The prime aims of all manufacturers of NDT instruments and systems are to improve the quality and accuracy of inspections, to reduce inspection times to save costs and increase productivity for the end user and to make life easier for the inspectors themselves. NDT in today’s aviation sector is faced with the challenges of the increasing complexity of components to be inspected and with the gradual decline in the number of highly qualified inspection personnel. In these times of lockdown, caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, in-house NDT staff are now being asked to perform many inspection tasks with which they may be unfamiliar and, at the same time, cope with ever-more rigorous compliance requirements and the inspection of components in new materials. Fortunately, we have seen the development of a new generation of “smart” instrumentation and associated software to provide remote, expert assistance in the inspection process.
Remote Collaboration Software
Remote assistance for NDT personnel can now be provided in two areas: assistance with the actual inspection process; and expert assistance with the evaluation and management of inspection data.
Menu Directed Inspection (MDI)
Menu Directed Inspection allows NDT technicians to optimize the inspection process by walking them through each workflow, step-by-step, from calibration of the instrument to reporting of results. It can use asset-specific inspection plans from previous inspections. Rich data tags are automatically applied to collected data for easy database search and retrieval and to eliminate the need for manual notetaking, which can sometimes lead to mistakes and false calls.
Connecting with Experts
InspectionWorks is a new software platform which can do much to meet the challenges of today’s difficult inspection environment. It brings on-the-job training on-site by allowing NDT technicians to be tutored by remote experts through two-way chats and screen sharing. It also allows remote experts to assess and sentence difficult indications in real time, saving time, money – and mistakes.
The software platform is also a cloud-based repository for all, encrypted inspection data to ensure that all results are readily available. Historical results can be quickly compared to assist with preventative maintenance routines. The platform also contains a store of relevant inspection routines as “Apps” and these can be quickly deployed to simplify inspection workflow.
Remote Collaboration Hardware
NDT is a multi-faceted discipline, using a range of technologies. Two technologies which make particular use of remote collaboration are ultrasonic inspection (UT) and remote visual inspection (RVI)
Ultrasonic inspection is now far removed from the days of sizing by the 6dB drop method.
The majority of Ultrasonic Phased Array Testing (PAUT) systems on the market are complex and require extensive inspector training. Instruments designed to gather a wealth of data for a range of use-cases can lead to inconsistency among procedures. That means higher costs and less efficiency. Fortunately, the new Krautkrämer Mentor UT from Waygate Technologies is already InspectionWorks enabled. This makes it the first UT device to easily allow wireless connectivity and live streaming with probe kits and inspection apps already installed so that it can benefit from all the features of this software platform. In addition, the Mentor Create desktop software platform allows users to create or customize inspection “apps” to suit unique testing procedures and experience levels. The Mentor portfolio will be further enhanced later this year when a new UT instrument will be added to the range.
Remote Visual Inspection Instruments
RVI is used extensively in aviation maintenance, especially in engine inspection. Although RVI has become much more precise with innovations such as TrueSightTM, which delivers clearer, sharper videos and still images, HD-enabled digital zoom, which allows inspection of very small indications and Real3DTM can be used to map, measure and analyse indications on a fully-surfaced point cloud, there will still be occasions when live expert assessment is necessary. Once again, this can be provided InspectionWorks, which can be paired with the Mentor Visual iQ VideoProbe from Waygate Technologies.
Aircraft maintenance is still a very important requirement in these difficult times. Planes still flying and must be inspected to be fit for purpose. Planes currently grounded must be prepared for the resumption of duties. Remote collaboration is now an even more vital tool in any inspection and maintenance regime.