Imperium wins Navy contract for NDI work

Imperium will develop two new non-destructive inspection systems based on its Acoustocam portable ultrasound imaging camera.

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Imperium Inc. (Silver Spring, Md., USA), manufacturer of the Acoustocam portable ultrasound imaging camera, announced on April 6 that it is developing two alternate configurations of the camera under the U.S. Department of Defense's SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program to meet NAVAIR's current requirements to quickly and easily inspect composite structures for non-visible damage. The SBIR Program provides funding for small business research and development projects with a primary focus on serving the needs of the defense community.

Imperium is developing two products to address the Navy's requirements to perform recurring inspections of large sandwich (honeycomb) structures and to detect and quantify impact or battle damage in composite laminates. A through-transmission ultrasonic camera system is being designed to detect skin-to-core disbonds in thin honeycomb structures such as helicopter rotor blades; and a simpler, pulse-echo version of the Acoustocam is being developed to detect defects (delaminations, disbonds, corrosion, etc.) in composite laminate and metallic sheet- or plate-like structures when only one side of the structure is accessible.

"The intention of both programs is to put a fully portable and simple-to-use system into the hands of the Navy's nondestructive inspection personnel so that they can quickly and easily find internal defects in our flight-critical components," said Randy Davis, metallurgist and ASNT Certified NDI Engineer for the U.S. Navy.  "The Acoustocam is small and can be easily stored. It requires only one day of training and can make some extremely time-consuming and difficult jobs faster and easier, while improving the inspector's probability of finding critical flaws."

The Acoustocam reportedly has several advantages over traditional pulse-echo or through-transmission inspection systems, beyond its speed and simplicity of use. The fact that it is a digital imaging technology allows the user to archive all data recorded and use image processing techniques to enhance defect detectability.  Archived images can be compared to track damage progression over time. Future upgrades are planned to add encoders to provide location data that could be used to "stitch" individual frames together to create seamless images of larger structures and wireless data transfer to remote viewing locations so the data can be collected by maintenance personnel and interpreted by nondestructive inspection personnel.