I used a fancy x-ray machine to look inside my machines – let me show you

I am That young man Who asks airport security if I can photograph my luggage going through the x-ray machine. I’m also the guy who spent an entire hour CT scanning my broken jaw with a mixture of horror and utter amazement. You could say I was on a spectral imaging kick.

So when a startup called Lumafield told me I could put it on As many things as I wanted In a $54,000-a-year radiographic density-scanning machine…let’s just say I had a sneaking suspicion they didn’t think I’d take it literally.

Last month, I walked into the company’s corporate office in San Francisco with a backpack stuffed to the gills containing:

I was going to bring more, but I wanted to be polite!

Lumafield Neptune at the company’s satellite office in San Francisco.
Photo: Vjeran Pavic/The Verge

The Neptune, Lumafield’s first scanner, is a huge machine that looks like a massive black microwave oven at first glance. It is six feet wide, six feet long, and weighs 2,600 pounds, and a thick sliding metal door protects the scanning chamber while the machine is in use. Close that door and press the button on the built-in touchscreen, and it will shoot up to 190,000 volts of X-rays through anything you place on the rotating base inside.

I started with the Polaroid OneStep SX-70, and Classic rainbow stripe camera which arguably brought instant photography to the masses for the first time. Forty-five minutes and 35 gigabytes of data later, the company’s cloud servers converted Neptune’s rotating radiograms into the closest thing I’ve seen to piercing X-ray vision.

Where a Kaiser Permanente CT scan only produced ugly black-and-white images of my jaw that a surgeon had to interpret before I could have a blurry idea — plus a horrific low-blur recreation of my skull that looked like something out of a ’90s video game — these scans look like real.

If in the 70’s plastic Polaroids were transparent.
Survey: Lumafield. GIF: Edge

In my humble web browser, I can manipulate transparent versions of these objects in 3D space. I can peel off their plastic sheathing, melt it down to the bare metal, and see every cog, wire, chip, and spring. I can digitally cut a cross section that’s worth it r/ThingsCutInHalfPorn (Note: does not contain actual pornography) without picking up a seaplane or a saw. In some cases, I can finally visualize how the tool works.

But Lumafield doesn’t build these machines to satisfy our curiosity or to help with reverse engineering. Primarily, he rents it out to companies that need autopsy Their own Products to make sure they don’t fail – Companies that could never have been able to afford the previous generation of industrial CT equipment.

A decade ago, it was Eduardo Torrealba Award winning engineering student who prototyped, crowdfunded, and shipped a soil moisture sensor that ScottsMiracle-Gro eventually got its hands on. (Fun fact: his fellow award-winning teammates were right behind IllumiRoom from Microsoft And Disney Earl We showed up once the edge.) Torrealba has been helping people produce prototypes ever since, both with the Fuse 1 selective laser sintering 3D printer he developed as director of engineering at Formlabs and as an independent consultant to emerging hardware companies afterward.

All the while, he’s had problems with manufactured parts not working properly, and the most compelling solution seems to be a piece of lab equipment: a computed tomography (CT) scanner, which takes a series of X-ray images, each showing a single “slice” of an object. He says good things can cost a million dollars to buy and maintain.

So in 2019, he and his co-founders started Lumafield to democratize and popularize the CT machine by building their own from scratch. It’s now an 80-person company with $67.5 million in funding and a handful of well-known clients including L’Oréal, Trek Bikes, and Saucony.

“If the only cars around were Ferraris, far fewer people would have cars. But if you’re going to the flagship store to get a gallon of milk, you don’t need a Ferrari to get there,” he says. the edgeshowing the Lumafield Neptune as an affordable Honda Civic by comparison.

He admits that Neptune has limitations compared to traditional CT, such as how it doesn’t easily scan objects larger than a bike helmet, doesn’t go down to one micron in resolution, and probably won’t help you dive into it with, say, individual chips on a circuit board. . I found it difficult to identify some of the digital components in my scans.

But even now, Lumafield’s “milk gallon” sells scanners to companies that don’t need high resolution — companies that mostly want to see Why Their products fail without damaging the evidence. “Really, we compete with cutting things with a chainsaw,” says John Brunner, director of marketing for Lumafield.

For most companies, Brunner says, it’s still state of the art tire saw – I literally cut the products in half. But the saw doesn’t always make sense. Some materials release toxic dust or chemicals when cut. Many batteries catch fire. And it’s hard to see how running affects a running shoe if you add up its effect Cut it in half. “Plastic packaging, batteries, performance equipment…these are all areas where we are replacing destructive testing,” Brunner adds.

