Effective and efficient non-destructive testing of large and complex shaped aircraft structures
The main aim of the research described within this thesis is to develop methodologies that enhance the defect detection capabilities of nondestructive testing (NDT) for the aircraft industry. Modem aircraft non-destructive testing requires the detection of small defects in large complex shaped components. Research has therefore focused on the limitations of ultrasonic, radioscopic and shearographic methods and the complimentary aspects associated with each method. The work has identified many parameters that have significant effect on successful defect detection and has developed methods for assessing NDT systems capabilities by noise analysis, excitation performance and error contributions attributed to the positioning of sensors. The work has resulted in 1. The demonstration that positional accuracy when ultrasonic testing has a significant effect on defect detection and a method to measure positional accuracy by evaluating the compensation required in a ten axis scanning system has revealed limitsio the achievable defect detection when using complex geometry scanning systems. 2. A method to reliably detect 15 micron voids in a diffusion bonded joint at ultrasonic frequencies of 20 MHz and above by optimising transducer excitation, focussing and normalisation. 3. A method of determining the minimum detectable ultrasonic attenuation variation by plotting the measuring error when calibrating the alignment of a ten axis scanning system. 4. A new formula for the calculation of the optimum magnification for digital radiography. The formula is applicable for focal spot sizes less than 0.1 mm. 5. A practical method of measuring the detection capabilities of a digital radiographic system by calculating the modulation transfer function and the noise power spectrum from a reference image. 6. The practical application of digital radiography to the inspection of super plastically formed ditThsion bonded titanium (SPFDB) and carbon fibre composite structure has been demonstrated but has also been supported by quantitative measurement of the imaging systems capabilities. 7. A method of integrating all the modules of the shearography system that provides significant improvement in the minimum defect detection capability for which a patent has been granted. 8. The matching of the applied stress to the data capture and processing during a shearographic inspection which again contributes significantly to the defect detection capability. 9. The testing and validation of the Parker and Salter  temporal unwrapping and laser illumination work has led to the realisation that producing a pressure drop that would result in a linear change in surface deformation over time is difficult to achieve. 10. The defect detection capabilities achievable by thermal stressing during a shearographic inspection have been discovered by applying the pressure drop algorithms to a thermally stressed part. 11. The minimum surface displacement measurable by a shearography system and therefore the defect detection capabilities can be determined by analysing the signal to noise ratio of a transition from a black (poor reflecting surface) to white (good reflecting surface). The quantisation range for the signal to noise ratio is then used in the Hung  formula to calculate the minimum displacement. Many of the research aspects contained within this thesis are cuffently being implemented within the production inspection process at BAE Samlesbury.