The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has developed a prototype virtual nondestructive examination (VNDE) simulator to enable hands-on training and practice using ultrasonic testing (UT). Ultrasonic testing techniques enable nondestructive examination (NDE) of vital structures constructed of metal or concrete. In the power generation industry, periodic examination of assemblies including dams, containment structures, pressure vessels, piping, reactor housings, and heat exchangers is necessary to assure safe, continued operation of these systems.
Technicians who perform NDE measurements must train to use the NDE technique and practice on mock-up structures that represent real structures. Routine practice is also necessary to maintain proficiency. Traditionally, this work requires measurements on physical mock-ups which are expensive to produce and maintain and costly to ship. EPRI’s VNDE simulator allow NDE technicians to gain experience performing manual inspections without requiring access to field ultrasonic instruments or physical mock-ups.
The simulator combines commercially available, off-the-shelf computer and electronics components with lightweight, plastic models of physical mock-ups and calibration blocks (See Figure 1). The electronics simulate the UT measurement system and track position as an operator moves a model probe on the simulated mock-up. EPRI has previously measured the real physical mock-up using UT and has cataloged that data. The VNDE system plays back the cataloged data as the operator makes measurements on the model, simulating a manual UT examination.
Figure 1. VNDE simulator hardware. Labeled components:
- 3D position tracking system (trakSTAR™)
- Plastic model of a physical mock-up
- Model probe
- Plastic model of a calibration block
EPRI seeks experts in NDE commercialization to partner with EPRI to replicate the VNDE system at commercial scale to enable more cost-effective training and practice. EPRI plans to expand the system by offering additional plastic models and corresponding data.