Sharp images of a beating heart

In the field of high-tech medicine, diagnostic imaging needs extremely high-performance CT scanners, which in turn need tailored components from Plansee.

X-ray machines can do far more than just reveal fractured bones. Scanning the entire body in a matter of seconds, creating a sharp image of a beating heart or identifying the chemical composition of a kidney stone from the X-ray image – these are just a few of the astonishing fields of application for modern CT scanners.
But not every machine is suited to every specialist medical discipline. Each area of application presents a different technical challenge for the X-ray machine, and hence for the products Plansee manufactures for them. These include components such as shield packs, collimators, flat emitters, stationary anodes and, above all, X-ray targets for generating the X-ray radiation. The X-ray target lies at the core of every machine: The design of the X-ray target determines the technical performance of the entire machine as well as factors such as the radiation intensity, the rotation speed and the diameter of the X-ray tube. Plansee’s products are used across the entire range of X-ray machines from leading manufacturers. Innovative technology, design and materials have a great deal to do with this success.

A few examples:

Stable connections: The key issue for many customers is the stability of components under conditions of greatly fluctuating thermomechanical stress. Top-of-the-range CT scanners achieve gantry speeds of up to four revolutions of the tube per second. This generates huge forces that also act on the components in the X-ray tube and the detector. Here, for instance, bonding technologies are of crucial importance. And so Plansee has developed soldering processes that allow various metals and graphite to be permanently bonded. This applies to high-performance graphite anodes, for example.

A long life: Alongside reliability and stability, the service life of the focal path of the X-ray target and a high dose yield across the entire service life are important issues for many customers. And the key factor in meeting these requirements is the surface quality of the X-ray target: This is where the accelerated electrons collide with the target, giving rise to X-ray radiation and a considerable amount of thermal energy. To meet these requirements, Plansee has developed tungsten alloys that are applied to the basic component using pressing, sintering, forging or even vacuum plasma spraying techniques in order to form a focal path.

The ideal weight: And even for “weightwatchers”, Plansee is the right place to go for advice. After all, the weight of the components is a factor in many X-ray machines. To put it simply: the lighter the component, the longer the service life. When developing lightweight component solutions, Plansee turns to their in-house team of experts, who make use of sophisticated simulation techniques to calculate with absolute precision the behavior of newly designed components in live operation.

In good shape: Another field in which Plansee provides innovative products for the latest X-ray machines is that of shield packs and collimators. An extrusion process makes it possible to manufacture particularly thin and workable tungsten heavy alloy sheet. And Plansee is also a world leader in the manufacture of molybdenum and tungsten components using “additive processes”. These are better known as “3D printing processes”. This manufacturing path opens up new dimensions in terms of shaping and makes it possible to produce extremely intricate structures. New designs make it possible to reduce or absorb scattered radiation. Ultimately, this leads to higher quality images.

“These examples show how wide-ranging our developments are, and our teams are constantly working on tailored products and solutions that meet or exceed our customers’ requirements. Our ambition is to provide a tailored innovation for every type of system!” explains Dr. Wolfgang Glatz, who is responsible for the X-ray technology business at Plansee. Over the course of many years, Plansee has made a name for itself as a reliable, neutral development partner for refractory metals in the field of medical engineering. Glatz: “Our developers in the fields of simulation, materials science and bonding technology have always recognized the value of close collaboration with leading universities and research institutes. Our expertise and our extensive technological facilities mean that we are able to manufacture any component, from the most intricate and delicate up to the most complex. From prototype to series and from powder to end product, all the various stages of development and processing are handled in-house.”

Components from Plansee lie at the heart of high-performance CT scanners – and make it possible to capture sharp images of a beating heart, for example.