Ann Arbor, MI— The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) has announced the publication of a new report featuring the benefits of large standoff/large area thermography (LASLAT), an advanced thermal imaging tool that has expanded the capabilities of non-destructive inspection (NDI). The technology brief highlights how NCMS’s collaborations with a thermography innovator and the Air Force have enabled military aircraft maintainers to enhance the readiness of aircraft in less time and at lower cost than ever before.
Over the past two decades, thermography has become a widely accepted method for non-destructive inspection (NDI). Thermographic inspection can use either a component’s inherit heat flow (passive thermography) or an induced heat flow (active thermography) to reveal component abnormalities. Passive thermography is used to inspect objects from large distances, while flash thermography (a technique of active thermography) has primarily been limited to close-proximity distances. NCMS’s industry partner, Thermal Wave Imaging, has developed a method called thermographic signal reconstruction (TSR) that leverages the past success of close-proximity flash thermography and the large distance-to-target principle of passive thermography. The technology facilitates an unprecedented degree of sensitivity depth range, and resolution of subsurface defects.
A key advantage of the LASLAT system is its portability: technicians can move the system directly to the aircraft, as opposed to larger systems that require taking the aircraft to another location. An infrared camera monitors surface temperature changes to detect subsurface defects or anomalies including delamination, disbonding, fluid intrusion, impact damage, and other defects. Automated inspection routines eliminate manual positioning, and the system can cover an inspection area of 17 feet by 15 feet, at the rate of 7 ft² per minute.
The system can scan an entire inspection area and then provide an aggregate subsurface map for review. Using data analysis tools in an accompanying software program, technicians can pinpoint the exact location and measurements of defects, and then produce an archive of inspection results over the service lifetime of an aircraft.
Through NCMS’s project, the Air Force has found that inspection of a large aircraft prop rotor blade that previously took roughly 10-14 hours to scan now takes 3-4 hours, and results in increased documentation and traceability for their inspections. Following the project, the system was employed by the Navy to inspect V-22 Osprey prop rotor blades. This change in inspection methods has produced an average savings of 625 labor hours annually.
While the NCMS project focused on military applications for the LASLAT system, it has many potential applications for other industries, particularly in the aviation and aerospace sectors. Its sensitivity and depth range would enable inspection of advanced composites as well as a variety of metal materials. Additionally, it could be applied in other industries with high-value assets, such as power generation, automotive, marine, electronics, and more.
To read the entire NCMS report and learn more about the NCMS technology brief program, visit https://www.ncms.org/non-
NCMS is a cross-industry technology development consortium dedicated to improving the competitiveness and strength of the US industrial base for over 33 years. NCMS leverages a network of industry, government, and university partners to develop, demonstrate, and transition innovative technologies efficiently, with less risk and lower cost. NCMS enables world-class companies to work effectively with other members on new opportunities—matching highly capable companies with the providers and end users who need their innovations and technology solutions. The NCMS network benefits from an accelerated progression of idea creation through execution.
About the NCMS Tech Brief Program
NCMS technology briefs highlight NCMS’s cultivation and growth of innovative technologies. Through our collaborations with government and industry, we’ve gained insights into viable approaches and best practices that can assist all companies navigate the sometimes-complex journey towards advancement. Based on the results of NCMS technology projects, the briefs show the applicability and usefulness of proven technical advances—all in an effort to speed adoption and eliminate duplication of effort. NCMS is pleased to share these insights to support US manufacturing competitiveness.