The answer to the “why” of digital NDT is much the same as for any process that goes from analog to digital. Digital workflows are easier to manage than analog; digital is more versatile than analog; digital is more cost-effective.
As regards NDT, specifically the development of the DICONDE standard has propelled NDT into the digital age during this decade in much the same way that DICOM moved medical x-ray into digital in the previous decade.
Both DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine), and DICONDE (Digital Imaging and Communication for Non-Destructive Evaluation) are standards that define all image attributes and elements in a universal format. This universality enables digital images to be viewed, manipulated, transferred and compared regardless of the digital system used to create the image and regardless of the viewer used to look at it.
Experience and Innovation
Experienced NDT professionals know that sometimes multiple radiography methods are required in order to meet the demands of a particular inspection application. To meet that need in an analog workflow, it can be necessary to stock a wide assortment of films, each designed for a specific quality and/or throughput requirement. With digital solutions, it is possible to meet a wide range of NDT inspection applications in a much more reliable and cost-effective manner.
As organizations launch more inspection applications using the improved image quality of digital radiography systems, and, as more processes and workflows are implemented digitally, the use of existing radiographic film in comparisons becomes more problematic. Ask any NDT technician who needs to compare digital radiography results from today to last year’s film radiography results and you’re likely to hear about workflow degradation.
While it is true that digital workflows are more efficient, the efficiency holds only when the entire process is digital. Digital workflows that need to be interrupted in order to accommodate various film images or pieces of paper will be even slower than an all film or all paper workflow.
Reap the Benefits of NDT Digital Workflow
If your organization wants to see the improved processes and lower costs that come with digital NDT, then it is imperative that you go completely digital as quickly as possible in order to reap the ROI on your digital investments. This means converting your archived film to digital.
In the hands of an experienced scanning technician, today’s film digitizing systems can scan your original radiographic images with accuracies better than +/- two pixels, in each axes. This kind of accuracy, coupled with the high definition resolution of digital systems often enables more accurate comparisons than the original. And, unlike film processes, a digital process is flexible, allowing for the best acquisition method for each specific film type.
Moreover, during the film scanning process, valuable data can be stored as part of the image, such as who took the images, where they were taken, when they were taken, and depending on the machine, even the kV, mA, and equipment identifiers.
Storing Historical Data
Once all of your films are converted to digital, you can create a space-saving central archive of historical inspection data that can be easily accessed and compared to current finding. A digital central archive makes storing, pre-inspection planning, and post-inspection analysis much faster and much more accurate than moving between film archives and newly acquired digital images would be. It also provides a platform for future re-analysis (with newer software tools) or assisting in root-cause inquiries.
Moreover, digital systems are scalable, particularly those that are Internet accessible (what we refer to as being “in the Cloud”). This means that whether you have one location or many; multiple acquisition systems or one type; geographically diverse locations or a single location, with a digital archive, your data is accessible when you need it, wherever you need it.
Due to the low expense of maintaining digital data, your archived images may be kept for the lifetime of the object inspected—possibly 20-plus years. During this time, migrating data to new systems, as software and hardware obsolescence occurs, or as vendors change, is easy with DICONDE because it’s a universal format.
Making the Move to Digital NDT
Despite the apparent advantages that digital images offer, in terms of image manipulation, workflow and archiving, most organizations have many considerations before converting from conventional to digital radiography. DICONDE to be a cost-effective, productive alternative to traditional film-based systems. And, with the growing demand for more speed, security and cost reductions, we expect the trend towards digital in NDT, and elsewhere, to continue.