“We compete with cutting things with a chainsaw.”

When L’Oréal found Garnier’s cleansing water bottle caps were leaking, they It turns out That a 100-micron indentation in the neck of the bottle is to blame, Something the company discovered on its first Lumafield scan — but that didn’t show up on conventional tests. It’s because the former method is messy, Brunner says: “You dip in resin, cut with a bandsaw, and hope you hit the right area.”

Lumafield bug detection in action.
Photo: Sean Hollister/The Verge

With a CT scanner, there’s no need to cut: you can rotate, zoom in and out, and slide with a digital chip to see what’s wrong. Lumafield’s web interface lets you measure distance with just a few clicks, and the company sells a flaw-detection add-on that automatically finds tiny hollow areas in the object—known as porosities; He’s looking for pores – which can turn into cracks down the road.

But only select companies, such as aviation contractors and major medical device companies, usually can afford such technology. Tony Fadell said [even Apple] They didn’t have a CT scanner until they started working on the iPod nano,” Brunner says. (Fadhel, creator of the Apple iPod and co-founder of Nest, is an investor in Lumafield.)

Torrealba suggests that while you can find a basic industrial CT scanner for $250,000 with $50,000 a year in ongoing software, maintenance, and licensing fees, a Neptune equivalent will only cost $750,000 to $1 million in upfront costs. Meanwhile, he says, some customers pay Lumafield just $54,000 a year ($4,500 a month), though many are like $75,000 a year with a couple of add-ons, such as a low-power, high-resolution scanner or module. He can check a part against the original CAD design. Each scanner is shipped to your office, and the price includes the software, service, unlimited scans, and access to as many employees as you want.

My Halo Magnum foam blaster melted down to its (very few) metal parts.
Survey: Lumafield. GIF: Edge

How could Lumafield’s CT machine be less expensive? “There’s never been market pressure within the industry to cut costs and make it more affordable,” Brunner says, noting that, for example, aircraft manufacturers only demanded higher-performance machines, not more affordable machines, and that’s where Lumafield finds an opportunity.

There are plenty of other reasons, Torrealba says, too—like how the company hired its Ph.D. to design and build the scanners from scratch, assemble them in its own Boston facility, write its own software package, and create a cloud-based rebuild. To lower the computation they need to put it inside the actual device.

Even after a couple of interviews, it’s not entirely clear to me how successful the Lumafield has been since it emerged from incognito early last year. Torrealba says the team has shipped more than 10 machines but fewer than 100—and he’ll only say that number isn’t 11 or 99, either. They will not name any customers who are not already listed their case studies page.

Photo: Vjeran Pavic/The Verge

But if you take CMO seriously, Lumafield is making waves. “In the case of shoes, we have a lot of household names in that space,” Brunner says, adding that “a lot of big household names” in the consumer packaged goods category have also signed on. “In the battery business, it’s a group of companies, some big and some small.” Product design consulting firms are “a bunch of clients,” and Lumafield has reached out to Kickstarter and Indiegogo to gauge interest, too.

Lumafield thinks it may also get business from sectors that have already used CT scanning before — such as medical devices and auto parts manufacturers — largely by being faster. While many high-quality scans of my machines took hours to complete, Brunner says that even those companies with access to CT machines may not have them on hand and need to mail the part to the appropriate facility or independent scanner office. “It’s the difference between solving your engineering problem in two hours and waiting a week.”

And for simple injection-molded products like some auto parts, Lumafield has modified Neptune with a fully automatic door, so the robot arm can swing in and out of the machine after a quick porosity check that takes less than a minute to complete. Torrealba says one customer is “doing something adjacent” to the auto parts example, and more than one customer is checking every part on their production line as of today.

Video: Lumafield: GIF: The Verge

Automation wasn’t what Neptune originally intended, Torrealba admits, but enough customers seem interested in wanting to design it for mass production in the future.

I’ve kept my Polaroid camera on my desk the whole time I’ve been writing and editing this story, and I can’t help but pick it up from time to time, remembering what’s on the other side of the black and white plastic shell and imagining the components in action. It gives me a greater appreciation for the engineers who designed it, and it’s interesting to think that future engineers might use these scanners to build and test future products as well.

I’d like to hear if you’ve noticed anything particularly remarkable or unusual in your Lumafield scans. I’m at

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