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| South Wales Branch
Remote visual inspection: what we can achieve with the current technology

Colin Macfarlane reports

For its third webinar (virtual) meeting of the 2020-2021 programme, the South Wales Branch was very pleased to welcome Bayard Morales, a Remote Visual Inspection Specialist from Olympus, with a presentation titled: ‘Remote visual inspection: what can we achieve with the current technology?’

The presentation began by explaining that remote visual inspection (RVI) methods “extend the reach of the human eye to places that are otherwise too difficult, impractical or impossible to be observed directly”.

Moving on, it was proposed that RVI equipment can be separated into four groups:
  • Borescopes/fibrescopes
  • Videoscopes/endoscopes
  • Push cameras/stick cameras
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)/remotely operated vehicles (RVOs).

Bayard stated that Olympus specialises in industrial endoscopes, which covers the first two categories on the above list. He went on to describe industrial endoscopes, explaining that they are used to examine internal surfaces and fall into four categories:
  • Videoscopes
  • Fibrescopes
  • Rigid borescopes
  • Mini borescopes.

Videoscopes and fibrescopes feature flexible insertion tubes with articulation and interchangeable scope/optics, while rigid and mini borescopes are non-flexible and require straight line access. Bayard mentioned that there is quite a mix of names used by people in industry for endoscopes, such as ‘borescope’, ‘videoscope’, ‘endo-camera, etc, but he generally understands which one of the four types they are talking about!

The presentation moved on to the technology timeline of industrial endoscopes, with the 1960s to 1970s comprising rigid borescopes with a separate light source. The 1980s saw the introduction of fibrescopes, possibly with some end articulation and the capability to connect a camera, again with a separate light source. The late 1980s into the 1990s saw the introduction of videoscopes, similar to fibrescopes but with images presented on a TV screen and the potential for data recording. From the 2000s onwards, modern videoscopes became available, with the light source, image display and data recording in an all-in-one system. While reviewing the main parts of a videoscope, the three essential elements were identified as the light source, the insertion tube and the optical tip adaptor.

The functions of a videoscope were then defined, the most important being to visualise, capture images and record videos in order to obtain qualitative information. The second function is to take measurements to obtain quantitative data; an example was given of measuring the distance (clearance) between turbine blades and the shroud on a gas turbine engine. It was noted that more work is needed to ensure control and traceability of measurements. The final function of a videoscope is ‘remote operations’, ie to retrieve or manipulate objects at the remote location. The use of tools such as an ‘alligator’, a ‘grasper’ and also a magnet were shown being used to retrieve metal debris from within gas turbine modules.

Current and future trends were then given, including the demand for high-quality information to integrate in other systems and the need for even greater connectivity to allow for remote support during inspection. Other areas of advancement encompass the use of 3D modelling to improve measurement accuracy and the application of stereo measurement and ultraviolet (UV) illumination. Also highlighted was the “shrinking pool of inspectors with experience” and “little or no training for operators”. Bayard mentioned that a large part of his time is taken up with remote training. Fewer inspectors with less experience and poor training is leading to a call for “automatic defect recognition”, artificial intelligence (AI) systems that reduce the dependency on the skill level of the operator. A short question and answer session concluded the presentation.

The South Wales Branch would like to express its gratitude to Bayard Morales for a very interesting and enjoyable presentation. In addition, special thanks go to Karen Cambridge of BINDT for again making all the necessary arrangements and facilitating the webinar meeting.