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How Does an X-Ray Machine Work?

In this blog post, you’ll read:Are you planning to buy an X-ray machine? This is among the most advanced equipment that you can use in your industry. But before you buy one, it is critical to know how it operates to deliver the desired results. This guide aims to enlighten you about the working principle of a typical X-Ray machine.

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bag x ray machine


Are you planning to buy an X-ray machine? This is among the most advanced equipment that you can use in your industry. But before you buy one, it is critical to know how it operates to deliver the desired results. This guide aims to enlighten you about the working principle of a typical X-Ray machine.


What is an X-Ray Machine?

An X-ray machine is a device that emits an X-ray. So, what are these X-rays? We can define X-rays as beams of visible light rays that carry some energy level along with them. The rays contain photons that have energy.

The X-ray photons are produced due to the constant movement of the electrons in the atoms. Keep in mind that the electrons have different energy levels and are positioned around the nucleus. As the electron moves towards the nucleus, it will release some energy which will be released in the form of photons. The level of energy released will depend on how far the electron is from the photons.

On the other hand, the human body contains atoms that are capable of absorbing photons. Also, the photon energy levels in the body keep varying. The levels may match with the photons that are coming from the X-ray atoms.

Also, the X-rays can penetrate through thick objects, including the human skin. This is a key feature that differentiates X-ray from radio waves.


History of X-Ray Machine

Similarly, as with a considerable lot of humankind’s great revelations, X-ray innovation was designed unintentionally. In 1895, a German physicist named Wilhelm Roentgen made this great innovation while trying different electron radiates in a gas release tube. Roentgen saw that a fluorescent screen in his lab began to gleam when the electron bar was turned on.

This reaction in itself wasn’t so incredible – fluorescent material ordinarily shines in response to electromagnetic radiation – yet Roentgen’s cylinder was encircled by heavy dark cardboard. Roentgen accepted this would have impeded the majority of the radiation.

Roentgen’s remarkable discovery accelerated perhaps the main medical headways in humankind’s set of innovations in this field. X-ray innovation allows specialists to see straight through human tissue to inspect broken bones, bores, cavities, and gulped objects effortlessly.

An array of X-ray methods can be utilized to examine different parts of the body system. These include including lungs, digestive system, heart, and even blood vessels, among others.


The Working Principle of X-Ray Machine

X-ray machines use these two main working principles:



Electromagnetism is based on the fact that X-rays are categorized as a type of electromagnetic radiation. Other similar radiations include microwaves and radio waves.


The electromagnetic rays contain powerful photons and are unidirectional. This implies that they can be controlled to travel in a specific direction. The photons due to electromagnetism are powerful enough to penetrate through obstacles. They also have a high range of wavelengths.

Radiation, on the other hand, is all about the transfer of electrons from one plate to another through space. In the case of X-rays, they are transferred from cathode to anode in a vacuum tube.

X-ray machine provides ideal conditions for the radiation. It ensures that the rays are transmitted at a high frequency. On the other hand, the device gives you the power to regulate the frequency and intensity of the radiation.

The good thing about  X-ray machines is they allow you to control and regulate the above performance parameters. You can control the intensity of the radiation to the desired level.


Main Parts of the X-Ray Machines

The main components of an X-ray machine are:

  • X-ray  tube
  • High voltage generator
  • Control panel
  • Cooling system

Each of these components plays an essential role in the overall functioning and performance of the X-ray machine. Let’s look at each of the listed part and what it does;


X-ray tube

X-ray tube


This is basically a cathode filament tube that is heated with voltage to release the electrons. When connected to the power source, the filament will attain some heat to emit electrons. This marks the start of the X-ray machine operation.

As the electrons break free from the filament, they will get attracted to the anode. This ends up creating what is known as the tube filament. This explains why X-ray tubes are usually rated in terms of the electric tube current measured in milliamps.

You can control the current in the X-ray tube using the control console. It will alter the voltage at the cathode. The higher the temperature at the cathode, the more the electrons will be released.

You can also use the control console to regulate the temperature of the filament. These control features eventually end up determining the output intensity of the X-ray machine.

Key components that are found in the internal components are;

-Cathode: The function of the cathode is to facilitate thermionic emission in the tube. This process is defined as the release of electrons due to the effects of heat.

-Anode: The anode is the opposite of the cathode. It receives electrons that have been released from the cathode as a result of the thermionic emission.

 Take note that the tube is vacuumed, so there is no interference to the flow of the electrons.


 Related Article: X-Ray Tube Type

 Related Article: X-Ray Tube Part

 Related Article: X-Ray Tube Working Principle And Its Construction


High voltage generator

High voltage generator

This is the part responsible for generating voltage between the cathode and the anode of the X-ray machine. It has a direct impact on the speed and intensity at which the electrons hit the anode.

The higher the voltage released from the generator, the higher the speed of the electrons hence the high energy and intensity.  The high energy of the electrons also means that there will be better penetration through the obstacles.

The capacity of the voltage generator is measured in kilovolts (kV). Of course, you can also control the output of this component by using the control console.


