Conventional non-destructive inspection (NDI) methodologies used on composite aircraft, such as visual inspections, coin-tap inspections, and A-scan ultrasonic inspection, face a number of limitations in their ability to rapidly inspect large-scale composite parts while maintaining adequate diagnostics required for composite inspection. These limitations include the size of the inspected area (typically a point source) and the inability to detect certain problems. Thermography is an area inspection method which addresses these limitations but until recently relied on the same gantry systems or scanning apparatus to inspect large-scale parts.
The Large Standoff, Large-Area Thermography (LASLAT) system delivers a new technology for inspecting large-scale composite parts, inspecting a 17 ft. by 15 ft. area in under 15-minutes from a fixed point, 15 ft. from the aircraft. This technology, combined with Thermal Wave Imaging’s TSR® signal processing, provides improved diagnostic sensitivity and quantitative results.
This technology was developed through the LASLAT program and funded by a NAVAIR SBIR.
As the winner of the 2017 CTMA Technology Competition, Thermal Wave Imaging was able to work collaboratively through the CTMA Program with NAVAIR. On December 17, 2017, the company delivered its first production LASLAT system to FRC East at MCAS Cherry Point, NC. FRC East began using the LASLAT system for inspection of production V-22 proprotor blades in January. As of early February, 2018 the installation had completed four production blade inspections, reducing average inspection times from 10–14 hours to 2–3 hours per blade. This has been a significant savings to NAVAIR and provided Thermal Wave Imaging with an opportunity to expand its business through a previously closed channel.