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News from the Institute Branches – August 2017 

| South Wales Branch
BINDT: The early years

Colin Macfarlane reports

The South Wales Branch is privileged to count amongst its members Mr Ken Williams, who was the last President of the Non-Destructive Testing Society of Great Britain, from 1974 to 1975, and the first President of the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing in 1976. With such a key role during the embryonic stages of the British Institute of NDT, the Branch convened for a presentation from Ken, assisted by Mr Doug Breeze, titled: ‘BINDT, the Early Years’, on Thursday 20 April 2017 at The Village Hotel near Cardiff.

Ken began by setting the scene of NDT in the mid 1950s with a young NDT technology and a growing availability of radiation sources, developing ultrasonic techniques, infrared and a burgeoning growth in alternatives, together with only a few formal training courses and a need and enthusiasm to develop acceptance standards. Ken went on to describe his move into NDT, like so many of us, as ‘accidental’. Following a move from aerospace in Bristol to the steel industry in South Wales, the chief metallurgist set up a radio trace laboratory, which Ken was asked to run. This was followed by a request from the chief metallurgist to use gamma rays to radiograph blast furnace tuyère nozzles, which were failing early. Ken worked with Unit Inspection in South Wales to develop and carry out these inspections. The resultant radiographs revealed large internal cavities.

The presentation continued by noting that the need for organisation and control was identified within the field of NDT, which led, in 1954, to the establishment of the Society of Industrial Radiograph and Allied Methods of Non-Destructive Testing (SIR), which was redesignated the NDT Society of Great Britain (NDTS) in 1956. A South Wales Branch was formed, similarly to many up and down the country. The Branch meetings were opportunities for organisations and members to exchange ideas and experiences and to learn from one another.

Ken noted that in 1961 the Factories Act was introduced, requiring ‘competent persons’. Local Branches set up training courses; all was very ad hoc, depending on the good will of employers and members. The emphasis of NDTS was on the practitioner and the acknowledgement of the responsibility they had for making major decisions. NDTS published a quarterly journal and organised conferences.

In the same year that NDTS was founded, the Society of Non-Destructive Examination (SONDE) also formed. SONDE membership tended to be senior individuals of the NDT world. SONDE became noted for its excellent dinner meetings, which were typically held in London. However, Ken noted of the SONDE membership that: “None were in a position to grasp, overall, the needs of the growing NDT industry.” Both societies were mainly run by volunteers.

Although some organisations had already developed their own qualification, for example CSWIP, it became clear that there was a need for coordination or, as Ken noted: “Better still, amalgamation between the NDTS and SONDE.” The process of amalgamation began with the culmination of the conference in Lancaster in 1975, with Ken, as President of NDTS, chairing the meeting. After difficult discussions, determination and significant effort, an agreement was reached, resulting in the establishment of BINDT in 1976. “And that,” Ken declared, “is how I became the last President of NDTS and the first President of BINDT!”

This was followed with a brief description of the development of BINDT, international conferences, expansion of the journal and recognition from the established Council of Engineering institutions. Much credit for this early work must go to Mr Ian Barnes and his wife, Dorothy, the only employees of the Institute at that time, in setting out the basis of the Institute and doing a great deal of the ‘leg work’ on behalf of NDTS and, after the amalgamation, the new Institute.

The presentation concluded with Ken and Doug Breeze providing some very interesting and entertaining anecdotes of some of their early NDT experiences.

As a final point, Ken stated that he felt that BINDT had possibly moved too far away from the practitioner. While the Insight journal must maintain an academic rigour, there are insufficient articles to interest inspectors, which means that, as a consequence, they tend not to read the journal.

A new job with only a small involvement in NDT meant that Ken could not continue his involvement in the Institute. However, although retired for over 20 years, Ken continues to be an important member of the South Wales Branch.

The Branch would like to express its gratitude to Ken Williams and Doug Breeze for a very entertaining and interesting presentation. In addition, the Branch thanks its Honorary Secretary, Steve O’Brien, for all the necessary arrangements to make the evening possible.