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Presentation by Mohammed Hliyil Hafiz, PhD, P.E., Metallurgical &Production Department, Technology University, Baghdad ‐Iraq.
Electromagnetic testing (ET), especially eddy current testing, is commonly used to inspect objects throughout their life cycle. Eddy current techniques employ alternating currents applied to a conducting coil held close to the test object. In response, the test object generates eddy currents to oppose the alternating current in the coil. The eddy currents are then sensed by the same coil, separate coils, or magnetic field sensors. Changes in the induced eddy currents may be caused by changes to a material’s electromagnetic properties and/or changes in geometry, including the abrupt changes in current flow caused by cracks. Thus ET methods are highly effective for the detection of cracks present on or below the surface of metallic objects. ET equipment has become extremely portable and is relatively cheap. It is the second most common method specified for NDT of aircraft. Recent advances in eddy current technology include multi-channel portable instruments, allowing faster inspections of large areas, and new magnetic sensors, such as the giant magnetoresistive sensors (GMR) developed for computer hard drives, instead of coils. 1-INTRODUCTION Even though eddy current testing is one of the oldest nondestructive evaluation methods, it was not widely understood and did not reach full, widespread use until the 1980s. Whereas portable ultrasonic instrumentation offering considerable versatility for nondestructive testing (NDT) has been available since the 1960s, comparable eddy current testing equipment was not widely available until the 1980s. In addition, eddy current theory did not become available until the late 1970s. Now, excellent tutorial information is available for scientists and engineers without advanced degrees.
2-History of Eddy Current Testing
Eddy current testing (Figure 1) has its roots in discoveries that were made in the 1800s. The most fundamental breakthrough was the discovery of electromagnetism by Hans Christian Orstead in 1820. About a decade later in 1831,Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction*. Then in 1834, Heinrich Lenz developed the principal that defines how the electromagnetic properties of a test object are communicated back to the test system. And finally, James Maxwell, who is famous for his defining equations of electromagnetic theory, discovered eddy currents in 1864 D.E. Hughes was the first to use eddy current testing in 1879 to conduct metallurgical sorting tests†. More than a half century later, eddy current testing made a leap forward when Friedrich Foerster developed and marketed practical eddy current testing equipment in the 1940s. His major contributions led to the development of the impedance plane display, which greatly aided presentation of test information. In addition, he formulated the Law of Similarity, which enables eddy current test results to be duplicated under a wide variety of test situations. An equipment manufacturer, Inter controlle of France, made the next major advancement in 1974, when the company developed multi-frequency testing. Driving the device at multiple frequencies enabled eddy current testing to overcome the major limitation of having to interpret eddy current signals from a single display. Multi-frequency methods can also optimize conflicting test variables such as sensitivity and penetration. The development of microprocessor-based eddy current instruments in the 1980s greatly enhanced the potential and user-friendliness of the method, and allowed for the development of automated eddy current inspection equipment. Finally, at the turn of the century in the late 1990s and early 2000s, giant magnetoresistive‡ sensors were utilized to allow multi-frequency techniques at very low frequencies to probe for flaws deep in multi-layer metallic aircraft structures.
Eddy current NDT is based on the principals of electromagnetic induction for inducing eddy currents§ in a material or part placed in or adjacent to one or more alternating flux field induction coils. The system is operated at very low power levels to minimize heating and temperature changes. The loop currents induced in the material produce an additional magnetic field, and a sensor is used to measure the total magnetic field near the specimen. The value of the total magnetic field depends on several factors including the following: • Geometry of the induction coil • Geometry of the specimen • Current and frequency in the coil • Electrical conductivity of the specimen • Magnetic permeability of the specimen
4-How Eddy Current Testing Works
A crack in the surface, or near the surface of the specimen interrupts the current flowing in the specimen (i.e., it locally changes the electrical conductivity) and causes a change in the adjacent magnetic field. The induction coil is scanned over
the specimen, and the magnetic field is measured by a sensor and recorded. In another approach, there is no second or sensing coil, and the reluctance** is measured directly in the exciting or induction coil to locate a crack. Figure 2 shows the principal elements of four types of typical eddy current systems. Figure 2 (a) shows a simple arrangement, in which voltage across the coil is monitored. Figure 2 (b) shows a typical impedance bridge. Figure 2 (c) shows an impedance bridge with dual coils and Figure 2 (d) shows an impedance bridge with dual coils and a reference sample in the second cell. The location of the eddy currents in the specimen in the z, or depth direction, is a function of the frequency. As the frequency is increased, the eddy currents are increasingly concentrated near the surface of the specimen, and as the frequency is decreased the eddy currents increase their penetration into the specimen. Employing a variety of frequencies to probe different depths in the specimen can be very useful for analyzing a greater volume of the specimen.
