For those of you who are unfamiliar with UTComp™ and our core products, UltraAnalytix® and QCAnalytix™, let me give you a quick summary.
UltraAnalytix® is, simply put, the only non-destructive inspection method in the world that can provide quantitative, measurable and accurate data regarding the quality of manufacture and current condition of the structure and corrosion barrier of Fiberglass Reinforced Polymer (FRP) and other composite industrial assets. This technology can also accurately predict the remaining life of an FRP asset, allowing it to remain in service for many years longer than alternative inspection methods can predict. UltraAnalytix® utilizes an ultrasound transducer to send ultrasonic pulses into the composite and receive the reflected signal back. Our proprietary software then post-processes the recorded signal into the meaningful data that is used to evaluate the state of the composite asset.
QCAnalytix is an extension of UltraAnalytix® where the ultrasound inspection technology is integrated into custom machinery for the purpose of real-time, continuous inspection of a production line. Composites products and pultruded assets such as FRP piping, railway ties and other continuously manufactured composite assets can be analyzed in line and automatically. It inspects in real time parameters such as thickness, baseline stiffness and baseline strength. This system is also able to determine if a sample is free of defects or if it needs to be scrapped by a simple yes or no parameter. The producer and consumer will have peace of mind knowing the asset will deliver top performance in the field.
QCAnalytix also utilizes a modern Human Machine Interface (HMI) for ease of operation. All the data acquisition and processing of results is displayed in real time on the HMI screen. Data is also stored locally as well as able to be automatically saved elsewhere using the built-in network connectivity. Each QCAnalytix system is fully customized by UTComp’s experienced engineering staff both mechanically and in the software to meet each customer’s and applications needs. Figure 1 is an example of one of the top-level operating screens.
Figure 1: Top level HMI screeen for fully automatic mode
QCAnalytix, like UltraAnalytix®, provides quantitative rather than subjective determinations of the inspection criteria. The system provides the user with factual data regarding the current condition and future performance and service life of production line assets in real time. QCAnalytix can accelerate production rates by enabling rapid turnaround for improvements, lower costs by reducing downtime and waste as well as building customer loyalty by helping to deliver the highest quality, top performing products.
The QCAnalytix system is custom designed to meet the needs of each individual application. Real time results are displayed and automatically uploaded to customer databases. The system can operate in fully automated, semi-automated and diagnostic modes for optimal user experience and minimal downtime.
Figure 2: A typical configuration of a QCAnalytix system for inspecting production line FRP piping
A QCAnalytix system typically consists of several sections:
- A feed conveyor to transfer production product into the in-line inspection system.
- A spray booth to ensure that there is enough water couplant on the product for the ultrasound signal to reliably transfer into the product and the reflected signal is recorded.
- An HMI for the operator to interact with the operation of the machine, such as start, stop and see real time inspection data.
- The automated inspection station where the UltraAnalytix® sensors are applied to the asset to be inspected and data is collected.
- The ultrasonic equipment rack containing the bank of Olympus Epoch 650 Ultrasonic Flaw Detectors
- The electrical panel.
Conventional inspection methods have several disadvantages. They are 100% intrusive and require destructive testing of the test samples. Particularly with pipe, the sample of pipe can not be used in service after testing as there are typically no ports or flanges made during production to provide material for testing. Non-destructive, traditional inspections consist of a simple subjective visual inspection which is incapable of determining any internal characteristics of the asset or make a meaningful evaluation of fitness for service. When a manufacturer takes a small sample of an asset, they produce to demonstrate its integrity, then in truth the inspection only relates to the sample tested and not to the whole of the asset produced. To have true statistical confidence there needs to be a large enough sample used to demonstrate the asset’s structural soundness which would effectively destroy the asset; QCAnalytix can verify that the whole asset is structurally sound and fit for service without causing any damage. In addition, conventional inspection methods are very slow, taking hours or days. This means that production rates are slowed and issues with the manufacturing process are not identified in a timely manner leading to increased levels of production scrap.
By contrast, QCAnalytix can perform inspection in real time, utilizing off the shelf ultrasound technology and proprietary software. It can perform on site analysis that is able to determine the percentage of design life at the time of manufacture, material thickness, and where applicable, the condition of the corrosion barrier at the time of manufacture. This means the manufacturer can provide customers with material certifications based on empirical measured data. QCAnalytix is the only technology in the world that has these capabilities.
UltraAnalytix® measurements of Percent of Design Life (PDS) has been validated against destructive testing to a correlation of 0.94 as can be seen in figure 3 below.
Figure 3: Correlation of non-destructive PDS to destructive PDS
This means that manufacturers can have a very high degree of confidence that their product is manufactured to specifications and that their material certifications are accurate.
QCAnalytix is also the world leading technology for non-destructive defect identification. There are two main types of defects in composite assets, voids and foreign inclusions.
A void is an empty space within a composite. A void can occur during manufacturing, such as during hand lay-up or filament winding, or during in service usage with loads that exceed the design limits. A void may substantially compromise the structural integrity or other performance parameters such as chemical resistance rendering the asset not fit for service.
Figure 3: A void in a section of FRP
Foreign inclusions are undesired material that has inadvertently been incorporated into the composite. These foreign bodies do not contribute to the engineered functionality of the composite and may create a structural or other functional weakness rendering the asset not fit for service.
QCAnalytix is perfectly suited for the determination of failure modes of composites both during manufacturing as well as post-manufacturing as needs arise.
Preventing failures and optimizing the service life of any composite structure in the field is the result of a balance between the service loads applied and the actual capacity of the structure. This is the basis of Fitness for Service or Suitability for Service evaluation. To be able to determine this status of the FRP asset while still at the manufacturing site, will add value to the product and reduce failures in the field, and spoilage during production.
QCAnalytix is the latest application of the patented UltraAnalytix® inspection system that is designed specifically for composite manufacturing. This innovative quality control, in-line inspection system will give you the certified confidence that you and your customers want from your composite assets.
Director of Operations, UTComp