What Is Nondestructive Testing?

commercial divingNondestructive testing or Non-destructive testing (NDT) is a wide group of analysis techniques used in science and industry to evaluate the properties of a material, component or system without causing damage. The terms Nondestructive examination (NDE), Nondestructive inspection (NDI), and Nondestructive evaluation (NDE) are also commonly used to describe this technology. Because NDT does not permanently alter the article being inspected, it is a highly-valuable technique that can save both money and time in product evaluation, troubleshooting, and research. Common NDT methods include ultrasonic, magnetic-particle, liquid penetrant, radiographic, remote visual inspection (RVI), eddy-current testing, and low coherence interferometry. NDT is a commonly-used tool in forensic engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, systems engineering, aeronautical engineering, medicine, and art.


NDT methods may rely upon use of electromagnetic radiation, sound, and inherent properties of materials to examine samples. This includes some kinds of microscopy to examine external surfaces in detail, although sample preparation techniques for metallography, optical microscopy and electron microscopy are generally destructive as the surfaces must be made smooth through polishing or the sample must be electron transparent in thickness. The inside of a sample can be examined with penetrating electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays or 3D X-rays for volumetric inspection. Sound waves are utilized in the case of ultrasonic testing. Contrast between a defect and the bulk of the sample may be enhanced for visual examination by the unaided eye by using liquids to penetrate fatigue cracks. One method (liquid penetrant testing) involves using dyes, fluorescent or non-fluorescing, in fluids for non-magnetic materials, usually metals. Another commonly used method for magnetic materials involves using a liquid suspension of fine iron particles applied to a part while it is in an externally applied magnetic field (magnetic-particle testing). Thermoelectric effect (or use of the Seebeck effect) uses thermal properties of an alloy to quickly and easily characterize many alloys. The chemical test, or chemical spot test method, utilizes application of sensitive chemicals that can indicate the presence of individual alloying elements.

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Weld verification
1. Section of material with a surface-breaking crack that is not visible to the naked eye.
2. Penetrant is applied to the surface.
3. Excess penetrant is removed.
4. Developer is applied, rendering the crack visible.
In manufacturing, welds are commonly used to join two or more metal surfaces. Because these connections may encounter loads and fatigue during product lifetime, there is a chance that they may fail if not created to proper specification. For example, the base metal must reach a certain temperature during the welding process, must cool at a specific rate, and must be welded with compatible materials or the joint may not be strong enough to hold the surfaces together, or cracks may form in the weld causing it to fail. The typical welding defects, lack of fusion of the weld to the base metal, cracks or porosity inside the weld, and variations in weld density, could cause a structure to break or a pipeline to rupture.
Welds may be tested using NDT techniques such as industrial radiography or industrial CT scanning using X-rays or gamma rays, ultrasonic testing, liquid penetrant testing or via eddy current. In a proper weld, these tests would indicate a lack of cracks in the radiograph, show clear passage of sound through the weld and back, or indicate a clear surface without penetrant captured in cracks.
Welding techniques may also be actively monitored with acoustic emission techniques before production to design the best set of parameters to use to properly join two materials.

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