Railroad

Eddyfi Technologies for Railroad Inspection Applications

In the rail industry, non-destructive testing (NDT) is required for railroad assets including axles, wheels, bogies, railcars and the railroad itself. The integrity of rail infrastructure is at the heart of safe and economical transport systems, preventing failure leading to unimaginable consequences and financial loss.

Details

In the rail industry, non-destructive testing (NDT) is required for railroad assets including axles, wheels, bogies, railcars and the railroad itself. The integrity of rail infrastructure is at the heart of safe and economical transport systems, preventing failure leading to unimaginable consequences and financial loss. There are several different NDT methods deployed for the structural integrity assessment of railroad infrastructure, some complementary to each other.

ACFM® was originally developed for use in the oil and gas industry as a technique for detecting and sizing surface-breaking cracks with minimal surface preparation. It is now used in a wide variety of industries as an alternative to magnetic particle or dye penetrant inspection. In the rail sector, it is being used to inspect axles, wheels, bogies and rails, where it can complement ultrasonic inspection. This technique has been accredited for use by Bombardier Transportation and Network Rail; certified training is available.

Phased array UT (PAUT) is another NDT method commonly used to inspect assets in the rail industry. Unlike conventional UT, the beam from a PAUT transducer can be focused and swept electronically without moving the transducer. The ultrasonic beam can be controlled because a PAUT probe is made up of multiple small elements, each of which can be pulsed independently at a specific timing determined by the PAUT instrument. This advanced NDT method is often used to carry out weld examinations.

Axles

Axles can be inspected without paint removal, enabling testing to be carried out both on and off the vehicle. There are a few options for inspecting axles with ACFM depending on the required coverage, deployment speed, axle type and whether the axle is mounted on the bogie. All use the basic ACFM technology, but the mode of deployment and the degree of automation vary considerably. The simplest option involves a standard pencil probe mounted in a suitable holder. Since a significant number of individual scans are needed, this configuration is best used for inspecting small sections of axle or around a radius. The TSC Axis is a system using ACFM technology that inspects the center section of plain freight axles for fatigue cracks on the surface. The ease of deployment enables Axis to be used in rail depots as a front-line tool in screening for defects in axles before they threaten the integrity of vehicles. Full axle inspection is performed in only two minutes thanks to a semi-automated system that requires no prior inspection experience by train technicians.

The M2M Gekko®, a portable PAUT flaw detector, is also a great tool to inspect axles. With an aperture of 64 elements and a specialized wedge, the Gekko can focus energy farther in the axle to detect smaller defects compared to 16 or 32-element systems.

Wheels

Wheel rims and flanges can be inspected using similar techniques to axles. A standard pencil ACFM probe can be deployed manually by trolley or mounted in a jig above a rotating wheel. However, inspection is sped up considerably by use of an array probe shaped to match the rim/flange geometry so that the whole surface is inspected in one pass. The Gekko is also regularly deployed for the detection of small defects in wheels for railway applications.

Railcars and Wagons

Bogies contain many welds, usually of short length and quite often difficult to access. Such welds are traditionally inspected using MPI, but this involves removing dirt and paint prior to inspection, and reapplying the paint afterwards. The time-consuming operation is avoided with ACFM. To inspect the welds with ACFM, a variety of probes with differently angled or lengthened heads are used, depending on access. Array versions are also available to speed up the weld examination process.

Railcar inspection is mostly a manual process that depends on the accuracy and knowledge of qualified inspection personnel to evaluate the state of freight cars for safe and efficient operation. The process is labour intensive and lacks a level of objectivity. While manual inspections are invaluable, we developed a solution to improve the internal tank car inspection process. Known as the Inuktun STIK™, our Spectrum Tank Inspection Kit offers a solution for ensuring inspection efficiency and reducing time that inspectors are exposed to hazards in a railyard environment. The automated remote visual inspection (RVI) system monitors specified parameters related to railcar integrity, liner health and general degradation so that preventative or corrective actions can be taken prior to failure. The STIK eliminates the need for Confined Space Entry (CSE) and requires no specialty training for RVI inside of tank cars.

Rail

Rail inspection is regularly performed with UT techniques to detect and size defects through cross-sections of a rail. However, when clusters of parallel cracks occur together, shallow cracks at the edge of the cluster can block signals from deeper cracks in the center. The ACFM technique avoids this problem and is incorporated in a trolley-mounted system, the ACFM Walking Stick™, designed specifically to detect and size gauge-corner cracking (a type of Rolling Contact Fatigue, or RCF) on the surface of the rail head. It provides information on the severity of cracking so that a decision can be made between controlling the problem locally grinding the rail head for shallow defects or re-railing a section of track for deep defects. Early crack detection in the head of rails is not only vital for safety, but also leads to a well managed maintenance program.

Eddyfi Technologies offers specialized solutions for many aspects of railroad and related component inspection, ensuring operators reduce human and environmental risk while saving money detecting potential defects before they become a costly problem.