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Transient thermography in the assessment of defects of aircraft composites
N.P. Avdelidis*, B.C. Hawtin, D.P. Almond
Materials Research Centre, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK Received 9 January 2003; revised 3 April 2003; accepted 4 April 2003
Abstract Transient thermography was employed in the inspection of defects in various aircraft composite panels. Three different categories of defects were investigated in the laboratory; notches on aluminium alloy panels under carbon or boron composite patching, a simulation of delamination on a boron composite patch, and ﬁbre breakout on carbon composites. In all situations, the defects were artiﬁcially created. After detecting the defects, quantitative analysis concerning the contrast of the detected defects was carried out. Finally, information about the size of the artiﬁcial delaminated panel in relation to transient time was also performed. q 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Thermography; Composites; Defect size; Transient time; Contrast
1. Introduction Due to the ever increasing demands within the aerospace industry for cheaper, more efﬁcient and cost effective aircraft the industry is investing in the development of new testing and evaluation methods. Such methods are needed during the manufacture of the aircraft and during subsequent maintenance. The development of quick cost effective methods for evaluating the integrity of aircraft structures are necessary to both reduce manufacturing costs and to reduce out of service time of aircraft due to maintenance. There has also been a steady increase in the use of high performance composite materials within modern aircraft in both primary and secondary structures. This move towards high performance composites is due to their increased mechanical performance with weight savings. In addition to this, they are less prone to corrosion and fatigue, which should lead to longer service life for components manufactured from composites . Composite components, composite reinforcements are also widely used in aircraft repair technology. Composite patches are often used within
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ 44-1225-385443; fax: þ 44-1225386098. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (N.P. Avdelidis).
the aerospace industry to repair damaged or defective regions of an aircraft. The thickness and the nature of the material(s) that form a repair (patch) or a composite aircraft part may have an effect on the suitability of the nondestructive inspection technique employed to examine the component in question. A large amount of research work has been conducted using various NDT & E techniques in the detection and identiﬁcation of defects in both real  and/or simulated  aircraft parts. Transient thermography is one of the latest NDT & E techniques in development for effective use in the assessment of aircraft materials. It is a non-contact technique where the investigated area—material is heated or cooled by an external source (ﬂash lamps, air gun, etc.) and the resulting thermal transient at the surface is monitored using an infrared camera . Since transient thermography is a high-speed, portable, non-contact and large area inspection technique, it has great potential for wide variety applications. In this research work, transient thermography was employed in the imaging of artiﬁcially created defects. Three types of defects were investigated: † Notches in aluminium aircraft skin panels under composite patching.
0963-8695/03/$ - see front matter q 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/S0963-8695(03)00052-5
The Indigo Merlin mid-wave infrared camera (also attached to the system) uses a cooled InSb detector with a frame rate of 60 Hz and a focal plane array pixel format of 320 £ 256. 2. to the surface of 2024-T3 aluminium and multi-ply laminates of HEXCEL AS4/8552 carbon ﬁbre composites containing drilling induced defects. A typical pulsed thermographic inspection set-up  is shown in Fig. † Hole exit side ﬁbre breakout around drilled hole in carbon composites. A pulsed thermographic system (thermoscope)  employing a medium wave (3 –5 mm) infrared camera (Indigo) was used to image the defects.P. NCP7P 7-ply carbon epoxy patch on notch on Al 2024-T3 NBP7P 7-ply boron epoxy patch on notch on Al 2024-T3 DBP6P Simulation of delamination (Teﬂon 25 £ 25 mm2 between third and fourth ply) on 6-ply boron epoxy patch on Al 2024-T3 FBO1–5 Hole exit side ﬁbre breakout on 16-ply carbon (AS4-8552) composite 125 125 125 160 160 120 65 65 70 2. Details of the samples are shown in Table 1. 1. Avdelidis et al. There were patches made from carbon or boron composites bonded with FM73 adhesive ﬁlm. Fig. Thermal images of various defects were obtained during this research work and a number of image processing and quantitative analysis methods were used . 250 45 150 Fig. Transient thermography set-up. Infrared images of 7-ply carbon epoxy patch (NCP7P) obtained at various times. 1. Materials and methods A variety of different defects and material systems were examined during this research work. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 433–439 Thickness of Dimensions each ply (mm) of composite X-axis Y-axis (mm) (mm) † A simulation of a delamination between two composite plies of a patch. Thermoscope is a portable state-of-the-art non-destructive evaluation system with an integrated ﬂash heating system.434 Table 1 Description of investigated samples Sample Description of sample N. .
