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X-ray Machine Parts and Functions Explained

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How well do you think you understand your x-ray machine parts and their functions? 

Having extensive knowledge of your x-ray machine parts and their functions plays a vital role in the eventual usage of the machinery. Also, repair work is often an issue that can cause the X-ray machine to shut down, even for minor maintenance work. However, some of these minor works could have been prevented by carrying out simple preventive maintenance by the operator. The reason is that many operators don’t know their X-ray machine parts too well. 

However, this guide gives you an in-depth explanation of the significant parts of the X-ray machine, including the functionalities of each component.

So, if you’re ready, let’s dive in together. 


I. X-ray Source / X-ray Generator/ X-ray Tube

To begin with, these three terms are closely related and work together in producing an x-ray beam. The x-ray source, which consists of both the anode (a positively charged electrode) and the cathode (a negatively charged electrode), is better referred to as the x-ray tube. 

The x-ray generator is the component that produces an x-ray when an electrical current is employed. It serves as the central control system through which the x-ray generator current flows into the x-ray tube. The generator types utilized in X-ray machines are of three types, including high frequency, constant potential, and single phase. 

The x-ray source or X-ray tube, on the other hand, uses the coiled wire filament made of tungsten in the cathode to transmit electrons to the anode using its cup-shaped focus when the wire is heated. The anode, a copper positively charged electrode, attracts the electrons discharged by the cathode and directed towards a focal spot where generation of X-rays occurs.

Therefore, the x-ray source, better known as the x-ray tube and the x-ray generator, is designed to align their functions to produce an electron beam.

x-ray tube, x-ray source, x-ray generator


a. Types of X-ray Tube

  • Open X-ray Tube – This is a metallic construction type of vacuum that uses a transmission target.
  • Sealed X-ray Tube – This comes as a glass tube, similar to a lightbulb, and all its content is in a vacuum.


b. X-ray Tube Function

An x-ray tube primarily functions as an energy converter that receives energy and converts it into two other different forms of energy, x-ray radiation energy, and heat energy.


II. X-ray Detector

X-ray detectors refer to instruments deployed in measuring the spatial distribution, flux, spectrum, and every other x-ray property. You can group these detectors into two different categories. These categories are imaging detectors such as photographic film and photographic plate –  although other digitizing instruments like flat-panel detectors and imaging plates have substituted these. There are also dose measurement devices: dosimeters, ionization chambers, Gieger counters, etc., which measure dose, radiation exposure, and dose rate.

In addition, they also serve as devices that ensure radiation protection equipment and plans are productive.


a. Types of X-ray Detectors

  • Flat Panel Detector – This is a homogenous device to image sensors applied in digital video and photography. They are X-ray digital radiography devices deployed in projectional radiography and replace X-ray image intensifiers in radiography equipment.
  • Digital Image Intensifier – These are vacuum tube tools for amplifying the potency of light visible in an optical system to be utilized under low light such as nights to ease visual imaging of low light activities.


b. X-ray Detector Function

By and large, x-ray detectors are employed to calculate the spectrum, flux, spatial distribution, and other x-ray properties. They also estimate dose, dose rate, and local radiation exposure.


III. Loading Platform/ Objective Table

This part may seem like a minor part of the X-ray machine, but it is not. A loading platform or objective table is a piece of vital inspection equipment as any other can be. It is a parallel surface where you can place inspection samples and secure them to receive radiation projections. 

Also, loading platforms ensure that no part of the sample is left untouched by the projected X-ray radiation so that the detector can pick accurate, precise, and concise information on the sample. X-ray machine manufacturers often enable the loading platform to tilt at different angles to achieve a complete capture of the whole sample. Sometimes these manufacturers allow a 180-degree rotation for the loading platform. 


IV. Manipulator 

Manipulator allows for simple alignment of the test samples while on the loading platform to maximize sample exposure to X-ray radiation coming from the X-ray tube. 

Manipulators manipulate the components into the most suitable orientation for the optimum potential defect detection. Most importantly, it enables the identification of hidden defects that are difficult for the naked eyes to recognize.

Manufacturers often produce manipulators that can move test samples in different directions, including multi-axes, linear, and rotary manipulations during NDTs and other applications. Some models have up to four degrees of freedom, usually three linear and one rotary. Additionally, hand knobs are fitted behind the motors for manual adjustments whenever required.