5-Types of Discontinuities
There are a number of different discontinuities that can be detected with eddy current NDT. In metallic structures, welds, fatigue cracks, voids, hidden corrosion and stress corrosion cracks can be detected (Figure 3) and the size of such defects can also be determined. The geometry of the part and the defect location dictate the size of the flaw that can be detected. For example, automated and manual eddy current inspection of gas turbine engine disks can reliably detect cracks as small as 0.023 inches in length in bolt holes of seventh stage compressor disks.  Defects such as delaminations, voids and broken fibers from impact damage can be detected in graphite epoxy composites. While in carbon/carbon composites for high temperature use, eddy current NDT can be used to determine the thickness of the silicon carbide (SiC) coating used on Carbon/carbon composite for oxidation protection. In addition, voids caused by oxidation between the SiC coating and the carbon/carbon base can be detected and carbon loss due to oxidation can be determined using eddy current NDT. Eddy Current NDT can be used on conducting materials including metals, alloys, carbon/epoxy composites, carbon/carbon composites, and metallic matrix composites.
There are no special facility requirements for eddy current NDT, and portable instrumentation is available for field applications such as aircraft inspection, as shown in Figure 4. Rugged eddy current equipment is also available for use in manufacturing environments to inspect metallic products as they are being processed. There is no special material preparation for testing, but a smooth surface produces optimum results. Eddy current equipment is calibrated using physical calibration standards made of the same material with the same geometry as the part to be tested. Electro discharge machining (EDM) notches, drilled holes, etc., can serve as flaws, and several sizes should be used to encompass the actual flaw sizes expected. Figure 5 shows several fabricated discontinuities used as standards in eddy current inspection. Real flaws such as fatigue cracks, stress corrosion cracks, etc., are required for improved accuracy in sizing of defects. The distance of the inspection coil from the surface of the sample, called “liftoff” must also be carefully controlled. The interpretation of results using the modern, computer-based eddy current equipment is
straightforward with both a display screen showing the results and the computer recording the data.
Commercial, off-the-shelf eddy current equipment is available that is very portable and user-friendly. Training for the eddy current testing technique is somewhat straightforward (Figure 6). However, certified NDT inspectors are either recommended or required and the training for a certified inspector involves more indepth training than just how to use the instrument and interpret the results. In the US, eddy current inspectors can be certified by NAS 410 from the Aerospace Industries Association of America or by the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT). Eddy current instruments range in cost from about $10,000 to about $30,000. In additional to conventional eddy current NDT techniques, remote field eddy current inspection capability was developed to inspect tubular metallic products from the inside of the tube. This technique, illustrated in Figure 7, provides a means of inspecting the outside of the tube wall with only an interior eddy current probe. The technique is applicable to any metallic material, but has been primarily applied to ferromagnetic materials since the wall of the tube must be magnetically saturated. The outside of the tube or pipe can be inspected for corrosion/erosion wall thinning, pitting, and cracks. The technique is equally sensitive to axial and circumferential flaws. The major disadvantage is that when applied to nonmagnetic materials the sensitivity is generally decreased. Advantages and Disadvantages of Eddy Current Testing There are several advantages to using the method of eddy current testing. These typically include: • Reasonable cost • Availability of a wide variety of commercial, off-the-shelf instruments • Automation potential • Good sensitivity to small flaws at or near the surface of the sample • Capability for quantitative flaw sizing • Portable equipment The disadvantages of eddy current NDT include the lack of capability to detect flaws that are deep in thick section metallic structures and the restriction for application to only conducting materials. Figure 8 gives the standard depths of penetration of eddy currents as a function of frequency for several metals of various electrical conductivities.
8-SELECTED EXAMPLES OF EDDY CURRENT APPLICATIONS
Eddy current NDT is widely used to inspect for corrosion and cracking in airplane wing skins at rivet holes and in aircraft frames.  Modern commercial eddy current instrumentation capable of operating down to 60 Hz with small eddy current probes is now available to detect small fatigue cracks below the surface in aircraft airframes with more sensitivity than X-ray radiography. Fatigue cracks can also be detected in layered structures such as an aircraft window belt splice, which is illustrated in Figure 9 (a).
The technique produces easily interpreted crack responses on a screen display, as shown in Figure 9 (b & c). These cracks were detected in the first row of rivets above the longitudinal belt splice of aircraft windows. The cracks initiated at the fastener holes in the internal (second layer) skin and grew in a longitudinal direction. Corrosion of multiplayer aircraft skins can also be readily detected with eddy current techniques, as shown in Figure 10. Eddy current techniques are also in widespread use to detect fatigue cracks in critical aircraft jet engines components, such as blades and turbine disk during overhaul. For discontinuities more than 0.07 in. (1.8 mm) long fluorescent penetrant inspection will usually suffice. However, for cracks below 0.07 in. (1.8 mm) in length, eddy current NDT is usually required.
Eddy current NDT is a mature technology with widespread availability of user-friendly, affordable, and commercial, off-the shelf equipment. It can be used on conducting materials and can detect many types of discontinuities. Eddy current testing has enjoyed considerable success in a number of applications including, for example, inspection of nuclear reactor heat exchanger tubes, aircraft engine and metal skin components, and in the manufacturing plant inspection of a variety of metallic components. In addition, eddy current NDT is widely used to inspect welds along with X-ray radiography and ultrasonic testing.
