"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."