Analogue and digital ultrasonic equipment

In order to maintain my PCN certification, I attend a PCN Approved Training Organisation (ATO) to inspect some of its training specimens and, on a recent visit, while in the ultrasonics training area, some of the attendees had an interesting conversation about analogue and digital ultrasonic equipment. I was trained on analogue sets back in the early 1980s, which I recognise is before some of you good readers were born. I was working as a PCN Chief Examiner as digital sets were first coming onto the market. The first digital sets were similar to the first digital cameras, in that they were poor in image quality, expensive and frequently updated. Today, it is not unusual to find an analogue ultrasonic testing (UT) set in a cupboard that still works and has mature ultrasonic testing operators reminiscing fondly. Some of these old sets had their own distinctive noise or whistle and were considered high tech if they had in-built gates with options to change the probe frequency and pulse repetition frequency (PRF), but there were usually only around six main controls, including the on/off switch. While I was at the training school, a certificate holder contacted them to enquire if he could book for his recertification examination, if they had any analogue sets available and whether the school was able to provide both, which they could. These cupboards that contain the old ultrasonic testing sets do not seem to contain many, if any, of the early digital sets that harbour fond memories.

While I was getting myself and the training specimen covered in couplant, a student who I have known for many years joined us to have a practice prior to recertification. He was given a current digital set to use but it was a model he was less familiar with, along with unfamiliar operating software, so the tutor offered him a range of sets to choose from. The second choice was a set that he was more familiar with but had a different version of software installed that operated the set in a different way. The tutor offered assistance and explained that a user could change how the set could be used so the controls would not necessarily be working as per factory settings and that the previous user had probably customised it to their taste. With all of the possible variations in sets, software and user input, it does emphasise the need for training specific to the equipment by the employer. The current issue of ISO 9712 and the proposed revision both place the responsibility on the employer. In the draft document, the text states that the employer shall be responsible for all that concerns the authorisation to operate, ie providing job-specific training, and that this, along with other responsibilities, shall be described in a documented procedure. If there was an issue in the future where the employer is in a court of law due to an operator missing a flaw or similar and it was found that the employer did not have a documented procedure or provide training, the courts would take a very dim view. The moral of this memorandum is that equipment and requirements are constantly evolving and the employer has the ultimate responsibility in ensuring that employees are fully familiar with the equipment, consumables, codes, standards and all that is required to work in a competent manner.

john.moody@bindt.org

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