The European Non-Destructive Testing Innovation Committee (ECNDT) has selected FORCE Institute’s “3D Inspection System” as the winning contribution in the field of applications research. FORCE Institute’s Lars Vesth, Peder B Hansen and Steen Neergaard received the award during the opening ceremony of the 7th ECNDT conference on 26 May in Copenhagen. They received the prize for developing a complete 3D robot inspection system which provides efficient and reproducible non destructive testing of components with complex geometry, such as node and nozzle welds found in offshore, petrochemical and power generation industries.

The team developed the system by combining advanced ultrasonic testing and robot technology based on the FORCE Institute’s Modular Scanning System and its ultrasonic P-scan System 4. The components of the system include the following:

• Advanced Inspection Robot – AIR-1

The Advanced Inspection Robot uses the Modular Scanning System, has 6 degrees of freedom and weighs only 25 kg. The control system contains only the P-scan processor and a small power supply. The NDT equipment such as the ultrasonic transducer is mounted at the tool centre point at the end of the robot’s outermost link, giving the operator maximum flexibility and portability.

• P-Scan data acquisition system –

P-scan System 4

The central piece of equipment for ultrasonic examination is the new P-Scan System 4. Its features allow the operator to collect large amounts of data with attached 3D transducer position information and to perform several inspections, such as pulse-echo and time-of-flight, simultaneously.

• 3D ultrasonic simulation and path generation

Using a 3D CAD model of the component geometry, the ultrasonic sound propagation through the material is simulated in the UltraSIM module. The system can then create unambiguous surface points based on the simulation and the desired transducer and inspection volume. These are then collected into scanning paths and scanning programs.

• Generic on-line scanner control and monitoring

Scanning programs provide direct input to the UltraSIM online scanner control module. The module can calculate and simulate Cartesian motion for most ordinary robot configurations. The PSP-4 unit and the module form the control system which enables the robot to follow any defined scanning path in 3D space. Operators control the robot through the virtual 3D inspection cell in the CAD system. The motion of the robot is monitored in real time on the 3D CAD display. This allows for collision warning and avoidance.

The P-Scan System 4 provides digitised A-scans with unambiguous transducer surface positions.

• 3D reconstruction and evaluation of defects

The 3D UltraSIM virtual inspection environment reconstructs A-scan data and attached 3D transducer position information to create a realistic model of the component geometry. The data can then be seen as 3D indications coded visually due to amplitude or image. A 2D section view function enables data specified by a 2D cutting plane to be displayed. Various characterisation facilities make it easy to measure 2D and 3D length, height and position of indicators.

• Enhanced system applicability

The 3D Robot Inspection System is applicable to most areas where components with complex geometric surfaces have to be inspected with ultrasonic, eddy current and visual testing methods. The system concept allows inspections to be carried out where conventional non-destructive engineering inspection systems cannot accomplish the task due to geometry or harsh environments such as underwater inspection of offshore, petrochemical or nuclear components.