2. Thermal images. presents images that were obtained at times of: 1. 2 and 3. 3. Results and discussion Representative thermal images of the investigated samples obtained during the transient phase of the pulsed thermographic inspection are presented in Figs. Infrared images of 6-ply boron epoxy patch (DBP6P) obtained at various times. 1. 4. Avdelidis et al.7 and 4. the notch on the surface of the aluminium panel was evidently detected beneath the seven plies of the boron epoxy composite patch.P.5. 0. .N.7.9 s of sample NCP7P during the cooling down process. 3.1. 3. Similarly.9. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 433–439 435 Fig. once more obtained at various times (0. Infrared images of 16-ply carbon sample (FBO1) using a spindle speed of 2000 rpm and a feed rate of 2 mm/min obtained at various times. Investigation was made of the dependence of defect image contrast and of defect image size on transient time .7 s) from sample DBP6P are Fig. 2. The notch in the aluminium plate beneath the ﬁbre patch was clearly visible throughout the transient. Fig.3 and 3.
Infrared images of 16-ply carbon sample (FBO4) using a spindle speed of 3000 rpm and a feed rate of 1 mm/min obtained at various times.436 N. presented in Fig. In this case. 6. The drilling parameters used are shown in Table 2. 4). Figs. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 433–439 Fig. 3. 4 – 6 are images of the hole exit surface carbon ﬁbre composite samples drilled with varying drilling parameters . 6) and FBO5 in comparison with that evident for samples FBO1 (Fig. 5) and FBO3. The damage was much less for samples FBO4 (Fig.P. FBO2 (Fig. Infrared images of 16-ply carbon sample (FBO2) using a spindle speed of 1000 rpm and a feed rate of 3 mm/min obtained at various times. . This is speciﬁcally due to the drilling parameters used. the artiﬁcially created defected application—delamination (Teﬂon with dimensions 25 £ 25 mm2) in the boron composite patch between the third and fourth ply was readily revealed by thermography. Avdelidis et al. Thermal images were obtained at various times and show the extent of delamination and ﬁbre breakout around the drilled hole. good hole Fig. 5.
7. In addition.117 Fig.333 0. 8. The contrast-time plot of an investigated patch (sample NBP7P) and the contrast curve of a hole exit side ﬁbre breakout (sample FBO1) are presented. 7 presents representative contrast curves from two of the investigated samples. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 433–439 Table 2 Drilling parameters used Sample FBO1 FBO2 FBO3 FBO4 FBO5 Drill bit (mm carbide) 6. .601 0. Characteristic line proﬁle (X-axis) of 6-ply boron epoxy patch (DBP6P) at 0.317 0. quality was produced for FBO4 and FBO5 using high spindle speeds.35 6.35 6.251 0. low feed rates and good support of the hole exit surface of the laminate.800 0. In other words.35 6. Contrast curves of 7-ply boron epoxy patch (NBP7P—left) and 16-ply carbon sample (FBO1—right) using a spindle speed of 2000 rpm and a feed rate of 2 mm/min. Defect image line proﬁles were plotted in order to obtain information about the size Table 3 Maximum thermal contrasts of investigated samples Sample Time (s) Maximum thermal contrast (DIntensity) 15 451 4919 431 653 6451 163 1661 NCP7P NBP7P DBP6P FBO1 FBO2 FBO3 FBO4 FBO5 6.284 0.P.533 s. Firstly. the difference in intensity (DIntensity) between the detected defect and the sound region of the sample against the transient time during the cooling down process was plotted. Fig. quantitative results were also obtained from the thermal images (thermography). plots of the contrast versus the transient time of the identiﬁed defects were performed. All samples were drilled with a manual feed drill and carbide drill bit.35 Spindle speed (rpm) 2000 1000 1000 3000 5000 Feed rate (mm/min) 2 3 2 1 1 Clamping None None None Light Firm 437 Back support None None None Pre-drilled Wood Fig.267 3. Avdelidis et al.35 6.N. The times at which maximum defect image contrast was formed for all the samples investigated are shown in Table 3.
9).438 N. In Fig. 8. From the line proﬁles it was possible to calculate the size of the defect in the sample DBP6P employing the full width half maximum approach .8 s and it can be seen that at this time image shrinkage is quite signiﬁcant. Finally.P. of the detected delamination and how this varies with time. 9 (information obtained from the analysis of the line proﬁles). a characteristic line proﬁle indicating the detected delamination of the investigated sample (DBP6P) is presented. 3D Plot of 6-ply boron epoxy patch (DBP6P). Avdelidis et al. Size vs transient time graph of 6-ply boron epoxy patch (DBP6P). . The ability to Fig. the 3D plot in Fig. presents the patch area and the detected defect of sample DBP6P in three dimensions. maximum contrast occurs after 0. A noticeable shrinkage of the apparent defect size with time was evident (Fig. 9. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 433–439 Fig. 10. For this sample. 10. The variation of this measure of defect size with time is shown in Fig. Although the best possible results concerning the size of a detected defect (as in this example) are attained at particularly short transient times. the clearest images (high contrast) are acquired at longer periods. constructed by the 2D thermal image. indicated in Table 3.
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