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ShipTest: Robotic Inspection for Ship Hulls

Tue, 10 November, 2020

TWI has been involved in the EU-funded ShipTest Project to develop a robotic platform for the inspection of welding defects and corrosion on ships.

This work has traditionally been carried out by humans, with the ships needing to be brought into dry dock, but the cost of this type of inspection can be as high as €150,000 per inspection.

Non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques such as radiography, ultrasonics, magnetic particle testing or liquid penetrant testing all require a person to be on-site for weld inspections, but the ShipTest project redefines NDT inspection through the commercialisation of Spectre-X, a robotic inspection platform for weld defect detection and corrosion mapping in ships.

ShipTest coordinator, Dr Kyriakos Berketis explained, “Building on the developments of the FP7 project X-Scan, Spectre-X uses a combination of phased array ultrasonic testing (PAUT) and alternating current field measurement (ACFM) technologies to make inspections more efficient and cost effective. The system can inspect welding defects on thin metal plates without the need to remove coating.”

Uniting multiple methods of volumetric and surface weld inspection into a single pass, this labour-saving technology increases efficiency as well as safety while also reducing inspection costs. The system produces data which is uploaded onto a secure cloud platform to be analysed remotely.

Dr Berketis continued, “Combining three NDT techniques – rather than using one – in a single box that weights around 25 kg was a feat.”

Allowing for more accurate inspections, this system improves on manual inspection techniques, as Dr Berketis revealed, “ACFM is a better alternative to manual techniques that involve the use of magnets. Although the latter can also detect the perturbed magnetic field spreading out from the surface defect, they do not provide information about how deep the defect is.”

The system also uses PAUT to allow for the detection of defects in metal plates of less than 10mm. In addition, the Spectre-X system can be used in a marine environment to perform corrosion mapping while the ship is afloat.

The ShipTest Project looks set to revolutionise inspection for the world’s largest shipping fleet, with the EU controlling around 40% of the world’s tonnage and some 23,000 vessels.


The ShipTest project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 730645

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