International Symposium on Software Composition

Nondestructive testing

Nondestructive testing (NDT) is a wide group of analysis techniques used in science and technology industry to evaluate the properties of a material, component or system without causing damage. The terms nondestructive examination (NDE), nondestructive inspection (NDI), and nondestructive evaluation (NDE) are also commonly used to describe this technology. Because NDT does not permanently alter the article being inspected, it is a highly valuable technique that can save both money and time in product evaluation, troubleshooting, and research. The six most frequently used NDT methods are eddy-current, magnetic-particle, liquid penetrant, radiographic, ultrasonic, and visual testing. NDT is commonly used in forensic engineering, mechanical engineering, petroleum engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, systems engineering, aeronautical engineering, medicine, and art. Innovations in the field of nondestructive testing have had a profound impact on medical imaging, including on echocardiography, medical ultrasonography, and digital radiography.

Analyzing and documenting a nondestructive failure mode can also be accomplished using a high-speed camera recording continuously (movie-loop) until the failure is detected. Detecting the failure can be accomplished using a sound detector or stress gauge which produces a signal to trigger the high-speed camera. These high-speed cameras have advanced recording modes to capture some non-destructive failures. After the failure the high-speed camera will stop recording. The capture images can be played back in slow motion showing precisely what happen before, during and after the nondestructive event, image by image.

In manufacturing, welds are commonly used to join two or more metal parts. Because these connections may encounter loads and fatigue during product lifetime, there is a chance that they may fail if not created to proper specification. For example, the base metal must reach a certain temperature during the welding process, must cool at a specific rate, and must be welded with compatible materials or the joint may not be strong enough to hold the parts together, or cracks may form in the weld causing it to fail. The typical welding defects (lack of fusion of the weld to the base metal, cracks or porosity inside the weld, and variations in weld density) could cause a structure to break or a pipeline to rupture.

Welding techniques may also be actively monitored with acoustic emission techniques before production to design the best set of parameters to use to properly join two materials. In the case of high stress or safety critical welds, weld monitoring will be employed to confirm the specified welding parameters (arc current, arc voltage, travel speed, heat input etc.) are being adhered to those stated in the welding procedure. This verifies the weld as correct to procedure prior to nondestructive evaluation and metallurgy tests.

In NDT, the structure undergoes a dynamic input, such as the tap of a hammer or a controlled impulse. Key properties, such as displacement or acceleration at different points of the structure, are measured as the corresponding output. This output is recorded and compared to the corresponding output given by the transfer function and the known input. Differences may indicate an inappropriate model (which may alert engineers to unpredicted instabilities or performance outside of tolerances), failed components, or an inadequate control system.

Several NDT methods are related to clinical procedures, such as radiography, ultrasonic testing, and visual testing. Technological improvements or upgrades in these NDT methods have migrated over from medical equipment advances, including digital radiography (DR), phased array ultrasonic testing (PAUT), and endoscopy (borescope or assisted visual inspection).

Successful and consistent application of nondestructive testing techniques depends heavily on personnel training, experience and integrity. Personnel involved in application of industrial NDT methods and interpretation of results should be certified, and in some industrial sectors certification is enforced by law or by the applied codes and standards.

Central certification is more widely used in the European Union, where certifications are issued by accredited bodies (independent organizations conforming to ISO 17024 and accredited by a national accreditation authority like UKAS). The Pressure Equipment Directive (97/23/EC) actually enforces central personnel certification for the initial testing of steam boilers and some categories of pressure vessels and piping. European Standards harmonized with this directive specify personnel certification to EN 473. Certifications issued by a national NDT society which is a member of the European Federation of NDT (EFNDT) are mutually acceptable by the other member societies under a multilateral recognition agreement.

Probability of detection (POD) tests are a standard way to evaluate a nondestructive testing technique in a given set of circumstances, for example "What is the POD of lack of fusion flaws in pipe welds using manual ultrasonic testing?" The POD will usually increase with flaw size. A common error in POD tests is to assume that the percentage of flaws detected is the POD, whereas the percentage of flaws detected is merely the first step in the analysis. Since the number of flaws tested is necessarily a limited number (non-infinite), statistical methods must be used to determine the POD for all possible defects, beyond the limited number tested. Another common error in POD tests is to define the statistical sampling units (test items) as flaws, whereas a true sampling unit is an item that may or may not contain a flaw. Three key parameters in reliability evaluation of nondestructive testing methods are a50, a90 and a90/95. a90 and a90 refer to length of defects that your desired nondestructive testing technique is capable to detect with 50% and 90% probabilities, respectively. If a 95% degree of confidence is also considered in determination of defect length with 90% probability, it is a90/95. Guidelines for correct application of statistical methods to POD tests can be found in ASTM E2862 Standard Practice for Probability of Detection Analysis for Hit/Miss Data and MIL-HDBK-1823A Nondestructive Evaluation System Reliability Assessment, from the U.S. Department of Defense Handbook.