* Electromagnetic induction is the generation of an electrical voltage across a conducting material through stimulation by an applied alternating magnetic field. † Tests used to quickly sort metal alloys with differing chemical or alloying compositions. ‡ Giant magneto resistance is a phenomenon where the application of a magnetic field reduces the electrical resistance of certain materials by a significant margin. § An eddy current is an electrical current that flows in a circular path or loop and is induced by an applied magnetic field. ** Reluctance in a magnetic system is akin to resistance in an electrical system.
11-summry 11-1- Eddy Current Testing
Eddy current testing is particularly well suited for detecting surface cracks but can also be used to make electrical conductivity and coating thickness measurements. Here a small surface probe is scanned over the part surface in an attempt to detect a crack.
11-2-Eddy Current Testing, principle
• Eddy currents are a form of induced currents that flow in a circular path. They get their name from “eddies” that are formed when a liquid or gas flows in a circular path around obstacles when conditions are right. • Eddy currents flowing in the material will generate their own “secondary” magnetic field which will oppose the coil’s “primary” magnetic field. • This entire electromagnetic induction process to produce eddy currents may occur from several hundred to several million times.
each second depending upon inspection frequency.
11-3-Depth penetration of Eddy Currents
• Eddy currents are strongest at the surface of the material and decrease in strength below the surface. The depth that the eddy currents are only 37% as strong as they are on the surface is known as the standard depth of penetration or skin depth. This depth changes with probe frequency, material conductivity and permeability.
• There are three characteristics of the specimen that affect the strength of the induced eddy currents. – The electrical conductivity of the material – The magnetic permeability of the material – The amount of solid material in the vicinity of the test coil. • Information about the strength of the eddy currents within the specimen is determined by monitoring changes in voltage and/or current that occur in the coil. • The strength of the eddy currents changes the electrical impedance (Z) of the coil. • Impedance (Z) in an eddy current coil is the total opposition to current flow. In a coil, Z is made up of resistance (R) and inductive reactance (XL). •
11-5-Inspection Applications - material thickness
Thickness measurements are possible with eddy current inspection. Only a certain amount of eddy currents can form in a given volume of material. Therefore, thicker materials will support more eddy currents than thinner materials. The strength (amount) of eddy currents can be measured and related to the material thickness. 11-6-Crack Detection Crack detection is one of the primary uses of eddy current inspection. Cracks cause a disruption in the circular flow patterns of the eddy currents and weaken their strength. This change in strength at the crack location can be detected.
11-7-Nonconductive Coating Measurement
Nonconductive coatings on electrically conductive substrates can be measured very accurately with eddy current inspection The coating displaces the eddy current probe from the conductive base material and this weaken the strength of the eddy currents. This reduction in strength can be measured and related to coating thickness. 11-8-Multi-Frequency Eddy Current Instruments • Multi-Frequency instruments usually refer to equipment that can drive inspection coils at more than two frequencies either sequentially (multiplexing) or simultaneously. • This type of instrumentation is used extensively for tubing inspection in the power generation , chemical and petrochemical industries. • These instruments are often capable of being computer networked and
may have as many as four probes attached to them at one time. • Advantages: – Allows increased inspection information to be collected from one probe pulling. – Provides for comparison of same discontinuity signal at different frequencies. – Allows mixing of frequencies which helps to reduce or eliminate sources of noise. – Often improves detection, interpretation and sizing capabilities of discontinuities.
• In order to give the eddy current inspector useful data while conducting an inspection, signals generated from the test specimen must be compared with known values. • Reference standards are typically manufactured from the same or very similar material as the test specimen. • Many different types of standards exist for due to the variety of eddy current inspections performed.
11-10-Advantages of Eddy Current Inspection
+ Sensitive to small cracks and other defects + Detects surface and near surface defects + Inspection gives immediate results + Equipment is very portable + Method can be used for much more than flaw detection + Minimum part preparation is required + Test probe does not need to contact the part + Inspects complex shapes and sizes of conductive materials.
11-11-Limitations of Eddy Current Inspection
+Only conductive materials can be inspected Surface must be accessible to the probe +Skill and training required is more extensive than other techniques +Surface finish and and roughness may interfere +Reference standards needed for setup +Depth of penetration is limited +Flaws such as delaminations that lie parallel to the probe coil winding and probe scan direction are undetectable.
 C.J. Hellier, “Eddy Current Testing,” Handbook of Nondestructive Evaluation, McGraw-Hill, NY, 2001, pp. 8.1-8.7.  “Eddy Current Inspection,” ASM Metals Handbook, Ninth Edition, Vol. 17, Nondestructive Inspection and Quality Control, 1989, ASM International, Metals Park, OH, pp. 164-194.  Nondestructive Evaluation Capabilities Data Book, 3rd Edition, Appendix A, Eddy Current Inspection, NTIAC, DB-97-02, November 1997.  D.J. Hagemaier, “Low Frequency Eddy Current Testing of Aircraft Structures,” Nondestructive Testing Handbook, Third Edition, Volume 5; S.S. Udpa and P.O. Moore, editors; American Society for Nondestructive Testing, 2004, pp. 481-485.