is the smaller, more portable version. It costs less, about £20,000 less, but doesn’t have the same capabilities of the HPX. The films are smaller than those used by the HPX machines.

Digital radiography systems are designed to reduce the number of consumables consumed. Although there is an initial investment required to purchase the equipment, digital technology can potentially reduce running costs and waste as there are no consumables. They also improve the processing time, allowing for more shots to be taken per hour. This can significantly reduce operational disruption.

The Results

We found that the equipment worked really well for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the computer’s radiography image is more sensitive than conventional film; it picked up more detail and the image was clearer. The spatial resolution is 60 µmmeaning you get a much more detailed image on the digital scanner than traditional film. This will help us to pick up on smaller flaws allowing us to give a more accurate assessment of an asset’s longevity and integrity.

Secondly, annotations and text can be added to the image using the computer’s software, which is helpful for highlighting flaws for other technicians to check and communicating important information to the client.

We also found that the system was quick to set up and use. It took about 5/10 minutes to set up and only a minute or so to process the image. The system is fully portable, meaning that we will be able to conduct tests on site. This will reduce operational disruption for our clients, a benefit that they will appreciate and will secure further business for us.

Finally, the images can be stored and shared digitally. This has numerous advantages. For example, we will be able to check back on previous tests to measure any rate of decay within a piece of equipment. We can share information and images with other technicians if we require a second set of eyes to evaluate a flaw. And we will have a database record of work undertaken which may be useful if a client has queries about any work we have done. All of this can help to further assure our clients that their equipment is safe. We can give a more thorough service with the HPX and HPX-Pro Scanner.


"We see the move from wet film to digital radiography systems as a good thing for our industry and we were delighted to be able to give such strong feedback about the HPX and HPX-Pro Scanner to Sonatest. We highly recommend this product." Matthew Conway, MD NDT Group

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