Carl Forrest

Our interviewee for this instalment of People in NDE is Carl Forrest, a Senior Technician specialising in advanced radiography at TWI Wales in Port Talbot…

Briefly describe your current role
I am a Senior Technician and the responsible Level 3 for our digital radiography systems at TWI Wales in Port Talbot. We have two microfocus digital radiography X-ray systems that are capable of imaging a wide range of materials and products. Both systems can be used for standard 2D digital radiography (DR) and the more complex 3D computed tomography (CT). I operate both systems, which are fully utilised for research projects and supporting TWI members. I train the apprentices, technicians and project leaders on how to use the systems. I regularly deliver a short course in the appreciation of DR and CT to students from several universities.

What other roles/jobs have you had in the past?

I started as an engineering apprentice for British Rail and was involved with track construction and maintenance. I had an urge to travel and was fascinated by ships, so I joined the Royal Navy as a marine engineering mechanic. After leaving the Navy, I worked for an automotive company that produced power steering for cars. I worked in the test department there for 12 years, conducting strength, durability, environmental and real-time simulation tests on the steering. It was here that I was introduced to NDT: I used to check the steering for cracks or flaws post test. It was very interesting work and I was the Test Laboratory Manager during my last four years at this company.

What education/training route did you follow?
While in the Navy, I was certified to work on various marine plant and systems. When I joined the automotive company, I was given day release to attend college for four years, where I studied mechanical engineering and mechatronics. I joined TWI in 2006 and after two years I gained Level 2 certification in radiographic testing (RT), ultrasonic testing (UT), magnetic particle inspection (MPI) and penetrant testing (PT). With the technology evolving and the majority of my time spent performing radiography, I started specialising in this method. I have held my Level 3 qualification in DR for nearly three years now. During this time, TWI has achieved UKAS and Nadcap accreditation in DR.

Why did you choose NDE?
When I left my role as Test Laboratory Manager, I was unsure what career route to take. The automotive industry was slowing down due to the many plants moving to Eastern Europe, so I started looking for something different. I completed a questionnaire at a local careers office and it came back that my ideal job was as a cartographer or a radiographer! It must have been fate because, shortly after, a job advert for an NDT technician with TWI was posted in a local newspaper. TWI at that time was expanding rapidly and it was a chance to work with the latest NDE technologies… here I am, 13 years later!

What would you consider your biggest NDE achievements and challenges to date?
The biggest achievement was definitely gaining our Nadcap accreditation. I say ‘our’ as it was a team effort with the amount of work that is required. Generating and maintaining the quality processes and procedures that are required to ensure conformity and repeatability of inspections is one aspect of the job that is challenging. Another major achievement was working on a large European-funded project for deploying underwater real-time digital radiographic inspection. It has gone through a few iterations of technology readiness levels over the years and when it is fully validated it will be crucial for inspecting underwater pipelines. The next challenge is the depth at which inspection can be conducted.

What do you think are the pressing challenges for the NDT industry?
Speed of inspection is definitely a major challenge. With increasing computer processing power, automatic defect recognition will help to speed up inspection and also eliminate operator error. Another challenge for NDE is the time it takes to advance new inspection technologies from the research and development stage to being rolled out to end-users. There are experts in the theory and science behind the technology and experienced operators with the knowledge regarding inspection obstacles; greater collaboration between these parties will reduce the timescales that currently exist.

What changes, if any, do you foresee for NDT in the future?
CT was originally only used in hospitals and universities for research. Many customers who come with a part for CT inspection are blown away by the level of detail that can be achieved from the CT scan data. With the emerging technology of additive manufacturing (AM) processes and the complex geometries that can be produced, CT will be the technology that will become more widely used in production facilities. With computer processing speeds increasing, scan times have been reduced to minutes and even seconds in some cases.

What is your involvement with NDT societies such as BINDT?
I am currently an affiliate member of BINDT and am in the process of becoming a full member.

How would you describe NDT to someone who has not heard of it before?
When I say to someone that I carry out NDT, they always look at me with a blank expression. I try to break it down into the methods they are aware of. Everybody knows what a CT or an ultrasound scan is in medical terms, so I try to explain how these methods are used in various industry sectors. Most people are aware that testing takes place but do not realise the importance that is placed upon the industry.

Outside of NDT, what are your interests and hobbies?
I live in Wales and, like the majority of people that live here, rugby is my passion. I am too old to play now but I am still involved with coaching and I have coached junior teams for 12 years. There are many great cycling tracks where I live, so I cycle and go to the gym when I get some spare time. I love travelling and recently returned from a holiday where I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway in California.

Please get in touch if you have any recommendations for future interviewees or would like to be interviewed yourself. Contact the editor at or email Maria Felice direct at

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