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Spotlight – testing and inspection

Materials World magazine
30 Mar 2016

Khai Trung Le looks at the latest news and products in the testing and inspection sector.

Disruptive fundraiser from Innovate UK

BIS-sponsored public body Innovate UK is to invest up to £1.5 million in the new Energy Game Changer competition to stimulate the growth of disruptive inspection technologies in the energy sector. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will also provide £500,000.

The theme of the competition is ‘taking inspection to the limit’ and will cover the inspection, characterisation and clean-up of buildings, vessels and components operating in aggressive energy sector environments. Innovate UK hopes to attract entries that can accurately locate, remove, and repair defects and debris without human entry, intervention or breaching.

The competition page notes that ‘in order to encourage novel and radical solutions, projects must be led by an SME whose main business lies outside the energy sector’. These include advanced materials, virtual reality and even gaming.

Small businesses could receive up to 70% of eligible project costs, while medium businesses and large business partners could receive 60% and 50%, respectively. Projects are expected to last 6–12 months and cost between £25,000–£100,000.

The competition began on 28 March, and entry submission closes on 11 May.

GE opens NDT Solutions Centre

The Measurement and Control division of multinational conglomerate General Electric (GE) has opened a new Non-Destructive Testing Technology Solutions Centre in Ratby, UK, in close proximity to GE’s Groby manufacturing site. Companies will be able to receive consultation and rental of ultrasonic, eddy current and remote visual inspection hardware.

The centre will focus on the company’s radiographic X-ray technology, including the CRxVision computer radiography scanner, radioscopic casting inspection device x|cube compact 225 and advanced computed tomography (CT) equipment when fully outfitted. Specified as the inspection technology highlight of the new centre is the phoenix v|tome|x m 300, a compact CT system suitable for 3D metrology and failure analysis for industrial process control, as well as scientific research.

Juan Mario Gomez, General Manager of Radiography at GE, commented, ‘The establishment of a dedicated industrial radiography centre in the UK is part of our strategy to bring new technology close to our customers and help them solve their greatest application challenges. As radiography and advanced CT technology continue to become more common in industrial production and field environments, we are poised to further help our customers.’

Spotlight products:

1. UK-based Sonatest has partnered with DolphiTech, Norway, to produce the SonaCam, an ultrasound camera system designed for NDT inspection of carbon fibre-reinforced plastics. The SonaCam produces high-resolution 2D and 3D images of suspected damage areas, with adjustable pulse and gate settings, colour threshold and compatibility with Windows 7 and above. Two models of the SonaCam are available – Expert, optimised for NDT engineers who require further control, and Operator for regular NDT performance.

2. Oxford Instruments, UK, will be the sole distributor of the Nanonis Tramea quantum transport measuring system (QTMS) software by SPECS Surface Nano Analysis GmbH, Germany. The Nanonis Tramea QTMS is suitable for characterising new materials and devices for emerging quantum applications, and features a measurement speed up to 1,000 times faster than conventional measurement systems, and is capable of simultaneously recognising 24 channels. Analogue signals are immediately converted to digital data, preventing interference from external noise or crosstalk.

Dr Michael Cuthbert, Managing Director of Oxford Instruments, commented, ‘Quantum transport measurements are typically the first, crucial test in characterising their spin or superconducting qubit sampling.’

3. Global testing device manufacturer Zwick/Roell has announced the production of a new line of Vibrophore pulsator systems suitable for HCF evaluation and pure static testing. Available in 50-1,000kN capacities and in a frequency range of 30-300Hz, the Vibrophore pulsator employs an electric drive for controlled static loading and a magnetic resonance drive for dynamic loading. 

The Vibrophore frame can accommodate specimens up to 1,200mm in height without frame adjustments, and has sufficient width for temperature and environmental chambers. Additionally, the testControl II digital controller is compatible with the system, with 10kHz data acquisition. See Materials World March 2016 for more information on vibrophore technology.

4. A new robotic inspection system has been released by USA-based Lakeview Vision & Robotics (LVR). Using a ST RoboticsR12 articulated arm, turntable and camera, the LVR Inspection System is designed for on the manufacturing floor and is capable of making multi-dimensional measurements accurate to 0.0025cm within 60 seconds. Ostensibly for the medical manufacturing industries, Lakeview has stated that the Inspection System is suitable for high-tolerance manufacturing.

3D NDT by phased array technology

Ultrasound has long been used to detect tears or material flaws that are not externally visible, guiding a handheld probe over a component and detecting flaws based on the reflected signals. However, a phased array process from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing, Germany, is able to produce high-resolution 3D images.

Several single-element probes are arranged side-by-side into sheets, allowing the ultrasound waves to be passed through large areas. Each probe can be controlled independently, allowing examiners to vary the bombardment of ultrasound waves. A newly developed algorithm is able to generate a 3D image from the individual signals.

‘The pictures reveal any material defects, giving us their size and exact location,’ said Professor Hans-Georg Hermann. ‘What’s more, our reconstruction algorithm is real-time capable, which allows us to significantly speed up the testing process.’

NDT equipment market to reach US$4.78 billion

UK-based Sonatest and Olympus Corporation, Japan, have been listed as key players in the development of the NDT equipment market in Transparency Market Research’s report Non-Destructive Testing Equipment Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2015-2021, which also predicts an increase in the market value to reach US$4.78 billion in 2021 based on progress in 2014.

This prediction rests on increasing government safety regulations for quality control, and demand for improving the longevity and quality of machinery. However, growth in the NDT market is being challenged by the lack of skilled technicians.

During 2014, North America accounted for 35.77% of the overall market. However, Europe held the second-largest share, driven by a demand increase for modernisation of power generation sectors as well as contributions from the automotive sector. Asia Pacific is believed to be the fastest growing region from 2015-2021.