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X-ray Generator: Parts and Designs

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Have you ever wondered what internal components make up the X-ray generator?

The X-ray generator is an important part of the X-ray machine in that it supplies the power required to produce the X-ray energy. However, the X-ray generator cannot influence the X-ray tube appropriately without the collaboration of its internal parts. Though, these internal parts are not often visible without prying the X-ray generator open, yet they are critical parts that you should be aware of. But that’s not all. You may also want to identify their individual functions for different reasons including troubleshooting when there is a breakdown.

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


I. Parts of the X-ray Generator 

For starters, X-ray generators vary in capacity and in power production efficiency. However, the core parts responsible for the generation of power to the X-ray machine are mostly the same in functions. These parts and their functions are highlighted below.

  • Transformers – The essential function of a transformer is to convert high voltages to the required voltage which is often lower for a device and to convert lower voltages to higher ones as required by component design. Likewise for an X-ray generator, the transformer helps to reduce the level of a high voltage to the required voltage necessary for the X-ray tube to generate the X-ray radiation needed for specific X-ray inspection. 

The importance of an X-ray transformer cannot be overemphasized seeing that it helps to preserve the X-ray tube. For instance, if a high voltage is released to the X-ray tube without a device like the transformer to regulate this voltage, it might permanently damage the X-ray tube and the X-ray machine will need a replacement for the X-ray tube to produce the X-ray radiation for material inspection.

  • Diodes and Rectifier Circuits – These devices help to maintain the polarity of the cathode and anode using diversion and rerouting technique to divert the flow of electrons from multiple paths circuit to a single route. They can perform this role for the X-ray generator circuit without reference to the polarity of the waveform. The rectifier circuit and diodes are important parts of the X-ray generator due to their ability to keep the integrity of the cathode and anode intact during the production of electrons. Without these devices in the X-ray generators there is the possibility of confusion in the low path of electrons and the result can be damage to the cathode or anode or both. 
  • Filament and Stator Circuits – The filament circuit and the stator circuits are both responsible for connecting current through a line that extends from a step-down transformer to the focal point filament attached to the cathode in the X-ray tube.

This connection ensures that current passes through to the designated filament and it generates electrons through a process known as thermionic emission. Usually, the resistance of the filament to the voltage causes a buildup of heat that causes the release of electrons. Additionally, the amount of heat generated depends on the voltage released and consequently the amount of electrons released.   


II. Designs of X-ray Generator

Advancements in X-ray design and manufacture has brought about very efficient devices and products that has made quality control more accessible and has made the results generated more accurate. Likewise, this development has also impacted the manufacture of X-ray generators providing various options that ensure accuracy for specific X-ray inspection possibilities. Here are the various types of X-ray generators designed to meet specific requirements for various circumstances.  

  • Single-Phase – The single-phase generator is based on the type of input power it receives. Unlike other X-ray generators including the three-phase generators, the single-phase generator receives an AC (Alternating Current) from a single-phase source. The circuit has two parts the primary and secondary halves which are also known as the low-voltage and the high-voltage parts respectively. Essentially, the primary side contains specific components including autotransformer, line voltage kilovolt selector, compensator, focal spot selector, kilovolt meter, filament transformer, and exposure switch. However, what you have on the secondary side are the high-voltage and filament transformers which isolates the secondary side from the primary side. 
  • Three-Phase – This X-ray generator is also based on its input power which is a three-phase AC (alternating Current) input which typically are three separate supply lines from the power grid. While these separate input lines are the same for amplitude and frequency, they are very different in phase when it comes to waveforms of the AC current. The three input lines have a phase difference of 0, 120, and 360 degrees for the first, second, and third input lines respectively.  The combination of these lines often causes a significant reduction in voltage variation at the output end. The important benefit of the three-phase X-ray generator is the increased efficiency it offers as it can achieve the designed X-ray production for an X-ray tube seeing that the peak voltage and the applied voltage during exposure is quite close. 
  • High-Frequency – With its ability to convert low-frequency and low voltage input to a waveform with high-frequency and low-voltage, the high-frequency generator has become the preferred X-ray generator for most X-ray professionals in the industry.

After being available for more than 15 years in the market, the high frequency X-ray generator has seen various improvements and technological advances that has made its processes even more precise, intuitive, and accurate. Furthermore, it can function with both single-phase and three-phase power input to produce waveforms with very minimal ripple effects. In all, the high-frequency X-ray generators are very beneficial simply because they are very effective at working with voltage input of various kinds and yet still produce effective X-ray beams with stable waveforms. 

  • Constant Potential – While Constant Potential generators may be bulkier and more complex than both single-phase and three-phased generators they are also more efficient at producing the power required for an X-ray tube to generate the desired energy. Practically, Constant generators get their name from their capacity to generate high-voltage waveforms that have no ripple often referenced as constant potential waveforms. Furthermore, this waveform has more preference than other forms as it produces a more effective energy beam with a greater X-ray tube output using its two high-voltage electron tubes which are placed in the secondary circuits. 



In conclusion, X-ray generators are necessities in the X-ray radiation production process seeing that they provide the required power to the X-ray tube which generates the X-ray radiation for the X-ray machine inspection. However, there are different types of X-ray generators, and all have been highlighted in this guide.

Furthermore, the information presented here is to help you make an informed decision whenever you may want to choose an X-ray machine based on its X-ray generator. Also, it is beneficial for troubleshooting in case of any machine breakdown so that you don’t end up wasting precious time. Now that you have this information, what’s your next move?

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