Enhanced Scanning Thermography for Large Scale Composite NDE

Period of Performance: 03/07/2001 - 09/07/2001


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Thermal Wave Imaging, Inc.
845 Livernois Stret
Ferndale, MI 48220
Principal Investigator


The increased use of composite materials in the manufacture of structural aircraft components such as the V-22 tiltrotor requires that Nondestructive Evaluation is performed frequently in the early stages of the fabrication process. Although Pulsed Thermography has been demonstrated to be an effective tool for many composite NDE applications, it lacks the speed and low cycle time required for frequent inspection during manufacturing. We have proposed a new approach to composite NDE, Enhanced Scanning Thermography, that provides the advantages offered by pulsed Thermography in a continuous scanning system that is ideal for the large, complex composite structures. The system will inspect parts while they are in the tooling at each debulk cycle, and provide fast, automated identification and measurement of defects such as wrinkles, voids or tape inclusions without operator input or intervention.Our proposal was formulated based on input from current and prospective customers in Government and private aerospace manufacturing, service, and R&D, including NASA, commercial airline, and military NDE personnel. We found that several major aerospace customers (Boeing, GKN Westland, Lockheed-Martin) were still using very crude scanning systems, simply because the systems matched the geometry of the parts they were inspecting. These customers indicated a high degree of interest in a scanning system that would incorporate the advanced features of the pulsed systems that they were using on other applications. Although the proposal has focused primarily on aerospace applications, significant market opportunities exist in the automotive and energy industries. The growing use of composites in automotive manufacturing and is presenting new QA and NDE challenges to the industry. TWI has been a pioneer in applying Pulsed Thermographic solutions to automotive applications, and has worked with Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan and numerous Tier 1 suppliers. The automotive market is distinctly different than the aerospace market, primarily because of the high volume requirements and the importance of autonomous, on-line systems. TWI has recognized and responded to these needs, will build on our experience in the automotive industry in marketing the scanning system."