Industrial 3D X-ray microscopy allows extraordinary detail to be revealed in microstructures


3D X-ray microscopy (XRM) is a non-destructive imaging technique that provides internal three-dimensional (3D) information in extraordinary detail for specimens, samples, equipment and parts.

It encompasses a range of length scales, down to the submicron scale, and generates manipulable data, enabling quantitative analysis of 3D microstructures that it would not be possible to visualise using standard X-ray tomography or microfocus X-ray.

This ability to deliver high resolution and contrast in three dimensions means that previously unseen features and flaws can be revealed in millimetres down to micrometres, as well as offering the opportunity to study samples in situ to examine how a microstructure changes over time, known as four-dimensional (4D) imaging.

As a result of these attributes, XRM is highly relevant to a number of industries – including oil and gas, aerospace, medical and electronics – because it is a flexible, in-depth analysis process that provides highly precise information.

TWI offers a bespoke 3D X-ray microscopy service managed by non-destructive testing experts who bring a wide range of practical experience across many sectors to clients’ projects, and use the latest state-of-the-art equipment for scanning, inspection, analysis and interpretation.

Applications include:

  • Characterisation of materials included additive manufactured
  • Observing the mechanics and performance of fractures in-situ
  • Inspection of ceramics, plastics, including weld samples, and metal deposition
  • Investigation of components, filters, metal joints, nozzles, polymer fibres, powders and more
  • 4D / time-dependent tensile compression studies with temperature control / variation
  • Failure analysis and package construction analysis
  • Optimisation of manufacturing processes
  • Proof of concept demonstration

TWI uses superior, submicron X-ray imaging output data which is produced and manipulated in-house using the Zeiss Xradia Versa 520.  This first-of-its-kind, compositional contrast system has a true spatial resolution of 0.7μm and a minimum voxel size of 70nm.  Other high specification features include:

  • Accuracy to 160kV transmission nano-focus X-ray source
  • Industry-best resolution and contrast
  • Wide field mode and vertical stitching
  • High-aspect-ratio tomography (HART) mode for flat samples
  • Non-destructive interior tomography

Dorothee Panggabean, Project Leader in the Non-destructive Testing expanded on the service offered by TWI saying ‘The flexibility of 3D X-ray microscopy means that we have been able to provide assistance to clients such as batch scanning of components, confirmation of flaw location and/or issue in parts, assessment of fabrication efficiency between different manufacturing machines, and enhancement of the customer’s own X-ray capacity to enable more detailed assessment and prognosis.’

For more information about TWI’s 3D X-ray microscopy (XRM) services or to discuss your requirements, please contact: E or T +44 (0) 1223 899000.


TWI is a world leading research and technology organisation with a focus on materials, engineering and manufacturing.