The benefit of automation is achieved by the integration of Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) sensors with standard commercially available industrial robots as well as collaborative robots, also known as “cobots”. Custom written software for acquiring and visualising data creates a seamless and intuitive user experience that can be adapted to specific customer needs.
TWI currently has three robotic Non-Destructive Testing and Evaluation (NDT&E) systems. The original robot cell consists of two medium-sized six-axis industrial robot arms; each carrying ultrasonic probes allowing pulse echo and through-transmission inspection of complex geometry components. Robotic paths are planned off-line using state-of-the art simulation software to ensure full coverage and de-risk inspections. The primary application for this technology is the inspection of carbon fibre composites where defects such as delamination and voids can be detected, but other material types can also be inspected.
The second robotic inspection system contains two large 90kg payload six-axis robots and expands upon the original setup by adding three additional axes. This larger system has two 8 metre linear tracks and a 4 metre diameter turntable. This system is capable of inspecting large structures using ultrasonic phased array probes (through transmission and pulse echo), but can be modified to accommodate other inspection methods such as thermography.
Both automated inspection systems are capable of working independently and cooperatively. The robotic arms deploy end-effectors carrying ultrasonic transducers (single element and phased array), mounted into water jet nozzles that provide suitable water columns to guide the ultrasonic beams from the probes to the surfaces of the samples.
The third inspection robot is a collaborative “cobot” which can work safely alongside the operator and assist in encoding NDT data. This robot type is particularly well suited for scanning smaller components using ultrasound or eddy currents.
Software developed in-house synchronises robot movement with ultrasonic data acquisition. The robots can be programmed manually by our expert staff or via offline programming. An operator can load a CAD file matching the inspected component’s geometry into a software application, and pick the areas to be inspected; the software then generates the scan path for the robots.
The robot motion can be simulated in a 3D environment to verify non-collision between robot and part and robot reach limits prior to actual deployment.
The IntACom programme is a series of projects based on the development of robotic inspection systems that is being led by TWI’s Advanced Non-destructive Testing Centre in Port Talbot, South Wales. The programme’s overall aim is to reduce the cost of inspection of complex geometry components for the aerospace industry.
Currently TWI is developing and integrating other NDE techniques with the robot systems, such as:
- Air-coupled Ultrasound
- Full Matrix Capture and other SAFT techniques (Using TWI’s Crystal software)
- Laser Ultrasonics
- Eddy Current and Eddy Current Arrays
- Visual Inspection
- Automated X-ray Inspection
- Inspection of complex geometry
- Capability to inspect large components in a 10m x 4m x 4m space
- General purpose to allow the deployment of different non-destructive testing inspection probes
- C-scan data mapped on component’s CAD drawing
- Automated defect detection
- Accepts CAD files for fast teaching of scan paths
- High inspection productivity
- Fast inspection speeds
For more information about TWI's NDT services, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This automated inspection system has been developed at our Technology Centre in Wales. For more information about the Centre, please click here.