TrainNDT – development of an ultrasonic training simulator

C R Brett, L Zhao, S Hide, O Gilmour, P Collins and J Bailey 

Ultrasonic operators develop their skills by training using samples that contain flaws, preferably ex-service samples that contain real flaws. However, such samples are often unavailable in a classroom as many industries operate their assets with the flaws still present, provided that appropriate safety cases can be made. As a result, training is often limited to samples that contain manufacturing flaws or artificial slots, neither of which are truly representative of in-service flaws such as, for example, stress-corrosion or corrosion-fatigue cracks. Also, when samples containing real in-service flaws do exist, they often have restricted use, being limited to their owner.

The TrainNDT project aims to provide an alternative solution. Master ultrasonic datasets are acquired from samples that contain a real flaw, so the ultrasonic signals can be made available to be downloaded and replayed by another user. The sample itself is digitised so that a replica sample can be recreated by 3D printing at another location. A trainee can therefore experience moving a dummy ultrasonic probe over a realistic copy of a sample and observe the appropriate ultrasonic signal for the probe’s position and orientation. A single sample can therefore be reproduced many times, making infrequent flaw types more commonly available to trainees.

Tracking of a dummy probe’s position and orientation is achieved through a camera system backed up by an inertial motion unit. The relevant ultrasonic A-scan is retrieved from the master dataset and a flaw detector screen displays the signal in real-time as the dummy probe moves over the replica sample’s surface. As well as giving the trainee a realistic ultrasonic experience, the system is able to provide additional information about scanning speed, scanning patterns and whether couplant is present.

TrainNDT is a two-year project funded by InnovateUK (project reference 103614). The prototype system will be demonstrated in the accompanying exhibition.