iNEED (including Non-destructive Evaluation in Engineered Design)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Engineering Mathematics


Many high-value manufactured components that are made in the UK are used in safety critical structures such as nuclear plants and aircraft engines. Such components must be checked periodically for the presence of flaws and other precursors to the component failing. This is performed at various stages in the lifetime of the component: at the manufacturing stage, periodically while the component is in service, and to assess the component for remanufacturing at the end of its lifetime.

Components must be checked non-destructively, which is challenging; normally the component's design is not optimised to maximise the probability of detecting a flaw using non-destructive evaluation (NDE). The Engineering Design Challenge is to bring NDE considerations into the design engineer's virtual design toolbox.

This project aims to enable design engineers to optimise the design of a given component such that they maximise their ability thereafter to test this component non-destructively for the presence of any flaws. Thus flaw-detectability will used as an additional design criterion. This will also help in remanufacturing as we will be more able to assess the integrity of used components. In this way we will improve society by having safer aircraft, nuclear plants and oil pipelines, improve the environment by having fewer wasted components and using less energy, and improve the UK economy by developing the UK's expertise in these high value sectors.

The most common modality in non-destructive evaluation of these safety critical structures is ultrasound transducer imaging. The Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE) at the University of Strathclyde has extensive experience in the computer simulation and mathematical modelling of ultrasonic transducers and in their use in NDE. They are ideally placed to develop such a software platform. The University of Strathclyde also hosts the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture (SIR), so the project will utilise the research expertise in this area in conjunction with that of CUE. This project will enable CUE and SIR to form a new alliance with experimental design and tomographic imaging experts from the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh. In the Geosciences, sophisticated imaging methods are used to image the Earth's subsurface, and design theory is developed to optimise imaging array geometries and methods. This combined capability will enable the joint project team to develop a virtual environment where techniques for designing and imaging the internal structures of safety critical components can be assessed and optimised.

Planned Impact

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) will benefit from this project as it will contribute to their expertise in uncertainty modelling, in materials modelling of fatigue, in their modelling of non-destructive evaluation (NDE), and in their core activity of metrology. This in turn will help NPL in working with Energy companies in the design of new build energy plants and indirectly in sustaining the existing plant, in working with healthcare companies in the field of medical imaging, and in working with advanced manufacturing companies where NDE and remanufacturing can be integrated into the design process.

The 15 major industries that form the Non-destructive Evaluation Research Association (NDEvR), and the many SMEs that are associated members, will benefit from this project. This spans Oil and Gas, Energy, Manufacturing, Civil, and Military sectors. As explained in their letter of support this project perfectly dovetails with their 5, 10 and 20 year strategy and in particular their Design for NDE ambitions. Through this project future components have the potential to be manufactured defect free, and to have their full internal structure imaged at the manufacturing stage. This in turn will reduce the current levels of in-service inspection and so reduce costs. It will also facilitate pre-crack imaging and detection and so improve public safety.

Thornton-Tomasetti will benefit from their finite element software being brought into a Design for NDE software tool. So this will help in their exposure to a range of potential customers. They will also benefit by having the materials modelling component of their software being enhanced to incorporate state of the art fatigue modelling.

DSTL are the UK's major supplier of research and development support to the UK military. The ability to manufacture components that have a reduced chance of failure in the field will improve the safety of our military personnel. The ability to remanufacture components will reduce costs and help the environment through reduced waste and a lower carbon footprint.

GE will benefit as their core business is in the design and manufacture of gas turbine technology. They are one of the largest employers in the UK and so the commercial advantages that this project will bring them will increase job security. The project will help GE to incorporate NDE into their design cycle and in so doing help them to identify the critical parameters to monitor the early stages of potential failure of a component when in service. It will also lead to longer intervals between in-service inspections which will reduce costs. It will also help their design engineers quickly adapt their designs for future demands.

Beyond the immediate impact on industry it is clear that the public will benefit from having safer lives, in having improved job security and economic growth, and in the environment benefitting from the lower energy costs and reduced landfill of remanufacturing.

The project will have a life changing impact on the employed research associate and other researchers involved. The researchers on the project will spend valuable time through secondments to industrial partners. Through working in such a multidisciplinary project, and the close contact with industrial partners and interaction with academic partners, highly skilled researchers will be trained that are ready for both industry R&D and academia. The research sustainability of the UK will benefit from these researchers in the future. In turn, the researchers and engineers from our industrial partners will gain a deeper understanding of the academic sector and develop their ability to work with universities. A number of impact activities such as on-site industrial collaboration and networking have been planned to maximise the economic impact of this project, with justified resources from EPSRC geared up by substantial contributions from the industrial partners.


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