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  Radiography Testing


Mohammed Hliyil Hafiz, PhD, P.E., 

Metallurgical &Production Department, 

Technology University,  

Baghdad ‐Iraq. 

Historically, radiography is the next most common NDT method. Significant
activity in the field occurred almost immediately after Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays
in 1895 [1].Early literature notes the ability of radiographs to detect discontinuities in
castings, forgings, and welds in metals.
Discontinuities such as pores or inclusions in metals are readily detected in
many cases. Cracks may also be detected using radiographic techniques, but attention
must be paid to orientation and residual stress issues. Radiography continues to be
widely used despite the expense and safety implications of the equipment. Recent
advances in digital radiography have helped reduce the cost of employing this method
by eliminating the use of film.
After visual and optical testing (VT), the next method of nondestructive
testing (NDT) most commonly employed in industry is radiographic testing. Also
simply referred to as radiography, it is perhaps the most versatile of the
nondestructive testing methods.[1] The basic radiographic process in use today is in
large part still the same as it was when it was introduced in the late 1800s.
Radiography uses radiation energy to penetrate solid objects in order to assess
variations in thickness or density. The second part of the process involves capturing a
shadow image of the component being inspected on film using procedures similar to
those that technicians used when the technology was first developed. Identifying
density differences on an X-ray, which indicate flaws or cracks, is still the foundation
of radiographic analysis.

Radiography basically involves the projection and penetration of radiation
energy through the sample being inspected. The radiation energy is absorbed
uniformly by the material or component being inspected except where variations in

thickness or density occurs. The energy not absorbed is passed through to a sensing
medium that captures an image of the radiation pattern. The uniform absorption and
any deviations in uniformity are subsequently captured on the sensing material and
indicate the potential presence of a discontinuity.

3-Image Capturing Media

In simple terms, a radiograph is a photographic record produced by the passage
of X-rays or gamma rays through an object onto a film or other recording medium
(see Figure 1). The developing, fixing and washing of the film after exposure can be
performed manually or by automated processing equipment. The development process
begins after the film is exposed to the radiation and an invisible change called a latent
image develops on the film emulsion.
These exposed areas become dark when the film is placed in a developing
solution. The degree of darkening that occurs during this process depends on the
amount of exposure that occurred. The next step is to place the film into a special bath
and rinse it to stop the development process. Lastly, the film is put into a fixing bath
and then washed to remove the fixer solution. At this point the film is fully developed,
the process is complete and the radiograph is ready to be handled and analyzed.[1]
As the digital world has evolved, a quicker and much more efficient alternative to
the meticulous film development process has also emerged to benefit the radiography
NDT community. Computed radiography, which is described in the related article
entitled “Computed Radiography in the Pacific Northwest: Benefits, Drawbacks
and Requirements”, makes use of an alternative image capturing media and
development process.

Figure 1. Diagram of Typical Radiography Test Setup. [2]


4-Electromagnetic Radiation
Two types of electromagnetic radiation are used to perform radiographic
inspection: X-rays and gamma rays (see Figure 2). The primary distinguishing
characteristic between these two types of radiation is the different wavelengths of the
electromagnetic energy. Compared to other types of radiation both X-rays and gamma
rays have relatively short wavelengths which allows them to penetrate opaque
materials. This inherent capability is what enables their use for nondestructive testing,
as they can reveal flaws embedded in visually non-transparent materials. The advent
of radiography came quickly after the discovery of X-rays because of the penetration
properties of this electromagnetic energy.[3]

Figure 2. Electromagnetic Spectrum Showing X-ray and Gamma Ray Regions.[1]

5-Types of Discontinuities
A number of different types of discontinuities can be detected with radiographic
NDT. Table 1 lists the suitability of traditional radiographic NDT methods for
identifying various types of discontinuities in several applications.

Several critical elements are required to successfully analyze the results of
radiographic testing. Because of differences in density and variations in composition,
different test pieces can absorb varying amounts of radiation and therefore present a
range of results. Technicians and radiologists each require several years of training to
properly set up and administer tests and inspections and to learn how to evaluate and
interpret the results. Also, as the industry continues to develop, some forecasts
suggest that in the future X-rays will be read almost exclusively by computers.
This specific advancement, however, would not necessarily eliminate the high
costs associated with set up tasks, which consumes a significant portion of the total
radiographic inspection time.

