A CT scan (Computed tomography) is a very well known in medical field – it produces cross-sectional images of desired areas of the body, allowing for accurate diagnosis. However, it has other uses as well. For example, Spanish car manufacturer SEAT employs this technology to verify the condition of the materials.
Cars are very complex engineered structures, constructed of millions of different pieces. There are so many different materials involved and they are subjected to different levels of wear and stress. However, even a small imperfection, less than ideal choice of material of shape may result in a big problem, deeming quality of the car sub-par. Therefore, it is not that big of a surprise that such manufacturers as SEAT employ technique usually seen in medical applications. For example, alloy wheels are meticulously tested using CT scans and X-rays.
In fact, it even looks like a medical procedure. People are wearing lab coats and are handling objects very carefully. The goal is to make sure that each and every part of the car is made of the ideal material, which will last for a long time, without giving headache to the driver of the car. In the case of the wheel, it is important that the metal itself has very compact and tight structure. David Patiño, materials engineer at SEAT, explained: “Not many people are aware of the fact that a single tiny pore only half a millimetre across can cause a dent on this wheel if the driver runs into a kerb. Here we make sure that won’t happen”.
Of course, not only wheels can be tested. In fact, a million CT scans and X-rays are carried out every year in SEAT. Metal components are verified as well as sets of electronic objects. The devices produce 3D images and crossections, allowing close examination of the object. However, engineers must have some safety equipment as well – they are carrying personal dosimeters, which would warn them about exposure to harmful radiation. There are other safety precautions as well.
If every component of the car is that closely examined one can be sure that the car is the highest quality possible. These exams also provide useful information, which aids SEAT engineers in choosing materials for future car models.