The use of a personal computer (PC) on an X-ray machine came because of a drive for high imaging quality combined with low x-ray intensity. In other words, better image resolution from a lower level of radiation exposure has been the drive for technological advancements in getting quality x-ray images. However, the emergence of high-level processors implanted in the latest computer motherboards has been a game-changer.

Exceptional image quality from little exposure to radiation helps technicians get more accurate testing. At the same time, it’s safer for the inspected samples. This advancement and upgrade in technological gadgets on inspection haven’t just made inspection easier and accurate. 


VI. Display Screen 

Display screens are the monitors and high-resolution screens used to view and review an inspection result by the inspector. There are numerous sizes and resolutions of various display screens which are relied on to display the accurate tests during and after inspection.

Like the PCs, the image projection should be on a display screen depending on the sample or component tested. This image should have high quality and resolution to help identify defects and anomalies before further producing more parts.

Different but similar display screens include LCD screens, 3D high-resolution display screens, etc. This screen is efficient in identifying and correcting defects quickly.


Display Screen


VII. Keyboard 

The functionalities of a computer have significantly increased over the years, which initially was to process data and numbers. Still, today, computers handle a variety of functions.

They use primary wired or wireless technology connectivity and handle video and audio files, amongst many others. And in the advent of these additional functions entrusted to computers, some vital components and hardware are also needed. The major four parts in the input/output functions include the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and printer.

A keyboard is not left out when it comes to quality control and inspection. It is responsible for entering and storing data input, pre-testing and receiving post-testing for storage purposes.


VIII. Mouse 

As mentioned above, a Mouse is one of the critical components of a computer. A keyboard is used to input and store data. A mouse enhances the keyboard functions. A Mouse is hardware connected to the system for easy maneuvering and quick selection of data files from one location to another on the system.

In quality control and inspection, your mouse is needed to highlight, select, and move different data files from one point to another and for quick and easy access to stored files and data.

Technological improvements in the hardware store have also witnessed a Mouse device transform from a wire-connected mouse to a cordless or wireless mouse. 


IX. Image Processing Software 

We have defined countless times now that x-ray inspection is solely for detecting anomalies within a given sample. In a sample inspection, the film gets to a display screen. An image processing software can begin the analysis of the test results and formulate a corrective measure for any defect identified.

Image processing features may include stationery grid suppression, automatic grid line detection, and suppression. Others include long-length imaging, long-length imaging with CR, and dual-energy imaging, to mention but a few.

At the beginning of the software analysis, an explanation and a resolution form quickly and accurately. 


Image Processing Software


X. All Kinds of Cables 

Now cables and wirings are inevitable as part of the machinery. Even most of our everyday appliances cannot fully function without cables. Nonetheless, cables serve as a power source to many x-ray inspection tools. Therefore for our x-ray equipment to run effectively, cables also play critical functions in this process.

Here are some of the few component cables which rekindle the life force of most x-ray inspection equipment.


Types of Cables

  • X-ray Source Power Cable – Basically, in this case, cables help to supply power to the filament of the x-ray tube
  • X-ray Source Control Cable – The control cables are needed to guard the machine’s durability and maintenance. They include coaxial and non-coaxial high voltage cables.
  • PC Power Cable – These cables supply current and power supply to the different inspection equipment, based on the type of inspection required and the type of machine deployed.


XI. Other X-ray Machine Parts

After stating all the points above, quite a few crucial components may have been left unmentioned but not forgotten. Some of such components include 

  • The Collimator is an iris–shaped set of sliding plates of radiopaque matter. Its primary characteristic is defining the shape and limiting the size of the x-ray beam.
  • Beam Equalization Filters – these lead rubber constructed and wedge-shaped blades are partially radiolucent and are also used to make up for variations in the radiodensity.



In a nutshell, x-ray machine parts consist of both hardware (that can be touched, felt, and handled) and the software (that cannot be touched, felt, or held).

And many components make up the x-ray machine parts, all combined to produce inspection parameters that ensure quality control and assessment of other sub-components that end up as part of other mechanical, electrical, or civil equipment in the manufacturing industry.

Now that you have the load down on the parts and functions of the X-ray machine, you now have what it takes to help maintain these parts and prevent the unnecessary breakdown of your machine. 

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