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IntACOM™ Robotic Inspection

Non-destructive Evaluation (NDE) is used across a wide range of industries, from aerospace to nuclear and medical to power generation. NDE uses various methods to assess the quality of a component without damaging it. One such method is ultrasonic testing, which uses high frequency sound to detect defects in components or structures. However, this method is not easy to perform on parts with high curvature or intricate shapes, meaning that these parts are often inspected manually, which is time consuming and can deliver inconsistent results.

TWI’s Advanced Non-destructive Testing Centre in Port Talbot, South Wales led a series of projects to develop robotic inspection systems to reduce the cost of inspecting geometrically complex parts in the aerospace and marine industries. These projects, under the umbrella of the IntACOMprogramme, have already delivered prototype automated inspection cells capable of inspecting highly curved components much faster than is possible with other automated NDT systems.

The latest IntACOM cell is capable of accommodating components up to 12 x 2 x 2m and features an integrated turntable that can accept components up to 4m in diameter and 3m in height. It uses advanced phased array ultrasound (PAUT) to scan large components with complex geometries at up to 24 times faster than using conventional ultrasound.

The cell uses CAD data to determine scan paths with the robots working independently or cooperatively to acquire pulse echo or through transmission PAUT data, which is then plotted on 3D images that can be manipulated to provide detailed analysis.

This system saves time when inspecting complex parts, which are being used more frequently with the growing use of composites and additive manufacturing. The IntACOM cell also provides more consistent results and fewer false calls than manual inspection.

The advantages of the new robotic inspection facility over conventional ultrasonic testing include:

  • 6 degrees of freedom probe movement to inspect geometrically complex parts
  • Advanced ultrasonic imaging, visualised in a 3D environment and overlaid on CAD
  • Fast inspection speeds
  • Flexible and adaptable robot cell, which can quickly be modified to inspect new parts
  • Off-line path planning for visualisation and collision avoidance
  • Repeatability of up to 0.1mm
  • Ability to use a number of ultrasonic probes, depending on the application

You can see a video offering further insight into the robotic ultrasonic inspection cell here.

A video of the latest cell inspecting complex components is available here .


This project is part of an initiative known as the Advanced Engineering Materials Research Institute (AEMRI), which is funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) using European Regional Development Funds (ERDF).

Avatar Prof. Ian Cooper Technology Fellow - Advanced NDE

Ian is a Chartered Engineer with over 30 years’ experience in Non-destructive testing (NDT). On joining TWI in 2005 as a principle project leader at the specialist NDT Centre in Port Talbot, he specialised in NDT of composites. More recently, his work has concentrated on advanced NDT methods and automated robotic inspection systems and he was promoted to Technology Fellow in 2015.

A recognised expert in the inspection of composites and other difficult materials, he leads the highly successful IntACOM programme developing rapid automated inspection systems for composites and complex geometries. In 2016 he and co-authors were awarded the John Grimwade Medal for a paper on this work.

He is a Fellow of the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing and is widely published in NDT and aerospace journals. He is President Elect of the BINDT and is active and influential on a number of committees that guide the development, application, training and certification of NDT. In 2016 he was made an Honorary Professor of Practice at the University of Wales, Trinity St David. In 2019 Ian received the BINDT Ann Birt award for NDE research and development and technology strategy development.