Jan 14, 2009

The need for NDT

It is very difficult to weld or mold a solid object that has the risk of breaking in service, so testing at manufacture and during use is often essential. During the process of casting a metal object, for example, the metal may shrink as it cools, and crack or introduce voids inside the structure. Even the best welders (and welding machines) do not make 100% perfect welds. Some typical weld defects that need to be found and repaired are lack of fusion of the weld to the metal and porous bubbles inside the weld, both of which could cause a structure to break or a pipeline to rupture.
During their service lives, many industrial components need regular non-destructive tests to detect damage that may be difficult or expensive to find by everyday methods. For example:
• Aircraft skins need regular checking to detect cracks;
• Underground pipelines are subject to corrosion and stress corrosion cracking;
• Pipes in industrial plants may be subject to erosion and corrosion from the products they carry;
• Reinforced concrete structures may be weakened if the inner reinforcing steel is corroded;
• Pressure vessels may develop cracks in welds;
• The wire ropes in suspension bridges are subject to weather, vibration, and high loads, so testing for broken wires and other damage is important.
Finished machined parts, such as bearings, that have newly been assembled can be tested for missing pieces, such as a ball or roller bearing, or grease within the housing non-destructively with a checkweigher. A roller motor for a conveyor can be tested for the proper level of oil, without disassembling the finished product. Thousand of manufactured products can benefit from this form of testing.
Over the past centuries, swordsmiths, blacksmiths, and bell-makers would listen to the ring of the objects they were creating to get an indication of the soundness of the material. The wheel-tapper would test the wheels of locomotives for the presence of cracks, often caused by fatigue — a function that is now carried out by instrumentation and referred to as the acoustic impact technique.
Use of X-rays for NDT is a common way of examining the interior of products for voids and defects, although some skill is needed in using radiography to examine samples and interpret the results. Soft X-rays are needed for examining low density material like polymers, composites and ceramics.

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