Automated NDT inspection for large and complex geometries of composite materials

  • Carmelo Mineo

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Large components with complex geometries, made of composite materials, have become very common in modern structures. To cope with future demand projections, it is necessary to overcome the current non-destructive testing (NDT) bottlenecks encountered during the inspection phase of manufacture. This thesis investigates several aspects of the introduction of automation within the inspection process of complex parts. The use of six-axis robots for product inspection and non-destructive testing systems is the central investigation of this thesis. The challenges embraced by the research include the development of a novel controlling approach for robotic manipulators and of novel path-planning strategies. The integration of robot manipulators and NDT data acquisition instruments is optimized. An effective and reliable way to encode the NDT data through the interpolated robot feedback positions is implemented. The viability of the new external control method is evaluated experimentally. The observed maximum position and orientation errors are respectively within 2mm and within 1 degree, over an operating envelope of 3m³. A new software toolbox (RoboNDT), aimed at NDT technicians, has been developed during this work. RoboNDT is intended to transform the robot path-planning problem into an easy step of the inspection process. The software incorporates the novel path-planning algorithms developed during this research and is shaped to overcome practical limitations of current OLP software. The software has been experimentally validated using scans on real high value aerospace components. RoboNDT delivers tool-path errors that are lower than the errors given by commercial off-line path-planning software. For example the variability of the standoff is within 10 mm for the tool-paths created with the commercial software and within 4.5 mm for the RoboNDT tool-paths, over a scanned area of 1.6m². The output of this research was used to support a 3-year industrial project, called IntACom and led by TWI on behalf of major aerospace sponsors. The result is a demonstrator system, currently in use at TWI Technology Centre, which is capable of inspecting complex geometries with high throughput. The IntACom system can scan real components 2.8 times faster than traditional 3-DoF scanners deploying phased-array inspection and 6.7 times faster than commercial gantry systems deploying traditional single-element inspection.
Date of Award4 Sep 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsTWI Ltd
SupervisorGareth Pierce (Supervisor) & Anthony Gachagan (Supervisor)

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