Taking Advantage of Today's Technology

X-ray computed tomography expertise and unparalleled customer service paints the picture of how the founders of a company approach their business.

X-rays travel in a straight line, through the object being inspected, and onto a detector.

A koan is a statement, question, or phrase in Zen study designed to get a student to stop, contemplate, and hopefully progress and deepen his or her practice.

“You do not know what you do not know” is more than a tricky catchphrase thrown out by Jeffrey Diehm and Brian Ruether, co-founders of Avonix Imaging, Plymouth, Minn. This phrase is the foundation of their business life and how they approach their customers’ concerns.

“Let me paint the picture,” Diehm begins. “In the contract inspection world, X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) is a largely untapped technology. The pool of people uneducated to the advantages of X-ray CT is orders-of-magnitude bigger than the educated. Among the educated, those exposed to X-ray CT or even industrial CT operators themselves, a significant percentage are operating blind, unable to see or make use of the full potential in front of them because of a lack of training or a thorough understanding of the technology. Truly, you do not know what you do not know.”

If these sound like words from the wise, it is because Diehm and Ruether are top authorities where X-ray CT is concerned. In 1983, Diehm graduated from Spartan School of Aeronautics and moved to San Diego, Calif., to work at General Dynamics Space Systems’ X-ray lab, performing X-ray inspections and interpretations on aerospace welding and avionics. From 1989 through 2001, he worked for WMW Associates, Los Angeles, Calif., a leading provider of industrial X-ray cabinets and systems. Joining North Star Imaging (NSI), Rogers, Minn., in 2001, he later moved to Minnesota to launch NSI’s Inspection Services Group (ISG) which grew to a position of national prominence in the industrial X-ray and CT imaging field based in large part on Diehm’s expertise and unrelenting focus on customer service.

Ruether has nearly 25 years in the industrial X-ray industry. After graduating from Ridgewater College in 1989, he went to work for the Product Improvement Laboratory at Goodrich Aerospace (Burnsville, Minn.), performing digital X-ray imaging services on a variety of aerospace components for both quality control and failure analysis. From 1995 until 1998, Brian worked for Scientific Measurement Systems (SMS), Austin, Texas, and during his tenure, he helped develop and deploy CT systems used in facilities worldwide. He joined North Star Imaging (NSI) in 1998 and started NSI on the path to systems development and manufacturing. X-ray imaging and computed tomography imaging solutions in the U.S.

In short, Diehm and Ruether see themselves bringing worldwide reputations to a compact industry niche (X-ray CT contract inspection) and bringing about a big bang of growth.

“We absolutely see the growth potential of X-ray CT,” Diehm explains. “In just about anything that is manufactured, there are applications for CT technology.”

Avonix Imaging’s XT H 255 Micro-Focus X-Ray CT System

Why It’s So

The Avonix Imaging partners point to many reasons, based both in equipment advances and external business issues, largest among them the exponential gains in computing power and the accompanying price reductions.

“X-ray CT currently occupies an exceptional price/performance position,” Diehm says.

Ruether adds that developments in Avonix’s choice of X-ray CT equipment, the XT H 225 micro-focus X-ray CT system from Nikon Metrology, Brighton, Mich., are notable.

“The X-ray tube technology and innovative internal chilling design go a long way to increasing reliability from a performance perspective,” he says. De-mountable, pump-down micro-focus X-ray tubes can be high maintenance, typically requiring frequent periodic maintenance and downtime.

“Literally, on our new equipment, we have not done anything except change the filament. It is like having a car that requires an oil change every 10,000 miles versus every 1,000 miles.”

Additionally, the Nikon demountable 450kV micro-focus X-ray tube is available with a variety of flat panels or the company’s proprietary CLA detector (curved linear array) for optimizing X-ray collection and minimizing the amount of capturing undesired X-ray scattering.

Avonix sees applications for X-ray CT technology in about every object that is manufactured.

Critical Customer Needs
Established in early 2012, Avonix Imaging has garnered a reputation for customer support of critical projects involving first-article inspection, failure analysis, reverse engineering, part comparisons to CAD model data, and other metrology assignments. Diehm illustrates the critical and time-sensitive nature of his customer requirements by relating the story of a defense contractor who needed CT data on a component within 24 hours.

“I was literally speaking with people from the Defense Department who were making it extremely clear that this problem was affecting troops in the field and that they needed us to do something extraordinary,” he says. “With our equipment and our passion for customer service, we were able to show them what they needed to see in the timeframe they needed to see it.”

As lofty as their technical experience is, Diehm’s and Ruether’s ambitions for their business and customer service are even higher.

“All of us exist in that ‘you do not know what you do not know’ area at some point,” Diehm explains. “Once a company experiences X-ray CT, they passionately start searching for more ways to apply it. Even manufacturing companies that buy CT equipment of their own run into obstacles when the widgets they were scanning change or differ and they need our help improving their CT skill sets. People do not necessarily seek us out because everything is coming up roses. In these cases and more, we are here to help raise the standard.”

“CT back in the ’90s took many hours or even days to produce results, where today more powerful images and data are produced in minutes,” Ruether adds. “Detector technology, equipment design, inspection software, and computing power will all continue to move forward,” – proving that not knowing what we do not know does not have to be a permanent condition.

Nikon Metrology Inc.
Brighton, Mich.

Avonix Imaging Inc.
Plymouth, Minn.

July 2013
Explore the July 2013 Issue

Check out more from this issue and find you next story to read.

Share This Content