Millimeter-wave (mmWave) imaging has experienced tremendous interest within research and industrial communities during the past decades. This has resulted in numerous commercialization attempts in numerous fields. This blog post discusses different commercial application areas where mmWave imaging can be used. There might be other areas that are not covered in this blog post.
The main fields mmWave imaging technology has been commercialized are:
The main advantage of mmWave imaging is its ability to penetrate a wide range of opaque materials such as plastics, wood, paper, fabric, semiconductors, and other dielectric materials. Even though image resolution is not as good as in modern X-ray images, the image contrast of previously mentioned materials can be better than in X-ray. Another important benefit of mmWave imaging is that it is non-ionizing, therefore does not pose a health hazard to people. Previously mentioned benefits and qualities are one of the reasons why mmWave imaging is pushed to so many applications.
Millimeter-wave imaging has been widely adopted in the aviation sector. One can interact with such a system in everyday life when visiting an airport and going through the security checkpoint.
The use of full body scanners in an airport has been increasing during the past decade for obvious reasons; metal detectors are not sufficient to meet modern security needs. Metal detectors can only detect metal that does not cover a large portion of dangerous items.
mmWave imaging systems are now increasingly adopted outside of aviation sectors. Other places where mmWave imaging is increasingly being adopted are security checkpoints in events and stadiums, customs and border control, prisons, other high-security government buildings, ferry travel, public transit, and public buildings. In addition, loss prevention or profit protection operators are using mmWave systems to prevent theft from warehouses or factories.
The main barrier preventing mmWave imaging system adoption is the high price and slow scanning speed of current systems in the market. Companies and new startups are trying to tackle this problem and some have managed to do it very efficiently.
MilliScan is one of those startups focusing its effort to provide solutions to security sector. With its convenient imaging system, MilliScan enables quick, effortless and reliable security checkpoints for people and mail screening.
Food inspection is traditionally made using metal detectors, visual cameras, and X-ray systems. These technologies have served the food processing industry well and are still widely used. However, like all technologies, they have their limitations. Metal detectors cannot detect other foreign items than metal and visual cameras cannot see through opaque materials.
X-ray systems would solve both these issues with their own limitations. The biggest challenges with X-ray systems are their bulky size, harmful radiation, and low contrast with some materials like plastics, wood, and insects which can be a big issue in certain factories or food processing units.
mmWave imaging technologies are increasingly adopted in the food processing industry. This is not nearly as far as it is in the security sector, however, it has its place and solves a real problem of food quality inspection. First, non-harmful radiation enables setting up a mmWave imaging solution flexibly in an already existing production line. A small size further helps in adjusting the system to a wanted place. Secondly, mmWave imaging provides better contrast in some materials that are unwanted in our food.
mmWave imaging systems are being adopted in different production facilities to inspect packaged goods. One of the benefits of mmWaves is that it can penetrate cardboard rather easily. This enables the inspection of packages in different industries since cardboard is primarily used as a packing material.
Inspection includes the detection of missing, leaked, or broken products/items, the detection of appropriate filling of liquid products, etc.
Package inspection with mmWave technology is adopted in bottling, pharmaceutical, and some food processing sectors but it is applicable anywhere where the quality of the packaging is needed to inspect.
The advantage of the mmWave imaging system is its small size so it can be set up anywhere in the production line, its ability to produce a 3D image, its harmless radiation, its fast scanning speeds, and its long lifetime.
There are companies commercializing mmWave imaging solutions for packaging inspection.
Millimeter wave imaging or Terahertz (THz) imaging to be more precise is used for a few applications within the automotive sector. The main application is coating inspection. Car bodies have multiple coatings and the thicknesses of each coating can be inspected with terahertz technology. The fact that THz imaging solutions can calculate multiple layers at the same time without physical contact makes THz imaging an attractive option for car body quality inspection. Another benefit is that the coatings do not have to be completely dry before performing the inspection.
A large application area within the automotive industry is the inspection of car tires. The reinforcements of the steel wires inside the car tires can be inspected with a THz imaging system.
Other mentionable application areas within the automotive sector are the detection of corrosion in different painted metal parts, an inspection of car radome, and an inspection of car interiors that are hidden behind the surface such as airbags.
There are two main mmWave or THz imaging applications in the pharmaceutical industry; quality control in pill production and inspection of packaging. The use of the X-ray system has been controversial in the pharmaceutical sector, therefore other means of pill inspection have been adopted. One of them is THz imaging. Many materials that are used in pills are in the optimal range for THz radiation to penetrate. This way composition of the pills can be determined and deviations can be noticed.
Pills are usually wrapped in a plastic or cardboard package that is transparent to mmWave radiation. This enables fairly high-resolution imaging to detect whether all pills are in the right location and at full volume.
Other mentionable application areas within the automotive sector are the detection of corrosion in different metal parts, an inspection of car radome, and an inspection of car interiors that are hidden behind the surface such as airbags.
THz and mmWave are used to inspect products and components that are made of plastic, wood, glass fiber, and other materials that can be penetrated with THz radiation.
Companies have imaging systems installed in their production line and in R&D where they inspect material composition and see whether there are any cracks or moisture or other defects.
If you want to hear more about millimeter-wave imaging technology and MilliScans commercialization plans, please contact us. More information about applications tha MilliScan is involved in can be seen at this link