Basic Principles of Non-Destructive Testing (NDT)



Definition and importance of NDT
Non-destructive testing is the use of physical methods which will test materials, components and assemblies for flaws in their structure without damaging their future usefulness. NDT is concerned with revealing flaws in the structure of a product. It, however, cannot predict where flaws will develop due to the design itself. All NDT methods have the following common characteristics:
(a) The application of a testing medium to the product to be tested.
(b) The changes in the testing medium due to the defects in the structure of the product.
(c) A means by which it detects these changes.
(d) Interpretation of these changes to obtain information about the flaws in the structure of the product.

Importance of NDT
NDT plays an important role in the quality control of a product. It is used during all the stages of manufacturing of a product. It is used to monitor the quality of the:
(a) Raw materials which are used in the construction of the product.
(b) Fabrication processes which are used to manufacture the product.
(c) Finished product before it is put into service.

Use of NDT during all stages of manufacturing results in the following benefits:
(a) It increases the safety and reliability of the product during operation.
(b) It decreases the cost of the product by reducing scrap and conserving materials, labour and energy.
(c) It enhances the reputation of the manufacturer as producer of quality goods.

All of the above factors boost the sales of the product which bring more economical benefits to the manufacturer. NDT is also used widely for routine or periodic determination of quality of the plants and structures during service. This not only increases the safety of operation but also eliminates any forced shut down of the plants.

Types of NDT methods
The methods of NDT range from the simple to the complicated. Visual inspection is the simplest of all. Surface imperfections invisible to the eye may be revealed by penetrant or magnetic methods. If really serious surface defects are found, there is often little point in proceeding to more complicated examinations of the interior by ultrasonics or radiography. NDT methods may be divided into groups for the purposes of these notes: conventional and nonconventional.

To the first group may belong the methods which are commonly used and include visual or optical inspection, dye penetrant testing, magnetic particle testing, eddy current testing, radiographic testing and ultrasonic testing. The second group of NDT methods are those used only for specialized applications and consequently are limited in use. Some of these methods which are being mentioned here merely as a curiosity for the reader include neutron radiography, acoustic emission, thermal and infrared testing, strain sensing, microwave techniques, leak testing, holography etc. It must also be remembered that no one of these methods can give us solutions to all the possible problems, i.e. they are not optional alternatives but rather complementary to each other. The basic principles, typical applications, advantages and limitations of the methods of group one will now be briefly described.

source : International Atomic Energy Agency; TRAINING COURSE SERIES No. 11

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