Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services


Game over for lead?

23 September 2020 Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services

Lead is a unique material and is used in a wide range of applications. It has a high density making it ideal for ballast, is relatively ductile and easy to shape and has a low melting point which reduces casting costs. It also has chemical properties which make it useful for alloying and for use in batteries and superconductors.

Lead is also well known in the X-ray industry as it is one of the most popular shielding materials employed for containing X-rays within the equipment. Its low cost and high attenuation capability make it ideal for this application.

Unfortunately, lead is particularly toxic and its use in paints, fuels and electronics has now been restricted to all but a few niche applications where no viable alternatives currently exist. In 2018, lead was added to the European Union list of substances of very high concern.

Lead-free alternatives for X-ray shielding have been available for some time, but have not seen widespread use other than for protective clothing. During the development of Explorer one, the latest addition to our X-ray inspection line-up, we saw an opportunity to change our approach to shielding for the better − we developed EnviroShieldTM. This is a new, proprietary (patent pending) lead-free X-ray shielding technology which uses a commonly available mineral which absorbs X-rays using exactly the same physical mechanisms as lead does. Most importantly, it is non-toxic and easy to dispose of at end of life, unlike lead.

We manufacture EnviroShield as a moulded composite which, as well as having very strong shielding properties, is also particularly rigid and strong. EnviroShield has been rolled out on our Explorer one X-ray inspection system, so employees and suppliers involved in the manufacture of Explorer one no longer need to work with lead.

We are very excited about the potential of our new lead-free shielding technology. The use of lead is very restricted today, with only a small number of applications allowed and further global restrictions likely on the way in the future. For the first time our customers have an alternative to choosing a lead-based system, helping us to divert hundreds of tons of toxic lead from being used in the future.


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