Advances in Eddy Current Inspection Technology

Eddy current testing (ET) is fundamentally the same now as it was when first introduced in 1879 by David Hughes, yet it remains among the best inspection techniques for use in many cases today. While the technology itself is unchanged, its applications have become much more sophisticated, particularly over the past 20 years. Inspection professionals across manufacturing, oil and gas, aerospace, power generation, and various other industries are able to perform inspections plus detect and size flaws with greater speed and accuracy than ever before.

How and when ET is used has changed remarkably, and the digital age has brought transformational change for inspection technology. Recent advancements in eddy current tools have simplified not only the inspection process, but also the training and collaboration processes involved across industries, increasing the scope of applications and usefulness of the technology. As inspection technologies become more advanced, the need to recruit, train, qualify, and retain skilled nondestructive examination (NDE) personnel becomes increasingly important, especially in an industry where the workforce is rapidly aging.

One notable trend is the recent emergence of powerful, networked portable devices. Previous generations of inspection technology often required the testing technician to carry cumbersome equipment, diagrams, maps, and numerous other paper documents with information on the testing process and the standard requirements for the test. Given the complex and often harsh industrial environments inspectors work in, this was far from ideal and introduced a number of variables that could affect the accuracy of test results. GE recently launched Mentor EM to help address this concern. With this portable device, the testing process is automated on-screen, including all relevant information on test metrics, procedures, and standards (eliminating the need for carrying additional materials on site).

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Where previous ET devices have been standalone units that perform a reading — essentially like a very advanced pocket compass — Mentor EM incorporates a comprehensive information system. Not only can technicians capture its readings onto a network database, but future versions of the system will be capable of finding and opening information on the network. The inspector can be relieved of carrying paper documents, which instead are directly viewed on the instrument’s tablet. Printed documents expire; online documentation can be managed to provide only current information. The new system also has the ability to create standardized inspection workflows. It can automate the test process, which again is a seemingly small advancement that could have tremendous implications. Large organizations with numerous inspectors at multiple facilities might find that their ET is performed differently, with slightly different results achieved by each individual. By developing a standard practice, the company can be confident that all of its weld inspections, for example, are being performed in exactly the same way, with results that can be duplicated by any one of its test technicians.

Eddy current inspection is one of today’s most useful and essential modalities for NDE. To read the full article about GE’s latest tools for eddy current inspection, visit Inspection Trends Magazine.

By Bob Ward, Senior Product Manager, Portables, GE Measurement & Control

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