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Proceedings Paper

Thermal characterization of defects in aircraft structures via spatially controlled heat application
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Paper Abstract

Recent advances in thermal imaging technology have spawned a number of new thermal NDE techniques that provide quantitative information about flaws in aircraft structures. Thermography has a number of advantages as an inspection technique. It is a totally noncontacting, nondestructive, imaging technology capable of inspecting a large area in a matter of a few seconds. The development of fast, inexpensive image processors have aided in the attractiveness of thermography as an NDE technique. These image processors have increased the signal to noise ratio of thermography and facilitated significant advances in post- processing. The resulting digital images enable archival records for comparison with later inspections thus providing a means of monitoring the evolution of damage in a particular structure. The National Aeronautics and Space Administrations's Langley Research Center has developed a thermal NDE technique designed to image a number of potential flaws in aircraft structures. The technique involves injecting a small, spatially controlled heat flux into the outer surface of an aircraft. Images of fatigue cracking, bond integrity and material loss due to corrosion are generated from measurements of the induced surface temperature variations. This paper presents a discussion of the development of the thermal imaging system as well as the techniques used to analyze the resulting thermal images. Spatial tailoring of the heat coupled with the analysis techniques represent a significant improvement in the detectability of flaws over conventional thermal imaging. Results of laboratory experiments on fabricated crack, disbond and material loss samples are presented to demonstrate the capabilities of the technique. An integral part of the development of this technology is the use of analytic and computational modeling. The experimental results are compared with these models to demonstrate the utility of such an approach.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 March 1996
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 2766, Thermosense XVIII: An International Conference on Thermal Sensing and Imaging Diagnostic Applications, (15 March 1996); doi: 10.1117/12.235376
Show Author Affiliations
K. Elliott Cramer, NASA Langley Research Ctr. (United States)
William P. Winfree, NASA Langley Research Ctr. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2766:
Thermosense XVIII: An International Conference on Thermal Sensing and Imaging Diagnostic Applications
Douglas D. Burleigh; Jane W. Maclachlan Spicer, Editor(s)

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