 Related Article: High Voltage Generator: Definition And Function

 Related Article: X-Ray Generator: Parts And Designs


X-ray machine cooling system

X-ray machine cooling system

The working mechanism of the X-ray machine entails the generation of heat. The electrons heat the anode. The focal point of the filament ends up becoming hot while transmitting the directed beams or rays.

It will always be necessary to cool down the anode, which is the cooling system’s primary role. It contains a coolant (which, in most cases water or oil) to lower the temperature of the anode.

 Heat control is an essential feature as it protects the anode from burning. It also minimizes the flow of electrons between the cathode and the anode.


X-ray machine control console

X-ray machine control console

This is a critical component that gives you the power to determine the output of the X-ray machine. It also acts as a point of interface between the operator and the X-ray machine.

The control panel of an X-ray machine lets you control various performance parameters of the device. One of them is the operating voltage in the tube filament. Another critical parameter is the tube amperage.

Modern X-ray machines come with digital control consoles, which are more convenient when executing different actions. Some have buttons, while others have touchpads.


High voltage detector and transformer

It all starts with the supply of the voltage to the cathode side of the X-ray machine.   A high voltage transformer is connected to the machine, and it can supply up to 200 kV of electricity. You can adjust the voltage supply depending on the quality of the image that you would like to obtain from the machine.

From the transformer, there is a high voltage rectifier. As the name suggests, the primary function of the rectifier is to filter and regulate the amount of voltage channeled to the cathode.


Thermal regulator

Thermal regulator

An X-ray machine also has a thermal overload detector.  It plays the role of thermal regulation.  AS certain intensity of heat must be conveyed to the tube for maximum performance. The thermal load detector will shut off the system if it detects the heat exceeds the recommended amount.

A rotor control is positioned at the anode, and its work is to rotate the anode plate. This way, it minimizes the impact of the electron rays at one spot of the plate. This also helps to regulate the heating impact on the anode to an extent.


Aluminum filter

Aluminum filter

The work of the aluminum filter is to regulate and filter the frequency that is coming from the tube to the target object. Usually, not all the frequency is the best or of good quality.   They are usually referred to as unwanted frequency from the machine.

The unwanted frequency is capable of causing severe damage to the target patient or even objects in cases where the X-ray machine is used for purposes other than medicinal.




This is another device on the X-ray machine that plays the role of frequency regulation. It is used for confining the rays to one section of the target object. This feature is mainly used in the medical industry as it is used for target imaging.


X-ray machine film

Like in the photography field, the film absorbs the X-rays reflected from the target object. It produces the image that the specialists will use for interpreting a condition or situation.

From the film the X-rays will be transferred to the lead shield.


How the X-Rays are Produced

How the X-Rays are Produced


Since we have seen the key parts of an X-ray machine, you already know how the machine works. It all starts with the production of the X-rays.

The X-rays are produced in a vacuum tube that contains a heater, anode, and cathode. These components are made of high-grade metals that can sustain high temperatures without getting damaged.

Like in any diode tube, the electrons are designed to flow from the cathode to the anode. The cathode is connected to a high-voltage DC electricity source. And a heater.

When you turn the heater on, the current is flowing from a high voltage DC. The electrons will be transmitted from the cathode to the anode at a very high velocity. They strike the anode at the same high voltage, and they are converted to X-rays.

The anode plate metal is designed to capture or receive all the electrons that are transmitted from the cathode. The surface that receives the electrons is slightly slanted. This design also helps to retain the velocity and the energy of the electrons.

The speed and intensity of the electrons transmitted from the cathode to the anode is greatly determined by the DC voltage supply. An increase in the DC voltage reduces the wavelength of the rays and increases the frequency.

The video below gives a clear illustration of how X-rays are generated.



Factors that affect the performance of X-ray machine

X-ray machine


It is easy to rate the performance of X-ray machines. Look at the quality of images and photos that the machine has produced. If the images are of high quality, then it means that the device is operating at the optimum level. On the other hand, low-quality images are a sign of underperformance.

The x-ray performance can be measured by the quality and quantity of the rays. The quantity defines the total volume of the rays that are transmitted by the machine. On the other hand, the quality is defined by the intensity of the beams.

These factors include;

  • Peak voltage
  • Type and specifications of the generator
  • The beam filtration of the X-ray
  • Current supply
  • The exposure time of the x-rays on the object
  • Design of the anode
  • Material for the anode
  • Distance to the object
  • Voltage waveform
  • Beam filtration

Once you take care of these factors, you can be sure of getting the best performance from your X-ray machine.


X-Ray Machines Manufacturer in China: Unixray

Are you in the market looking for the best X-ray machines? Whether they are for medical use, security, or any other application, it is wide to go for the best machine. The X-ray machines should deliver quality images and meet your expectations.

At Unixray, we specialized in manufacturing and supplying reliable X-ray machines in China. For over the years, we have been supplying different types of X-ray machines to our clients globally. Our X-ray machines meet the highest quality standards that are accepted internationally.

As a reputable X-ray machines manufacturer in China, we will work to meet your goals.


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