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A systematic approach to NDT technology.

Special to Pipeline & Gas Journal

Technology development was defined in a 2014 report A Landscape for the Future of NDT in the UK Economy as essential to securing a brighter future for the non-destructive testing industry. Investment and collaboration are of paramount importance to take new NDT technologies to the next level. The vital element is ensuring that newly developed technologies meet the current and future needs of the user groups, including oil and gas pipelines companies.

In 2003, the UK Research Centre of Non-Destructive Evaluation (RCNDE) was established, aided by sponsorship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Working with the British Institute for Non-Destructive Testing, (BINDT), this brought together industry and academia, resulting in a defined vision of the future needs which is underway. It is this collaboration that has made the RCNDE a world leader of excellence in NDT research.

This cooperation has transformed the relationship between the academic groups and the users, and as materials and processes are continuously developing, there will be a similar flow of NDE technologies needed to support their use, especially in the high-value manufacturing sector. This will bring the understanding needed to define the new NDT technologies.

To use NDT in practice, the techniques' capabilities and limitations (validation) must be understood, as well as the training requirements for inspectors. The high cost of validation, due to the need for realistic testing facilities and flaws, limits the easy flow of new technology into common use. In recent years, the many validations that have been undertaken are often confined to specific large projects, making it difficult to maximize any wider exploitation.


"Often, the biggest barrier to getting a new technology released is the technology transfer stage, which can be very expensive," said Keith Newton, director of RCNDE and coeditor of the Landscape report. "It can be more expensive than the research itself to validate techniques and to get the technology into a commercial state. As the report says, there are many issues around that. Because it is expensive, small companies can't afford to do it."

A national library of samples was suggested in the report which would enable a more systematic approach to the validation process.

A national defect centre would help to significantly reduce the cost of developing and testing new NDT technologies. It would be an accurate testing ground for new techniques, using components with actual defects. This would not only speed up the validation process but would significantly reduce costs, opening doors for developers and their supply chains who traditionally would not have had the funds.

The 20-year vision detailed in the Landscape report is an opportunity to foresee possible developments in NDT technology that could eliminate current obstacles in testing and evaluation. It encourages industry to work together to find varying uses for existing technology, ultimately cutting time and costs.

"Most of the large companies that rely on NDT have a very clear view as to what their NDT requirements are going to be in five, 10 and 20 years' time," said Tony Dunhill, immediate past president of BINDT. "Through the research centre, we provided that vision to our academic collaborators and they are working on technology that meets those needs. This is quite a rare collaboration, with so many diverse industries having the same requirements."

These outcomes are supporting the economy by accelerating industrial growth, feeding into the industry lifecycle that encompasses the need for more skilled NDT workers and new technologies as well as advancements in current technologies and structural integrity, according to Dunhill.

For more information or to view the full report, visit Materials-KTN-Future-of-NDT-in-UK-economy.pdf.

What are NDT and CM?

Non-destructive testing (NDT) is the branch of engineering concerned with all methods of detecting and evaluating flaws in materials, including those used in pipelines. Flaws can affect the serviceability of a material or structure, so NDT is important in guaranteeing safe operation as well as in quality control and assessing plant life. The flaws may be cracks or inclusions in welds and castings or variations in structural properties, which can lead to a loss of strength or failure in service.

The essential feature of NDT is that the test process itself produces no deleterious effects on the material or structure under test. The subject of NDT has no clearly defined boundaries; it ranges from simple techniques such as the visual examination of surfaces, through the well-established methods of radiography, ultrasonic testing and magnetic particle crack detection, to new and very specialized methods such as the measurement of Barkhausen noise and positron annihilation spectroscopy.

Condition monitoring (CM) aims to ensure plant efficiency, productivity and reliability by monitoring and analysing the wear of operating machinery and components to provide an early warning of impending failure, thereby reducing costly plant shutdown.

CM originally used mainly vibration and tribology analysis techniques but now encompasses new fields such as thermal imaging, acoustic emission and other nondestructive techniques. The diagnostic and prognostic elements, in addition to increasingly sophisticated signal processing, is using trends from repeated measurements in time intervals of days and weeks.
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Title Annotation:TECH NOTES: Product Development
Publication:Pipeline & Gas Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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