Thursday 23 June was National Women in Engineering Day in the UK, shining a light on the contribution women make to the world of science and engineering.
More than 20 per cent of TWI’s workforce is women, significantly more than the national representation in engineering of six per cent. And with two in five students at the National Structural Integrity Research Centre being female, there are signs the situation is improving.
One of TWI’s female engineers is Ángela Angulo, who has been working in the condition and structural monitoring (CSM) section since joining the company at the beginning of 2013. Ángela and her CSM colleagues work to develop monitoring techniques capable of continuously scrutinising structures and components, providing the earliest possible warning of any flaw or impending failure.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical industrial engineering from Navarra Public University and a master’s in industrial engineering from La Rioja University, Ángela worked for a research company in her native Spain before coming to TWI. Here she completed a second master’s degree, in structural integrity with Brunel University London, in the process developing her specialisation in condition monitoring technology.
‘In the CSM section we cover several areas using different monitoring techniques,’ Ángela explained. ‘Our expertise is based on developing equipment and data processing techniques for continuous structural monitoring. Vibrations and acoustic emissions are analysed to detect early indications of deterioration or anomalies.
‘This offers reliable data from which an assessment can be made, allowing us to understand component lifecycles and predict failures and representing a tool we can use to safely extend the useful life of structures and components.’
Condition monitoring: advanced real-time analysis
Condition monitoring has applications across multiple industry sectors. Projects the team has focused on recently include systems for wind turbine parts, unpiggable oil pipelines and process piping; elsewhere in TWI condition monitoring has been used to improve the safety of high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks.
At a time when the oil and gas industry continues to look for opportunities to reduce expenditure, condition monitoring technology has the potential to generate savings through the automation and streamlining of inspection procedures.
‘Within the oil and gas industry we are developing our technology through research in a number of areas,’ Ángela said. ‘We have developed a system for monitoring vibration-induced fatigue and conducting risk analysis of process piping, with the ultimate aim of offering remote vibration monitoring of piping systems. We also led the development of an in-line tool for internal inspection and intelligent monitoring of unpiggable buried oil pipelines using long-range ultrasonic guided waves.
‘Acoustic emission has many applications in the sector. We have developed bespoke monitoring strategies to predict and evaluate different damage mechanisms such as hydrogen embrittlement or hydrogen-induced cracking. This technique is being integrated into mooring chain links to monitor for damage caused by fatigue and out-of-plane bending.
‘Using our solutions, an objective assessment can be made of a structure’s ability to safely and efficiently perform its intended function. This in turn allows operators to better plan and prioritise their maintenance programmes to ensure their structures can remain in service.’
The future of inspection?
While it is still a relatively young branch of structural integrity, condition and structural monitoring holds much promise. Being able to constantly monitor key components would substantially reduce the need for scheduled inspections, and undoubtedly prevent costly failures. However, there remain areas where further research and development is required.
Ángela explained: ‘Energy consumption and the management of big data resulting from long-term monitoring applications are two challenges currently being addressed by the structural health monitoring community. As technology advances, more becomes possible: wireless sensor networks, the internet of things and satellite communication all help in this regard.
‘At TWI we keep ourselves up to date with the latest technologies and equipment. I believe our ability to get up to speed quickly on any technology is directly related to how well we know the state of the market.
‘Being aware of the needs, problems and requirements of our Members is essential to help us be better consultants, and to overcome any limitations we face.’
Working in a male-dominated industry
Ángela was inspired to become an engineer by her father, who worked in the nuclear industry. How does she find working in an environment that is traditionally (and statistically) very much a male domain?
‘To be honest, every time I look at an engineer – whether when I was at university, in my workplace, or in relations with partners and clients – I do not see their gender in front of me,’ she said.
‘I believe that an engineer’s capacity boils down to their capabilities, not their sex. Engineering should not be perceived as a career predominantly for men. There needs to be a shift in attitudes, empowering both women and enterprises to not see this as a problem, but an opportunity.
‘Organisations should always be trying to attract the best talent, regardless of any distinguishing attributes such as race, age, gender or sexuality.’
Find out more
To learn more about TWI’s activities in condition and structural monitoring, visit the CSM section of our website or view our condition monitoring case studies.
To discuss how this technology could benefit your business, contact us.