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Nondestructive Bond Testing for Aircraft Composites
Application Reliable bonds are essential to the integrity of aircraft composite structures throughout their service life. Therefore, NDT methods have been developed to assess bonding quality during maintenance. This application note reviews several methods recently developed to improve the reliability of inspection. Background The use of composites in aircraft manufacturing is growing dramatically. The main airframe manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus have significantly increased the use of composites in their commercial aircraft. While almost the entire fuselage of the Boeing 787 is made of composite, the Airbus A380 and A350 also incorporate significant composite structures. Regional and business jet manufacturers also increased their use of composite. The same growth is being observed in military aircraft such as F22 fighters and A400 transports. Because aircraft structures are subjected to impacts and lightning strikes, reliable and efficient Nondestructive Testing (NDT) methods are needed to quickly assess possible damage. The methods and the necessary instruments have to be easy to use by NDT inspectors all around the world to assure consistency of test results during maintenance checks. Impacts on aircraft structures can cause different types of damage to composite structures. The damage will vary depending of the nature of the composite part, its composition, and density. On composite laminated structures, defects created by impact are mainly delaminations between different plies of the fuselage and wing skin. But impact can also cause disbonds between the skin and the stiffeners. Such disbond can significantly hurt the integrity of the structures. Laminated structures comprise mainly the fuselage of the B787 as well as the A350.
Figure 1: Delamination in a laminated structure Composite sandwich structures, composed of a sandwich of honeycomb core structures (NOMEX, etc) between laminated carbon skins, present different types of damage. The following defects can be found after an impact: Type A - delamination between plies of outer CFRP skin, parallel to surface Type B - disbonding between the outer skin and the honeycomb core Type C - cracked honeycomb core parallel to the inspection surface Type D - crushed honeycomb core in parallel area Type E - disbonding between inner skin and honeycomb core Type F - fluid ingress in honeycomb core
and resonance testing to inspect composite materials. A new differential high voltage probe was specifically designed for a difficult and time-consuming inspection of an Airbus airplane. ultrasound travels very well in composite laminated structures and it can detect anomalies quite easily.) located on the far side below 40 mm of honeycomb structure. resulting in an amplitude change. large sandwich panels are inspected with through transmission methods in which a relatively high amplitude ultrasound beam travels through the part and a receiving transducer located on the other side measures attenuation of the signal. in sandwich structures the ultrasound is extremely attenuated due to the inhomogeneity and low density of the core structure. Conventional Ultrasonic Testing Ultrasound is the most widely used technique for inspecting composite structures. But it is impossible to use this technique in a maintenance environment as the required access from both sides of the aircraft structure is impossible. This remarkable result is now referenced in an Airbus service bulletin.) x 25 mm. This instrument has long been used on most existing aircraft. Figure 4: Bond testing pitch-catch mode An adaptation of this technique was recently developed to allow reliable detection of a disbond (area 25 mm (1 in. like a type E defect. . Figure 3: Olympus BondMaster 1000e+ The pitch-catch modes are used to inspect composite materials containing honeycomb structures. but new methods were developed recently. mechanical impedance analysis (MIA). In a bonded condition. When the probe is placed over a disbonded area. which is received by the receiver. the use of ultrasound for sandwich structures requires more specialized features in instruments.Figure 2: Damages in a composite sandwich structure Solutions and Equipment Multi-Mode Acoustic Bond Testing The Olympus BondMaster 1000e+ is a multimode ultrasonic adhesive bond testing instrument that uses a pitch-catch mode. the amount of energy returned to the receiver is greater. The transmitter sends acoustic energy into the part. Unfortunately. That technique is widely used and is very reliable. There are a large variety of appropriate ultrasonic instruments available. Results are typically presented as C-scan images. Typically. Therefore. a portion of the acoustic energy is attenuated by the components of the structure. In a manufacturing environment.
The Omniscan PA is already referenced in maintenance manuals of aircraft manufacturers for various applications. Figure 6: Olympus EPOCH XT Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing New technologies like ultrasonic phased array also have recent developments. A technique was recently developed to detect disbonds between the inner skin and the core. Figure 5: Ultrasonic resonance technique principle The EPOCH XT ultrasonic flaw detector with its high voltage pulse. the system displays results in a C-scan image which give an intuitive mapping of the structures inspected. and therefore the resonance frequency will diminish. Combined with the use of a portable scanner like the Glider.) x 25 mm disbond on the inner structure will cause a backwall signal attenuation of 6 to 12 db due to that phenomenon. The combined use of image and scanner increase the reliability and the speed of the inspection. the quality of its square pulse and selectable narrowband filters is the instrument of choice for this technique. including impact damage detection in composite laminated structures For such structures. and crushed cores. Delamination of the outer skin and disbonds between outer skin and the core are characterised by a total attenuation of the backwall signal. presence of fluids. Presence of a disbond will reduce the stiffness of the structure causing a resonance shift to longer wavelength. ultrasound allows detection of inner and outer skin disbonds. Low-frequency transducers and tracking of the backwall signal is necessary and must be used in a very intelligent way.Nevertheless. A 25 mm (1 in. The instrument's receiver filter is tuned to the thickness of the structure and to work at the corresponding half-wavelength. The instrument performs a zero degree linear inspection covering a large area in one pass. The technique uses a broad bandwidth 1 MHz probe when excited by a powerful square wave pulse creates resonance in the structure underneath the probe. the linear scan capability is used. . Portable and easy-to-use units are now available on the market.
and is based on the well-establish pulse/echo technique.NDT-trained personnel to detect subsurface impact damage on solid laminate structures (not honeycomb structures). the increasing use of aircraft with composite structure has created the need to quickly check for impact damage at the airport during plane turnaround.Figure 7: Olympus OmniScan PA and GLIDER for composite inspection Hand-held Ramp Damage Checker While a lot of effort has been put into creating new methods and instrument for NDT technicians. The concept was developed and then patented by Boeing. created for the inspection of the new Boeing 787 aircraft and other composite structures. instruments have been designed to be used by non-technicians to detect possible delamination due to impact. It was designed to be used by non. As NDT technician are not available in all airports of the world. go/no-go ultrasonic instrument. The 35RDC is now referenced in the B787 Structural Repair Data. The 35RDC is a simple. Figure 8: Olympus 35 RDC (Ramp Damage Checker) Products used for this application .
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