Frost Perspectives

Growth Opportunities in the Industrial CT Systems Market

Apr 25, 2016

c228d7591570f3c1415598c5f9ccc00f.jpgThe global computed tomography (CT) metrology market is at a nascent state of its life cycle in terms of market adoption. CT is progressively recognized as a promising solution for quality control and, therefore, several OEMs and research organizations are currently participating in the added development of CT systems and broadening their application in the market. These systems are largely used for inspection of objects with inaccessible or hidden features. In industrial applications CT has been used for non-destructive analysis of faults and inspection of interior surfaces, or parting surfaces of assembled parts. Compared to Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) or optical measurement systems, CT systems have the unique capability to conduct analysis and measurements of internal and external structures with micrometer precision and capture the unknown outlines of specimens, such as cavities. This is not achievable through optical sensors.

Frost & Sullivan has recently conducted extensive research in the field on CT metrology and its findings indicate that the total CT metrology market reached $85.2 million with 213 unit shipments sold in 2014.  Frost & Sullivan foresees a sustained single digit growth picking up to a 4.9 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the period of 2015–2019. GE Measurement & Control Solutions, YXLON International GmbH, Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology LLC, Nikon Metrology, Inc., and Werth Inc, Wenzel and North Star Imaging are the top leading participants in the global CT dimensional metrology market in terms of market share.  Research also indicates that the European region continues to dominate the CT metrology market. In 2014, 51.2 percent of total revenue was generated in Europe, while the largest adopters of CT metrology solutions were Germany, Japan, and the United States.

Major opportunities are still coming principally from industries such as the automotive segment followed by medical and aerospace industry. The automotive segment in particular held the largest market share at 52.8 percent in 2014. A key area of development in the automotive industry for CT manufacturers would be to engineer application specific CT systems that can effectively scan parts and internal structures of components such as plastic injection parts.

Strong revenue opportunities exist in the research and development side of the medical industry. The medical market has traditionally been considerably concerned about quality control issues, particularly when it comes to medical devices and surgical equipment. One large application in the medical industry is the inspection of fibroin plastics.

The requirements in terms of precision and reliability of more complex parts required under high temperature in the aerospace industry are extremely high and therefore, technologies such as 3D X-ray inspection will find an increasing breadth of applications. Opportunities will be based on turbine blade sizes and customers looking for systems that enable inspection of large components in a single run. The focus will be the production environment. Many companies provide general purpose CT systems which are only applicable to low-density materials for aerospace turbine blades. In the automotive industry, companies work with aluminum and plastics.

However, in the aerospace industry, leading companies need to build their current capabilities to support nickel-based superalloys.
Finally, new growth opportunities will come from the scrutiny of printed circuit boards and micro-machined parts. Due to the miniaturization of electronics, the connectors are becoming smaller and highly integrated. The electronics industry will benefit enormously from CT technology for supporting the required interfaces.

Key End User Requirements

  • Improved Accuracy and Image Quality:  Measurement uncertainty is often unknown. There are some companies that do not specify the accuracy on their product details. This is critical for quicker process optimization, rapid testing, rapid scanning speed, and reduction of rejected rate and deviation in serial inspection.
  • Inspection of Multi-material Components: There is a need of developing CT systems that support multi-material complexity. In the automotive industry, for example, CT scanning providers work principally with aluminum and plastics, whereas in the aerospace companies work with nickel based superalloy. There are a number of new fields like carbon fiber–reinforced plastic where there is not a complete quality assurance within the process. In combination with high density materials support analysis, leading companies need to ensure the high speed of scanning process, high quality image, and accurate evaluation analysis.
  • Inspection of Large Components: Industries such as aerospace need systems that would enable measuring and inspection of larger components in a single run. The capability to conduct inspection of larger parts is becoming a key requirement from end users. North Star Imaging has released its x7000 system with a maximum inspection area of 3050 x 2030 (DxH) mm.
  • Automated Workflow: There is a need for CT solutions that can combine high degree of automation with high degree of accuracy. Research indicates that human interference can impact the accuracy of results. Leading companies are focusing on reducing the operator influence and increasing the repeatability of CT results. End users require precise data and automated inspection with a defined workflow for identifying the part, initiating the CT scanning process, acquiring data, and verifying results. There is a need to set up and program all variables through software development in order to allow the automatic execution of a part analysis including the full scan, reconstruction process, 3D failure analysis, and final check of results.
  • Improved Speeds: There is a need for CT solutions that can combine high scanning speed, fast data acquisition, and fast evaluation.  There is also a need to generate first-part inspection reports in less than 1 hour.
  • Improved Throughput Time: There is a growing demand for improvement in throughput so that the examination procedure can keep pace with manufacturing operations Companies are still limited by throughput time in production applications. The technology still needs to be developed.

Future Development Areas

For leading CT systems, the scanning process, and reconstruction of the image take 30 to 45 minutes depending on resolution requirements. Reconstruction itself takes, on average, about 15 minutes and can be less depending on the data set and complexity.

Future development trends are in the process of achieving:

  • Improved measurement resolution
  • Reduced measuring and cycle time for scanning, reconstruction, and analysis
  • Increasing focus on micro-focus tubes and increasing manufacturing
  • Part handling and analysis of larger parts
  • Improved comprehension and integration in the production process
  • CT systems will be used to have more precise and real 3-D data in order to fit CT technology into the inline inspection.

Last Words

CT systems will change the metrology industry for two main reasons: the speed of the scanning activity and the accuracy that is achievable with CT systems. Accuracy will be more effective than competing technologies. There is a clear need for solutions that can enable the inspection of objects with complex inner and outer structures. However, with technical limitations still persisting and the high-cost of CT systems, the adoption is expected to be limited to certain application areas. The industry will work together and overcome some of these technical challenges to revolutionize the dimensional metrology space capturing market share or replacing conventional technologies, such as coordinate measuring machines and other 3-D scanners. Measurement and inspection technology in the future will be largely dependent on the form and size of parts. As technology evolves, the capabilities of CT metrology equipment will provide manufacturers not only a means of inspection, but also valuable insights into the production process, primarily for lightweight castings, aluminium, and magnesium parts with more repeatable part analyses that will lead to higher quality at lower costs. This will be a major focus area for CT system sales, especially in North America.

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