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Proceedings Paper

Automated detection of fatigue cracks on the faying surface within high load transfer bolted speciments
Author(s): Gregory Wheatley; Jeffrey R. Kollgaard
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Paper Abstract

Boeing is currently conducting evaluation testing of the Comparative Vacuum Monitoring (CVMTM) system offered by Structural Monitoring Systems, Ltd (SMS). Initial testing has been conducted by SMS, with further test lab validations to be performed at Boeing in Seattle. Testing has been conducted on dog bone type specimens that have been cut at the center line. A notch was cut at one of the bolt holes and a CVM sensor installed on both sides of the plate. The doublers were added and a single line of 4 bolts along the longitudinal center line were used to attach the doubler plates to the dog bone type specimen. In this way, a high load transfer situation exists between the two halves of the dog bone specimen and the doubler plates. The CVM sensors are slightly over 0.004" (0.1mm) in thickness and are installed directly upon the faying surface of the dog bone specimen. Testing was conducted on an Instron 8501 Servohydraulic testing machine at the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, University of Western Australia. The standard laboratory equipment offered by Structural Monitoring Systems, Ltd was used for crack detection. This equipment included the Kvac (vacuum supply) and the Sim8 (flow meter). The Sim8 was electrically connected to the Instron machine so that as soon as a crack was detected, fatigue loading was halted. The aim of the experiment was for CVM to detect a crack on the faying surface of the specimens at a length of 0.050" ± 0.010". This was accomplished successfully. CVM has been developed on the principle that a small volume maintained at a low vacuum is extremely sensitive to any ingress of air. In addition to the load bearing sensors described above, self-adhesive, elastomeric sensors with fine channels on the adhesive face have been developed. When the sensors have been adhered to the structure under test, these fine channels, and the structure itself, form a manifold of galleries alternately at low vacuum and atmospheric pressure. When a crack develops, it forms a leakage path between the atmospheric and vacuum galleries, producing a measurable change in the vacuum level. The sensors have several advantages over standard test methodologies. As the structure under test effectively becomes part of the sensor, the system measures the physical crack; there can be no false negatives. The elastomeric nature of the sensors allows them to conform to complex curves, and individual sensors can cover relatively large areas. The sensors are transparent; allowing visual inspection to occur without removal. Independent testing by a SMS client has confirmed that eddy current testing can be conducted through CVM sensors of 1mm thickness. The sensitivity of the sensor is governed by the gallery spacing and may be as low as 0.010" (250 μm). Finally, the sensors are also able to detect surface corrosion of aluminium structure. US Navy are monitoring crack growth on an H-53 helicopter with the portable CVM system offered by SMS.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 August 2003
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 5047, Smart Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring of Structural and Biological Systems II, (1 August 2003); doi: 10.1117/12.484778
Show Author Affiliations
Gregory Wheatley, Structural Monitoring Systems, Ltd. (United States)
Jeffrey R. Kollgaard, Boeing Co. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5047:
Smart Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring of Structural and Biological Systems II
Tribikram Kundu, Editor(s)

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