Development of an Eddy Current Inspection Simulator, 14-9294

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Principal Investigators
Gary L. Burkhardt
Jay L. Fisher

Inclusive Dates: 01/01/02-10/01/02

Background - The maintenance of aging infrastructure in the aerospace, power-generation, petrochemical, and other industries is a growing concern as the design lifetimes of components are approached or even exceeded. To assure the integrity of these components, new nondestructive evaluation (NDE) procedures must continually be developed, and the reliability of inspections must be determined and maintained. Several needs exist for these goals to be accomplished efficiently and cost effectively. These needs include: 1) better and more cost-effective ways of qualifying NDE procedures, 2) inspector training, 3) ensuring adequate scan coverage of the inspected area, and 4) maintaining alertness of inspectors.

Approach - The proposed approach to address the above needs is to develop a breadboard NDE inspection simulator that is analogous to flight simulators used for aircraft pilots. The target NDE technique is eddy current testing (ECT). Operation of the simulator is transparent to the inspector, but realistic virtual flaw signals are presented at preprogrammed locations on an actual test piece. This procedure provides the equivalent of an inspection without the need for actual flaws, yet the operator uses the same probes and instrumentation that are normally used. With the simulator, reliability tests could be accomplished without the current need for manufacturing a large number of actual flaws. A training mode could be implemented in which the inspector receives instructions from the system and can practice with the equivalent of actual flaws. The system could be used with routine inspections to inject artificial flaw signals to keep inspectors alert and could be used to monitor probe position in manual scans to ensure proper coverage.

Accomplishments - The team developed software that allows flaw data to be entered and a map of the test piece to be created with flaw signals placed at desired locations. A three-dimensional position-digitizing arm and associated software have been configured for tracking probe position. Fabrication of signal-injection circuitry used for creation of flaw signals under computer control has been completed and is being evaluated. Development of system control software is underway.

System components include a conventional ECT instrument, the control computer, the position-tracking arm, and a conventional ECT probe placed inside a probe holder attached to the arm.

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