Composites manufacturers are all too familiar with quality challenges. Inclusions and foreign object debris (FOD), incorrect ply orientation, internal voids, porosity, disbonds, delamination and more, both on the surface and interior of composite materials, may result in scrap, rework or worse – failure in the field. Efficient and accurate non-destructive evaluation (NDE) can help manufacturers save time, money and their reputation without cutting apart or altering the composite material.

“NDE should be used at various stages of the part’s life cycle – in the development phase, during manufacture of the part, in final factory inspection and when examining the part in the field to identify and assess damage or health and service life longevity,” says Lou Dorworth, direct services manager for Abaris Training Resources Inc., a provider of advanced composites training.

Dorworth notes that NDE methods for evaluating composites fall under two main categories – contact (such as traditional ultrasonic) and non-contact testing (thermographic, radiographic, infrared and shearography) – with a few unique technologies sprinkled in, such as acoustic emission testing and electromagnetic testing. “The change [in the NDE landscape] is not so much in the introduction of wholly new technology, rather in the increased capability of existing methods, the sophistication of software and interconnectivity, and the advancement of automation and robotics for conducting evaluations,” says Dorworth.

Investing in sophisticated NDE equipment and software may be expensive, but the cost/benefit equation weighs in favor of NDE. Providers of NDE solutions are stepping up with next-generation advancements.

Simulated NDE through Cloud Computing

“Simulating NDE inspections prior to conducting NDE on a manufactured part can facilitate evaluation in a reduced timeframe and reduce the number and expense of physical tests later on,” says Dorworth.

OnScale, founded in 2018, offers a finite element analysis software that conducts scalable ultrasonic simulations using cloud-based high-performance computing (HPC). The software performs ultrasonic modeling and simulations used in a variety of NDE applications to augment real-world data from NDE studies. Cloud-based computing allows for entire inspections to be simulated in parallel to reduce the time frame required for the simulations. OnScale says it is 100 times faster than traditional computer-aided engineering tools.

Using OnScale, multi-element arrays can be simulated to generate full inspections without hardware. The rapid simulations assist in eliminating the need for fabricating expensive, bespoke test pieces for pioneering new inspection techniques.

In August 2019, OnScale announced a partnership with Eclipse Scientific to network its software with BeamTool 9, an open development software for the design of phased array, time-of-flight diffraction (TOFD) and conventional ultrasonic inspection plans.