Another new year

Is time passing more rapidly? 2016 seemed to hurtle by and now we are in a new year! It doesn’t seem like 16 years since the millennium. It certainly doesn’t seem like 56 years since I first got off the boat from Liverpool in New York.

And what about the changes to NDT?

Phased array ultrasonics, computed and digital radiography, thermal and infrared imaging, pulsed eddy current and eddy current array are only a sampling of the NDT technologies available to us now.

The advances in technology require equal or greater education, understanding and knowledge from the technicians who have to apply this advanced technology. Unfortunately, in my experience, at least in the USA, the ability of incoming NDT technicians to understand and apply this technology is very limited.

The talent pool from which we hire technicians predominantly comprises high school graduates with a smattering of college graduates. This group can be trained and certificated in all the basic NDT methods, up to and including angle beam shear wave ultrasonic testing, profile computed radiography or equivalent.

Next comes the difficult leap to more sophisticated technologies. Only a small percentage of the original group can graduate to phased array UT, pulsed eddy current, computed radiography and other technologies of ever-increasing complexity. This provides insufficient numbers to meet the demand.

What is the answer? Hire more college graduates? Provide more NDT classes in colleges? Screen new candidates for potential advanced abilities? Offer higher salaries for advanced NDT technicians?

There is a perceived lack of interest in NDT careers from gifted high school graduates and college graduates in technical subjects, in spite of the significantly higher incomes of advanced NDT practitioners over engineers.

As the world becomes more computer-based, interpretation and analysis of data may rely on artificial intelligence (AI). The following quote is from How Artificial Intelligence and Robots Will Radically Transform the Economy, by Kevin Maney:
“The world’s top tech companies are in a race to build the best AI and capture that massive market, which means the technology will get better quickly – and come at us as quickly. IBM is investing $1 billion in its Watson, Amazon is banking on Alexa and Apple has Siri. Google, Facebook and Microsoft are devoting their research labs to AI and robotics. In Se0ptember, announced it is adding AI, called Einstein, to its business software. Its value, CEO Marc Benioff said at the launch, will be in ‘helping people do the things that people are good at and turning more things over to machines’.

“AI will lead us into the mother of all tech revolutions. The last time anything came close was around 1900, when the automobile, telecommunications, the airplane and mass electrification all came together at once, radically changing the world from the late 1800s through to the 1920s. Such times are particularly frightening. That is what we are feeling today as a panoply of powerful technologies come crashing together. AI is the most important, the ‘ur-force’ as tech philosopher Kevin Kelly calls it. Emerging right along with AI are robotics, virtual reality, blockchain, 3D printing and other wonders. Each would be huge by itself. Together, they will swirl into that roaring EF5 tornado, blowing down the industries and institutions in its path.

“Today’s AI-driven revolution is coming so fast that we have trouble even imagining how it will turn out. Jeff Hawkins, founder of AI and brain research company Numenta (and inventor of the Palm Pilot), tells me that AI today is at a point similar to computing in the early 1950s, when pioneers first laid down the basic ideas of electronic computers. Less than 20 years later, computers made airline reservation systems and bank ATMs possible and helped NASA put men on the moon – outcomes nobody could have foreseen from the early 50s. Guessing the impact of AI and robots in a decade or two is proving even harder.”

Comments by members

This forum post has no comments, be the first to leave a comment.

Submit your comment

You need to log in to submit a Comment. Please click here to log in or register.

<< Back