Precisely measuring and validating parts made from low-density materials such as plastic can be tricky and time-consuming. For example, silicone parts readily bend and flex, leading to inaccuracies. Fixturing, the traditional solution to immobilize and align parts for measurement, is a lengthy process involving engineering, construction and validation of the custom fixture. Another common challenge is inspecting a broken inhaler or other device for internal problems. It can be daunting, or even impossible, to correctly disassemble or precisely cut through the device. Still another issue is validation of micro-molded parts, which often calls for high-magnification microscopic measurements.

Although many designers and manufacturers rely on any or all of three traditional methods—laser scanning, coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) and optical metrology—these technologies come with significant drawbacks. Three-dimensional (3-D) X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning, or metrotomography, addresses these deficiencies and provides a complete solution for industrial metrology and for validation of products made from plastics. This article provides a brief overview of all these technologies and describes the advantages of 3-D X-ray CT scanning in several use cases, including speed, cost-effectiveness and simplicity.

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