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SINTEST — Result In Brief

Project ID: 222288
Funded under: FP7-SME

High-quality metals for planes and medical equipment

Metal components for the medical and aerospace sectors must meet zero-defect tolerance requirements. Ultrasound inspection technology could soon help manufacturers of automotive components to expand their product repertoire.
High-quality metals for planes and medical equipment
Metal components are ubiquitous and a variety of different processing techniques exists to meet demand. Mechanical parts such as those for cars, electrical machinery and motors are often made by sintering (heating to increase strength through atomic bonding) metal powders, the key process in powder metallurgy (PM). Capture of market share for components with complex geometries and zero-defect tolerance such as those used by the aerospace and medical sectors requires optimised quality assurance and novel defect-detection mechanisms.

The EU-funded project SINTEST sought to fill the gap in technologies to evaluate the inner structure of sintered parts with an ultrasonic-based online inspection tool. The instrument consists of an ultrasonic head positioned on a six-axis robotic arm and associated image processing software. It can be easily placed next to a manufacturing conveyor belt to inspect sintered parts as they come off the conveyor belt.

Scientists exploited pulse-echo ultrasound commonly used in medical diagnostics to transmit short-duration ultrasound pulses into the material. The resulting echo provided both reliable and fast detection of sub-surface cracks posing an immediate threat to performance as well as a global density map to identify internal defects that could lead to mid-term failure.

Preliminary test results for inspections of standard PM parts and ferrites, ceramics prepared from iron oxide, were quite promising.

Further optimisation at industrial scale is expected to lead to commercialisation with important impact on the PM market and the competitiveness of EU small and medium-sized enterprises supported by it.

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