The increasing design complexity of machinery and demand for component reliability in various industries is highlighting the need for non-invasive evaluation techniques. Consequently, there has been rapid growth and acceptance of non-destructive testing (NDT) or evaluation (NDE).
‘Non-destructive tests help detect variations in structure, physical discontinuities, dimensions, metrology, and the physical and mechanical properties of materials,’ says Technical Insights Research Director Leo O’Connor. ‘These tests also help check their composition, chemical analysis, and, most importantly, stress and dynamic response.’
The rising cost of advanced materials brings a need to reduce the size and weight of components while increasing the workload on them. NDT is said to be invaluable in increasing safety levels by helping develop damage tolerant designs.
As a part of a safe-life design, techniques using ultrasonics, eddy currents, X-rays, dye penetrants, magnetic particles and other forms of interrogating energy are used to detect and remove components with macroscopic structure defects from service.
‘Today, quantitative descriptions of NDT performance such as the probability of detection are integral to statistical risk assessment,’ says O’Connor. ‘NDT is an accepted failure-related engineering discipline and rapid advances in digitisation and computing are changing data processing capabilities.’
New applications for quantitative non-destructive evaluation (QNDE) are being explored in improving the productivity of manufacturing processes. QNDE can improve productivity by reducing the development cycle time and creating in-line measurements for process control.
The engineering applications of NDE are increasing throughout the product lifecycle. Globalisation is leading to the development of uniform practices and, as a result, emphasis is expected to increase on NDE standards, enhanced educational offerings and simulations that can be easily communicated electronically.
‘As technologies improve, service requirements increase and machines are subjected to wider extremes of all kinds of stress, NDT will prove crucial in developing stronger materials,’ concluded O’Connor.