Aircraft are often associated with air pollution and fuel consumption, but the aerospace industry is more sustainable than many realize. Behind-the-scenes nondestructive aerospace testing (NDT) makes the industry more sustainable every day.
These techniques are helping engineers create safer, more efficient planes while reducing waste from design through maintenance and repair.
Dig deeper -> 4 min
What Is Nondestructive Aerospace Testing?
NDT is a collection of testing processes that don’t damage or change objects in the process. Technicians can use these methods to gather data about an object without potentially harming it. For instance, an engineer can check the plane for safety and durability without damaging the craft.
NDT techniques are particularly popular in the aerospace industry. Aircraft are large objects to begin with, but their performance also relies on pristine physical condition. It’s important to test them effectively while also handling them carefully. NDT methods, including hands-off visual inspection, radiography, and leak testing, are commonly used in the aerospace industry.
Organizations use nondestructive testing throughout the product life cycle, not just during post-production. For instance, aerospace engineers can use NDT techniques to test the characteristics of new aircraft components or gather information on a prototype.
Benefits of NDT Techniques
NDT is important for a few reasons. When any product undergoes testing, the purpose is to ensure it is up to production standards and safe to use. Any testing procedure that might damage something during the process would be counterproductive. This is inefficient and wasteful.
Another benefit of NDT is ease of use. Technicians can use these techniques on all kinds of products, but they can also use them on objects that are particularly difficult to test. For instance, underwater or high-temperature items can be tested using NDT techniques like eddy current or acoustic emission testing.
Additionally, NDT can improve safety in the aerospace industry. These techniques allow for thorough, noninvasive testing for aircraft, making them safer for pilots and passengers. NDT also enhances safety in the aerospace industry workplace. Technicians can use it to test equipment and aircraft with less likelihood of accidents happening due to parts or debris flying off during the process.
Why Aerospace Sustainability in Matters
Sustainability is a top priority in every industry today, including aerospace. Planes are often cited for their high emissions output, but it’s important to remember that most rely on large amounts of fuel.
Researchers worldwide are working to develop green jet fuel, but no sustainable options are widely available yet. That doesn’t mean the aerospace industry isn’t becoming greener now. NDT aerospace testing is making some key advances.
The Sustainability Benefits of NDT Aerospace Testing
Non destructive aerospace testing is already more sustainable than older, wasteful testing approaches. Technology is making NDT even more efficient and sustainable, though.
The rise of digitalization is making NDT testing more effective and sustainable. Technicians can use digital tools like tracking software to easily record and monitor information on the aircraft they test. They can use this and electronic testing equipment to get more accurate measurements for metrics they check, such as temperature or structural integrity.
Plus, new technologies have emerged that open up new doors in NDT aerospace testing. For instance, technicians today can use X-rays to conduct a highly detailed visual inspection of an aircraft’s internal structure. Digital tech like this makes NDT aerospace testing more efficient and accurate, improving overall sustainability.
Digitalization helps out in small ways that make a big impact. For example, technicians can more easily store and monitor testing data from laptops and computers, removing the need to use large amounts of paper for storage.
One of the major benefits of digitalization in NDT aerospace testing is reduced waste. NDT techniques are becoming more sustainable every year due to minimized use of testing materials, maintenance equipment and replacement parts.
NDT experts have pointed out that digitalization in NDT allows technicians to build up databases of invaluable testing info. Over time, technicians can use this data to uncover patterns and trends in the testing process. For instance, after inspecting 100 units of the same aircraft, technicians might realize that a certain component tends to come loose during production.
This information helps make aircraft production and testing more efficient, taking less time and materials. Pattern recognition from digital testing data could also reduce rates of unnecessary repairs or parts replacements. A quick NDT test could determine if a component needs to be replaced or is still in good working order.
Practices like this result in fewer good parts going to the waste pile and fewer new components going into aircraft that don’t need them yet.
Improved Aircraft Design
Digitalization is even helping NDT make aircraft design more sustainable. A big part of sustainability is making the most out of the least — that is, designing products that use materials efficiently. There are many ways to accomplish this in aircraft design, but finding the best methods requires efficient testing techniques.
This is where sustainable NDT comes in. Aircraft designers can use these techniques to test green building products and lighter, less materials-intensive plane components throughout the design process. NDT allows technicians to do this without wasting building or testing materials.
Additionally, the data collected from NDT testing can be used in digital modeling programs that open up new possibilities in sustainable aircraft design. Designers can see how removing material or changing a component would affect the aircraft without needing to use the items required to build a prototype. Aircraft designers can create the most energy- and materials-efficient aircraft using the least amount of parts and resources.
Making Aerospace NDT Better for the Planet
The aerospace industry is becoming more sustainable every year, even if green jet fuel is still a work in progress. Sustainability happens on many fronts, though, including behind the scenes. NDT aerospace testing doesn’t just make life easier for testing technicians and aircraft designers. It makes the entire industry greener through efficient processes that improve aircraft performance and design while minimizing waste.