After listening to his presentation, I decided to research into NDT issues in the mining industry. I found that many mines use conventional ultrasonic testing, but there are some problems. There needs to be a highly skilled operator to perform ultrasonic testing because the data is difficult to decipher. Often, the operator will need to test from multiple angles to access the area in question, then the operator will try to piece the data together. This allows for mistakes and guesses to be made about the quality of the test object. Also, there is no recorded data of the tests to refer back to when needed.
Other problems the mining industry faces when it comes to nondestructive testing are mostly centered around time. There is a limited downtime for inspection because downtime equals money lost. They want to keep their equipment running for as long as possible. Many parts are not readily available for repairs, so they have to make the parts on site or wait until one is shipped in. A lot of stress is placed on the heavy equipment, but they try to keep it running for as long as possible to avoid downtime.
During the presentation, Nicholas discussed his experiments with using phased array on a surface mine. For the most part, using phased array was able to provide a solution to the problems discussed above. Phased array has multiple angles, so it is able to access the area in question much easier. It is faster and simpler than conventional ultrasonic testing, and phased array data is able to be stored for future reference. This is highly beneficial because they are able to compare data to see if a crack in the machinery has grown and how fast. Downtime is minimized with the use of phased array, making it more affordable to use.
AER hopes to use this new knowledge to perform more phased array inspections in the mining industry. AER owns all the equipment recommended by Nicholas in his presentation for NDT of surface mining.