The fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 as it is also known, is rapidly transforming the way businesses operate. Even NDT hasn’t been able to escape the advances in automation, “Internet of Things”, artificial intelligence, sensor technology, big data and analytics. Industry 4.0 promises to revolutionise business models and outcomes, meaning that the NDT we see today will likely not be the same as the NDT we see in the next decade.
NDT and the Cloud
NDT goes where the work is. In Australia that often means onto remote sites both inland and offshore. Quality control and collaboration become difficult when colleagues are thousands of kilometres apart. NDT technology that utilises cloud storage provides a unique solution to a problem that grows with an increase in workload and distance. One example of the integration of cloud storage into NDT is the Logbook used by Proceq’s live series of equipment. Every reading created using the platform comes with metadata collected through an iOS device. Uploaded to the cloud, a colleague in another city or even another state can view the data and see; user information, equipment serial numbers, test settings, all changes made to settings, calibration status, geolocation, written notes, voice notes and photographs. A workflow utilising the logbook to its full potential will capture all the information needed for a report. This enables data to be cross-checked and reports issued to the client quickly upon completing the job, avoiding the inevitable loss of critical detail as time progresses. Being a permanent record, the logbook provides unrivalled traceability, making it easy to track reports and retrieve them for internal as well as external auditing. Proceq’s Equotip and GPR ranges currently use the live platform with a UT flaw detector (FD Live) due to join them later this year.
Sensors for the Future
Improvements in NDT technology are not only limited to data processing, sharing and access. The sensors used for data acquisition have also improved considerably. Dolphitech, a company based out of Gjøvik in Norway have completely revolutionised the construction of Ultrasonic Transducers (TRM) with their Dolphicam system. Through their unique construction method, they have been able to create a transducer with 16 384 elements in a 38 x 38mm footprint. This TRM makes ultrasonics truly digital, presenting the user with up to 100 datasets per second from all 16 384 elements. This enables the user to see the 38 x 38mm area beneath the transducer in real time, giving them a live representation of the cross-section as data is collected. With a live representation, interpretation becomes much more intuitive and accessible, allowing even the least technical of client representatives to understand the data being presented to them by the ultrasonic NDT report.
Increasing computing power and miniaturisation has opened up new ways to present data. This is something that all of us are aware of to some degree, even tangentially. Just like the move from A scan signals to visual representations like B and C scans, we are now starting to see a move towards 3D imaging and Augmented reality. Proceq’s Pundit Live Array and GPR Live for concrete inspection both provide the user with the ability to create 3D images in the field allowing for easier interpretation and data presentation. With the addition of Augmented reality, the user is able to essentially project their collected data onto their area of inspection, allowing their client a much more intuitive way to see what the application. Communication between technical and non-technical parties becomes easier because as they say: “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Dolphitech’s Dolphicam also provides the user with real-time 3D imaging, giving the user the ability to move the 3D image with the movement of their TRM. The user gets to see inside the material from different perspectives, all with a simple twist of the TRM or tap of a screen.
Good data needs good reporting for maximum effect. Good reporting is sometimes a challenge with the many time and geographical constraints that remote work is inevitably subject to. The gap between data collection and reporting is being bridged by the increasing integration of reporting features in NDT equipment and the ever-increasing number of export options. Proceq’s Pundit, Profometer, Equotip and FD100 all have the ability to export data into a proforma at the press of a button. This makes it even easier for those collecting the data to complete their reports straight after a job, rather than at the end of a busy period. Proceq’s live platform gives users access to reporting from the cloud. Data collected by a fleet of equipment can be viewed, reviewed and placed into a report by someone at the central office, ready to issue to the client. Dolphitech’s Dolphicam system also provides the user with the ability to capture a snapshot and export the data into a proforma in their choice of a word processing program. With increasing use these features will allow service providers the ability to decrease their report turnaround times, allowing their clients to quickly access what they ultimately pay for, a good quality report.
Big Data, Analytics and Artificial Intelligence
With new sensors collecting more data and easier ways to retrieve and collate information, NDT is now becoming more open to data processing and analytics. Wherever there is a mass of data, there is a gold mine of potential efficiency improvements and assistive technologies. Data processing and analytics have already improved our daily lives with better typing experiences on our screens, improved search results and even driverless cars. In NDT this collected data can be used to improve our testing techniques, probability of detection and flaw characterisation. In Proceq’s Pundit and Profometer range, A.I. is already being used to identify flaws and embedments. This gives a helping hand to those less experienced, allowing them to focus in on relevant flaws. We are in an exciting period for NDT equipment and technology is only going to improve. Increased attention to NDT and its importance will bring more interest and more brain power to solve critical problems. The improvements in technology will allow NDT service providers to review their existing practices and streamline them, giving the clients better service and ultimately, making the process of inspection just a little bit easier.