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​​Common Causes of X-ray Tube Failure

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Do you ever ask yourself what common cause of failure you need to watch out for in an X-ray tube? 

X-ray tubes are essential to the X-ray machine, and the accuracy of the inspection result is obtained using an X-ray machine. However, like most components in a machine, an X-ray tube sometimes experiences failure, and it must be repaired or even replaced. 

The thing is, the causes of these failures are sometimes unknown until a technician comes to fix them and then relates the cause of the failure. One thing is sure there are common causes of X-ray tube failures that individuals in the X-ray individuals should know about. Ultimately, it helps to troubleshoot X-ray machine breakdowns and reduce the cost of calling in a technician to repair simple failures.

So, if you are ready to know more, then let’s dive in together.


I. What is an X-ray Tube Failure?

Failures occur every now and then for an X-ray tube but what constitutes an X-ray tube failure is anything that disrupts the X-ray tube from working optimally or even working at all. Generally, some of these failures range from a temporary breakdown of the X-ray tube, which will require the X-ray tube to cool down before resuming the operation at the optimal level. 

However, some failures can result in a permanent shutdown of the whole X-ray machine and will often require the services of an X-ray technician to come in and replace the failed component before the X-ray machine can continue working at optimum. Ultimately, timely maintenance can prevent some failures. At the same time, a quick replacement is always the best way to fix some failures so that it doesn’t affect another component or result in another related failure. 


X-ray Tube Failure


II. Factors that Causes X-ray Tube Failure

Various factors are responsible for causing X-ray tube failures, yet some of these factors are avoidable with only preventive maintenance. For instance, a factor that can cause the failure of an X-ray tube is extremely high voltage. Exposing the filament and other internal components of the X-ray tube can cause extreme heat within the housing of an X-ray tube leading to the melting of the tungsten material of the anode disc. These melted particles can interfere with the vacuum integrity within the X-ray tube, leading to its failure.

The aging of the X-ray tube components is another factor responsible for the failure of the X-ray tube as old parts do not operate at their optimum level and, if left unreplaced, can lead to the failure of the X-ray tube.

Rough handling or carelessness of X-ray machine personnel can cause defects like cracks in the housing of the X-ray tube, which allows dirt and particles to interfere with the vacuum integrity within the X-ray tube, which eventually leads to the X-ray tube failure.

Other factors responsible for failure in the X-ray tube include excessive heat generation, poor cooling system, and discounting the manufacturer’s instructions in the user manual. 


III. What are the Common X-ray Tube Faults?

While some factors can be responsible for X-ray tube failures, many can occur because of these factors. However, only a handful of these failures are common faults. Here are some of the most common X-ray tube failures you might likely experience. 


  • Cathode Failure

Cathode failure can occur as a result of extensive heating of the filament. When current is passed to the filament for an extended period without an effective cooling system or intermittent break-in operation to allow the X-ray tube to cool down, this often results in a cathode failure. Also, when a filament is repeatedly exposed to current for a prolonged period, this generally leads to the thinning of the filament, reducing its durability and making it vulnerable to cracks and breakages. 

  • Anode Failure

Anode failure can occur when excessive heat is generated during the X-ray generating process without adequate cooling. This heat can melt the anode material causing the introduction of gases within the X-ray tube housing, which can interfere with the vacuum integrity of the X-ray tube. Also, this melting damage often leads to unrestrained X-ray production and excessive vibrations of the rotor. Excessive vibration in the rotor is the leading cause of anode stem cracks as an anode disc imbalance. 


Anode Failure of X-ray Tube 

  • X-ray Tube Filament Failure

A prolonged release of current to the X-ray tube filament can cause excessive heat that can cause vaporization in the filament, leading to inefficient X-rays production. Likewise, excessive heating can cause a thinning and breakage of the filament, which causes no exposure to take place. 

  • Other Faults

Other X-ray tube failures can be caused by manufacturing, and they range from vacuum leaks to excessive vibrations and excessive operation noise. These are often caused by manufacturing errors like defective tube manufacture, unstable voltage supply component, faulty bearings, etc.

Furthermore, failures like filament failures that reduce the electrons’ output can be caused by a mismatch of the X-ray tube to the required examination due to poor material analysis or the inspection objective. Similarly, magnetic hysteresis is a failure often caused by subjecting magnetic components of the X-ray tube to magnetic materials.  


IV. How do you Prolong X-ray Tube Life?

Prolonging the life of your X-ray tube only takes careful consideration of factors that cause X-ray tube failures and taking necessary steps to eliminate these factors. However, an excellent periodic maintenance routine takes care of most of these factors and ensures that your X-ray tube functions for a long time. 

Some of these practices include warming up the anode for a while before the actual exposure. The reason is that a sudden exposure without preheating the X-ray machine can lead to thermal shock and can cause anode failure. 

Also, it is essential always to keep the X-ray tube clean, especially the window, as this is the point of release for the radiation. An unclean window can interfere with the exposure causing accumulation of gasses within the housing. One other good maintenance practice that helps increase the lifespan of an X-ray tube is following rating charts and anode cooling curves. The manufacturers provide these charts and ensure that the anode is not heated beyond acceptable heat ranges. 

Additionally, ensuring that the X-ray tube is handled with care and awareness helps avoid cracks on the housing and internal components of the X-ray tube. These cracks are significant causes of X-ray tube failures, and avoiding them at all costs prolongs the lifespan of your X-ray tube.



In conclusion, many factors can lead to the failure of X-ray tubes. Knowing these factors will enable you to avoid a temporary breakdown or a permanent disrepair situation that might cost a lot to repair or replace a faulty component.

Nonetheless, carrying out regular and timely maintenance routines can help tremendously reduce the occurrence of X-ray tube failures that often lead to loss of production time and significant repair costs. Also, avoiding X-ray tube failures ensures that the accuracy of the inspection result is very high, and the X-ray tube continues to work for a long time to come.  

Now that you have this information, the ball is in your court. What is your next move knowing that its application becomes critical. 

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