Safety is an important issue to consider when evaluating a new process for
implementation, especially one such as radiography that requires the use of radiation.
Several governing bodies, including local and state governments, work together to
closely monitor anyone who works with radiography equipment to ensure that the
highest levels of safety are consistently met.
The licensing and certification process for individuals working with radiography
equipment, which emits radiation, requires both a written examination and an
assessment of specific skills while using the equipment. The primary governing body
that administers the written examination is the American Society of Nondestructive
Testing (ASNT). The practical skills evaluation can be conducted by a variety of
institutions that have approval from ASNT. With successful completion of these

safety requirements, the applicant will be certified as an Industrial Radiography
Radiation Safety Personnel (IRRSP) member. ASNT offers more detailed information
on the entire certification process, including a more specific list of requirements. [4]

There are several factors to take into account when considering the
implementation of a radiographic inspection program. Some of the most important
factors include: cost, density, facility size and logistics. Compared to other
nondestructive testing methods, radiography is expensive. Relatively large costs can
be reduced considerably when portable X-ray or gamma-ray sources are used in film
radiography because this setup only requires space for film processing and analysis.
With real-time radiography, operating costs are usually much lower, because setup
times are shorter and there are no extra costs for processing or interpretation of film.

There are several factors to take into account when considering the
implementation of a radiographic inspection program. Some of the most important
factors include: cost, density, facility size and logistics. Compared to other
nondestructive testing methods, radiography is expensive. Relatively large costs can
be reduced considerably when portable X-ray or gamma-ray sources are used in film
radiography because this setup only requires space for film processing and analysis.
With real-time radiography, operating costs are usually much lower, because setup
times are shorter and there are no extra costs for processing or interpretation of film.

10-Advantages and Disadvantages

Like all other NDT methods, there are several advantages and disadvantages
that factor into deciding where and when radiography is typically applied. In relation
to other commonly used NDT methods, the well-proven method of radiography has
three main advantages: the ability to detect internal flaws, the ability to detect
significant variations in composition, and the ability to establish a permanent record
of raw inspection data. Radiography also presents test results pictorially which can be
much more readily interpreted than numerical data.
In addition, real time radiography offers the ability to rotate a test object during
inspection, which improves detection of both internal and external flaws due to the
ability to find the optimum orientation.
On the negative side, orientation of the sample to be inspected is a key to
successful radiographic inspection and therefore can pose difficulties if the proper
orientation is not found. For example, radiography is not as effective at detecting
flaws that are oriented in a planar direction with respect to the radiation source. Thick
inspection samples are also problematic for radiography methods. Radiation sources
can pose health and safety risks which is another disadvantage of the method.
The tedious film processing requirement of radiography and associated special
facility requirements have traditionally been a distinct disadvantage; however, with
the advent of digital imaging and computed radiography many of these limitations
have been overcome.


In order to meet the constantly changing demands of industry, various new
sources of radiation, such as neutron generators and radioactive isotopes, are
continually being developed. Other ongoing advances also include improved X-ray
films and automatic film processors, as well as improved or specialized radiographic
techniques. However, with today’s technology it is now possible to generate images
of higher quality and sensitivity. The higher quality of radiographic images is
primarily due to improved films that have a wider variety of available grain sizes.
Also, with the addition of computers and other advanced electronic systems to the
process, the advent of digital radiography has proved to be a large advancement
within the industry.
With the use of digital radiography, a radiographic image captured today can
theoretically be preserved forever and sent anywhere in the world almost instantly. In
earlier cases, there had to be concerns with deterioration of the image that no longer
have to be taken into account today. This ability to continually improve the process
has led to growth of radiography into numerous industries. Radiography has seen
expanded use in industry to inspect welds and castings, airbags and canned foods, to
name a few. The area of metallurgical material identification and security systems has
also employed radiography NDT at airports and other facilities with security needs.
[1, 5]

12-Radiography Summary


Radiography is a mature NDT method that can be used to effectively detect
several types of discontinuities embedded within a variety of types of materials and
components. Since the method has been in use for many years, the drawbacks and
shortcomings are well-known. Some of these limitations have been overcome with the
rapid advancement of digital technology. Radiography has continued to evolve by
embracing certain aspects of the digital era, and consequently it has become a more
flexible and viable method for nondestructive evaluation.

The radiation used in radiography testing is a higher energy (shorter wavelength)
version of the electromagnetic waves that we see as visible light. The radiation can
come from an X-ray generator or a radioactive source.

