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Non Destructive Testing Methods Part 6 – Industrial Radiography

April 17, 2012

involves the use of penetrating X- or gamma radiation to examine parts and products for flaws that could be detrimental to their intended use. An X-ray machine or radioactive isotope is used as a source of radiation. Radiation is directed through a part onto a film or an electronic device (plate). When the film or plate is processed, a negative-like picture is obtained that shows the internal characteristics of a part. Possible imperfections show up as density changes in the film, in much the same way an x-ray can show broken bones.

History

Radiography started in 1895 with the discovery of X-rays (later also called Röntgen rays after the man who first described their properties in detail), a type of electromagnetic radiation. Soon after the discovery of X-rays, radioactivitywas discovered. By using radioactive sources such as radium, far higher photon energies could be obtained than those from normal X-ray machines. Soon these found various applications, with one of the earliest users beingLoughborough University[1], from helping to fit shoes, more lasting medical uses and the examination of non-living objects. X-rays and gamma-rays were put to use very early, before the dangers of ionising radiation were discovered. After World War II new isotopes such as caesium-137iridium-192 and cobalt-60 became available for industrial radiography, and the use of radium and radon decreased.

Applications

Gamma radiation sources, most commonly Iridium-192 and Cobalt-60, are used to inspect a variety of materials. The vast majority of industrial radiography concerns the testing and grading of welds on pressurized piping, pressure vessels, high-capacity storage containers, pipelines, castings, forgings, ceramics, electronic components, munitions or any component that defects can not be tolerated. Other tested materials include concrete (locating rebar or conduit), welder’s test coupons, machined parts, plate metal, or pipewall (locating anomalies due to corrosion or mechanical damage). Theoretically, industrial radiographers could radiograph any solid, flat material (walls, ceilings, floors, square or rectangular containers) or any hollow cylindrical or spherical object.

For purposes of inspection, including weld inspection, there exist several exposure arrangements.

First, there is the panoramic, one of the four single wall exposure/single wall view (SWE/SWV) arrangements. This exposure is created when the radiographer places the source of radiation at the center of a sphere, cone, or cylinder (including tanks, vessels, and piping). Depending upon client requirements, the radiographer would then place film cassettes on the outside of the surface to be examined. This exposure arrangement is ideal – when properly arranged and exposed, all portions of all exposed film will be of the same approximate density. It also has the advantage of taking less time than other arrangements since the source must only penetrate the total wall thickness (WT) once and must only travel the radius of the inspection item, not its full diameter. The major disadvantage of the panoramic is that it may be impractical to reach the center of the item (enclosed pipe) or the source may be too weak to perform in this arrangement (large vessels or tanks).

The second SWE/SWV arrangement is an interior placement of the source in an enclosed inspection item without having the source centered up. The source does not come in direct contact with the item, but is placed a distance away, depending on client requirements. The third is an exterior placement with similar characteristics. The fourth is reserved for flat objects, such as plate metal, and is also radiographed without the source coming in direct contact with the item. In each case, the radiographic film is located on the opposite side of the inspection item from the source. In all four cases, only one wall is exposed, and only one wall is viewed on the radiograph.

Of the other exposure arrangements, only the contact shot has the source located on the inspection item. This type of radiograph exposes both walls, but only resolves the image on the wall nearest the film. This exposure arrangement takes more time than a panoramic, as the source must penetrate the WT twice and travel the entire outside diameter of the pipe or vessel to reach the film on the opposite side. This is a double wall exposure/single wall view DWE/SWV arrangement. Another is the superimposure (wherein the source is placed on one side of the item, not in direct contact with it, with the film on the opposite side). This arrangement is usually reserved for very small diameter piping or parts. The last DWE/SWV exposure arrangement is the elliptical, in which the source is offset from the plane of the inspection item (usually a weld in pipe) and the elliptical image of the weld furthest from the source is cast onto the film.

The beam of radiation must be directed to the middle of the section under examination and must be normal to the material surface at that point, except in special techniques where known defects are best revealed by a different alignment of the beam. The length of weld under examination for each exposure shall be such that the thickness of the material at the diagnostic extremities, measured in the direction of the incident beam, does not exceed the actual thickness at that point by more than 6%. The specimen to be inspected is placed between the source of radiation and the detecting device, usually the film in a light tight holder or cassette, and the radiation is allowed to penetrate the part for the required length of time to be adequately recorded.

The result is a two-dimensional projection of the part onto the film, producing a latent image of varying densities according to the amount of radiation reaching each area. It is known as a radiograph, as distinct from a photograph produced by light. Because film is cumulative in its response (the exposure increasing as it absorbs more radiation), relatively weak radiation can be detected by prolonging the exposure until the film can record an image that will be visible after development. The radiograph is examined as a negative, without printing as a positive as in photography. This is because, in printing, some of the detail is always lost and no useful purpose is served.

Before commencing an industrial radiographic examination, it is always advisable to examine the component with one’s own eyes, to eliminate any possible external defects. If the surface of a weld is too irregular, it may be desirable to grind it to obtain a smooth finish, but this is likely to be limited to those cases in which the surface irregularities (which will be visible on the radiograph) may make detecting internal defects difficult.

After this visual examination, the operator will have a clear idea of the possibilities of access to the two faces of the weld, which is important both for the setting up of the equipment and for the choice of the most appropriate technique.

Gamma Radiography and High-Energy X-ray radiography are currently used to scan intermodal freight cargo containers in US and other countries. Also research is being done on adapting other types of radiography like Dual-Energy X-ray Radiography or Muon Radiography for scanning intermodal cargo containers ld forq�sm0 ȴ rent, even coating on the surface.

 

The developer draws penetrant from defects out onto the surface to form a visible indication, commonly known as bleed-out. Any areas that bleed-out can indicate the location, orientation and possible types of defects on the surface. Interpreting the results and characterizing defects from the indications found may require some training and/or experience [the indication size is not the actual size of the defect]

5. Inspection:

The inspector will use visible light with adequate intensity (100 foot-candles or 1100 lux is typical) for visible dye penetrant. Ultraviolet (UV-A) radiation of adequate intensity (1,000 micro-watts per centimeter squared is common), along with low ambient light levels (less than 2 foot-candles) for fluorescent penetrant examinations. Inspection of the test surface should take place after a 10 minute development time. This time delay allows the blotting action to occur. The inspector may observe the sample for indication formation when using visible dye. It is also good practice to observe indications as they form because the characteristics of the bleed out are a significant part of interpretation characterization of flaws.

6. Post Cleaning:

The test surface is often cleaned after inspection and recording of defects, especially if post-inspection coating processes are scheduled.


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