NDT Provides Inspection and Quality Control in Manufacturing
It’s no secret that automation has become dominant in the manufacturing sector. In fact, the reliance on robotics and automation is increasing each year. It’s estimated that by 2022, 42% of total task hours in manufacturing will be completed by machines.
Automation can make efforts more efficient. It can streamline processes and reduce the chance of human error. What it can’t do, though, is guarantee flawless production, especially when it comes to welds and composite materials.
This highlights the need for rigorous testing. Non-destructive testing (NDT), both eddy current and ultrasonic, help manufacturers maintain inspection and quality control in manufacturing. By instituting testing processes (including those that can be automated), manufacturers can save time, money, and safely keep up with emerging technology.
The Challenges of Inspection and Quality Control in Manufacturing
Manufacturing processes have become so thorough and efficient that the idea of damage or flaws detectable by the human eye is nearly impossible. Flaws are often more subtle, even microscopic, and that can lead to a number of challenges.
Both metals and composites are joined by fasteners and welds, which have distinct and difficult geometries that make inspection a challenge. There are also different physical properties to metals and composites that interact with testing solutions in different ways. Because of these unique challenges, there is no one ideal way to test all manufactured components. There are different methods for flaw detection which depend on the component being inspected.
Composite Material Inspection
Composite materials offer a number of inspection challenges. They generally aren’t suitable for magnetic-type scanners, since not all the parts of the composite are conductive.
The complex geometries of many composite materials can also present an inspection challenge. Odd angles and fastened connections often leave space for flaws to form. In addition, the layering of materials creates slightly different thickness levels, which can hinder the accuracy of scanning unless you have advanced equipment that can adjust to different levels.
These challenges are heightened by the nature of composite materials. Combining different materials creates types of flaws that can be difficult to detect. These include:
- void spaces in porous material,
- foreign bodies introduced during manufacturing, and
- fractures between layers.
While often small in scale, these flaws can lead to large problems if a flawed composite material is stressed by operations. Phased array ultrasonic testing (PAUT) with a portable scanner and flexible immersion probe can be an ideal solution. It allows technicians to create accurate scans quickly and efficiently.
Weld inspections provide their own set of challenges. Welds exist in nearly every manufacturing process, and are common in some of the most high-stress, high-pressure industries in the world. Industries such as railroad, aerospace, and hydrocarbon extraction depend on the integrity of welds.
Welds can have raised crowns, irregular surfaces, and complicated angles, making inspection a challenge. To combat this, inspecting technicians need tools that are easy-to-use and can handle these irregularities. For some welds, eddy current testing is ideal, as it can inspect a wide variety of surfaces.
Not all welds are the same of course. Dissimilar metal weld inspections offer their own set of unique circumstances. Many welds join materials with different:
- metallurgical properties,
- grain alignments,
- acoustic characteristics, and
For some of these, PAUT can be the ideal method for inspecting, as it specializes in taking surface and subsurface images of materials with different properties.
Welds hold together many of the components necessary to manufacturing processes. NDT provides the inspection and quality control needed to ensure safety and reliability.
Knowing the challenges of testing composite materials and welds allows manufacturers to understand the importance of finding the right solution for their needs.
Improved Inspection and Quality Control in Manufacturing with NDT
NDT for Composite Materials
Composite materials that are resistant to conductivity demand phased array technology. PAUT tools are ideal for busy, complex manufacturing centers that need an efficient workflow.
The TOPAZ32, for example, can be an ideal solution. Some of its benefits include:
- Availability in a 32/128 configuration
- Easy to set up and easy to use
- Onboard analysis
- Fast imaging
- Responsive, multi-touch screen
- Supports the time reversal technique for composite inspections
- Industrial-proven to fit into to-the-minute workflows
Another key tool for large composites is an adaptable and responsive NDT paintbrush. This is designed to be easy to use, and allows technicians to “paint” a picture of the surface and subsurface areas, giving them a complete image. When composite materials have the smallest of possible flaws, an easy way to detect them is invaluable.
NDT for Weld Inspection
In addition to the eddy current solutions, many welds demand PAUT for welded parts with different metallurgical properties. An ideal solution that simplifies testing should have the following characteristics:
- Simple, adaptable integration into your workflow
- Multiple firing modes for greater detail
- Top-of-class signal quality
- More acoustic energy for thicker components
- Compact, rugged, scalable for a long life of service in your plant
- For more advanced inspections, real-time, multi-TFM processing onboard for better imaging capabilities
Manufacturing is changing—automation is on the rise. But what never changes is the need to efficiently, thoroughly, and cost-effectively conduct accurate inspections. Finding the right NDT partner, with the most advanced technology and customized solutions, is how you can ensure inspection and quality control in manufacturing.