14-2-General Principles of Radiography

• The part is placed between the radiation source and a piece of film. The part
will stop some of the radiation. Thicker and denser area will stop more of the
• The energy of the radiation affects its penetrating power. Higher energy
radiation can penetrate thicker and more dense materials.
• The radiation energy and/or exposure time must be controlled to properly image
the region of interest.
14-3-Flaw Orientation
• X-rays “see” a crack as a thickness variation and the larger the variation, the
easier the crack is to detect.
• When the path of the x-rays is not parallel to a crack, the thickness variation is
less and the crack may not be visible.
• Since the angle between the radiation beam and a crack or other linear defect
is so critical, the orientation of defect must be well known if radiography is
going to be used to perform the inspection.
14-4-Gamma Radiography
• A device called a “camera” is used to store, transport and expose the “pigtail”
containing the radioactive material. The camera contains shielding material
which reduces the radiographer’s exposure to radiation during use.
• A “drive cable”, controlled by the radiographer, is used to force the
radioactive material out into the guide tube where the gamma rays will pass
through the specimen and expose the recording device.
14-5-X-ray Radiography
• X-rays are produced by establishing a very high voltage between two electrodes,
called the anode and cathode.
• To prevent arcing, the anode and cathode are located inside a vacuum tube, which is
protected by a metal housing.
• The cathode contains a small filament much the same as in a light bulb.
• Current is passed through the filament which heats it. The heat causes electrons to
be stripped off.
• The high voltage causes these “free” electrons to be pulled toward a target material
(usually made of tungsten) located in the anode.

• The electrons impact against the target. This impact causes an energy exchange
which causes x-rays to be created.

• Film Radiography, like ordinary black and white film
• Digital Radiography
– Computed Radiography (CR), phosphorus screen, see next slide
– Real-time Radiography (RTR), as CR but with continuous recording, enables the
object to be rotated and immediately see the updated image.
– Direct Radiographic Imaging (DR), also enables real-time studies as RTR, but here
a special detector screen with electronic capacitors is used, similar to CCDs in digital
– Computed Tomography, Multiple 2D images are put together with computer, to
form 3D visualizations. One of the above techniques RTR or DR are used to create
each image.

14-6-Computed Radiography
As a laser scans the imaging plate, light is emitted where X-rays stimulated the
phosphor during exposure. The light is then converted to a digital value.

14-7-Computed Tomography
Computed Tomography (CT) uses a real-time inspection system employing a
sample positioning system and special software.

14-8-First direct 3D visualization of micro structural evolutions

during sintering through X-ray computed microtomography
X-ray computed microtomography is the up to date development of X-ray
tomography, which consists in detecting the residual energy of a beam that passes
through a sample.
The specimen is rotated under the X-ray beam and a large number of
radiographs (projections) are recorded at different angles on the detector
plane. Some reference images are added to control the noise and the homogeneity
of the incident beam.
A typical experiment consisted in recording 900 projection images and
about 100 reference images for correction.

14-9-Image Quality
• Image quality is critical for accurate assessment of a test specimen’s integrity.
• Various tools called Image Quality Indicators (IQIs) are used for this purpose.
• Some IQIs contain artificial holes of varying size drilled in metal plaques while
others are manufactured from wires of differing diameters mounted next to one
• IQIs are typically placed on or next to a test specimen.
• Quality is determined based on the smallest hole or wire diameter that is reproduced
on the image.


14-10-Advantages of Radiography
• Technique is not limited by material type or density.
• Can inspect assembled components.
• Minimum surface preparation required.
• Sensitive to changes in thickness, corrosion, voids, cracks, and material
density changes.
• Detects both surface and subsurface defects.
• Provides a permanent record of the inspection.

14-11-Disadvantages of Radiography
• Many safety precautions for the use of high intensity radiation.
• Many hours of technician training prior to use.
• Access to both sides of sample required.
• Orientation of equipment and flaw can be critical.
• Determining flaw depth is impossible without additional angled
• Expensive initial equipment cost.

[1] R.A. Quinn and C.C. Sigl “Radiography in Modern Industry,” 4th Edition, ,
Eastman Kodak Company, 1980,
[2] Brett J. Ingold “Radiography testing,” The AMMTIAC Quarterly, Volume 2,
Number 2
[3] “Radiographic Inspection,” ASM Metals Handbook, Ninth Edition, Vol. 17,
Nondestructive Evaluation and Quality Control, ASM International Metals Park, OH,
pp. 296-357.
[4] “Industrial Radiography Radiation Safety Personnel,” ASNT Practice No. ASNT-
CP-IRRSP-1A, 2001 Edition, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, http
[5] “Introduction to Radiographic Testing,” NDT Resource Center,