This process is designed to estimate the thickness change of a material through data analysis of a digitized version of an xray (or a digital x-ray) containing the material (with the thickness in question) and various tooling. Using this process, it is possible to estimate a material’s thickness change in a region of the material or part that is thinner than the rest of the reference thickness. However, that same principle process can be used to determine the thickness change of material using a thinner region to determine thickening, or it can be used to develop contour plots of an entire part.

Proper tooling must be used. An x-ray film with an S-shaped characteristic curve or a digital x-ray device with a product resulting in like characteristics is necessary. If a film exists with linear characteristics, this type of film would be ideal; however, at the time of this reporting, no such film has been known. Machined components (with known fractional thicknesses) of a like material (similar density) to that of the material to be measured are necessary.

The machined components should have machined through-holes. For ease of use and better accuracy, the throughholes should be a size larger than 0.125 in. (≈3 mm). Standard components for this use are known as penetrameters or image quality indicators. Also needed is standard x-ray equipment, if film is used in place of digital equipment, or x-ray digitization equipment with proven conversion properties. Typical x-ray digitization equipment is commonly used in the medical industry, and creates digital images of x-rays in DICOM format. It is recommended to scan the image in a 16- bit format. However, 12-bit and 8-bit resolutions are acceptable. Finally, x-ray analysis software that allows accurate digital image density calculations, such as Image-J freeware, is needed.

The actual procedure requires the test article to be placed on the raw x-ray, ensuring the region of interest is aligned for perpendicular x-ray exposure capture. One or multiple machined components of like material/density with known thicknesses are placed atop the part (preferably in a region of nominal and non-varying thickness) such that exposure of the combined part and machined component lay-up is captured on the x-ray. Depending on the accuracy required, the machined component’s thickness must be carefully chosen. Similarly, depending on the accuracy required, the lay-up must be exposed such that the regions of the x-ray to be analyzed have a density range between 1 and 4.5. After the exposure, the image is digitized, and the digital image can then be analyzed using the image analysis software.

This work was done by David Grau of Kennedy Space Center. KSC-13206

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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