Using LabVIEW to Develop a Weld Inspection System

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"We benefitted from the flexibility of the LabVIEW graphical programming environment to easily integrate a third-party transceiver for data acquisition from an ultrasonic sensor."

- Arev Hambardzumyan, RAFA Solutions LLC

The Challenge:
We needed a software application to assess the integrity of electrofusion joints of plastic pipes with a nondestructive technique using ultrasonic sensors. The software needed to deliver comprehensive results through a green light/red light system that would give the operator a clear picture of the joint’s welding on the fly.

The Solution:
We used the LabVIEW graphical programming environment to develop an easy-to-use software application to inspect a plastic pipe’s weld. The application uses a third-party ultrasonic transceiver to acquire ultrasonic sensor signals, analyses them, and provides real-time information about defects and overall quality of welds.

Author(s):
Arev Hambardzumyan - RAFA Solutions LLC
Rafayel Ghasabyan - RAFA Solutions LLC

About RAFA Solutions

RAFA Solutions is a systems integrator company that specializes in smart machines and data acquisition/control systems. We deliver robust and flexible advanced solutions for machinery control and automation. Established in 2012, our company is an NI Silver Alliance Partner and proficient in using NI technologies. We provide electronics design and software development services for material testing and semiconductor testing industries. Our clients are machine builders who are innovative in their technologies and build the smartest machines in their fields of application.

RAFA Solutions holds CSIA Certified status in the CSIA Best Practices and Benchmarks certification program. This is the highest level of certification available in the control systems integration industry, and we are one of the first companies to receive this recognition in the region. The company is also awarded with ISO 9001:2015 quality certification, which is the latest revision of the world’s most recognized quality management systems standard.

Problem Background

In any pipeline system, the weakest point is the weld. Joint quality greatly affects the overall safety of the pipeline system, and if not properly checked, failures can lead to significant monetary losses and long downtimes. One of the most popular methods of joining plastic pipes in the field is the butt fusion process. But whether using electrofusion or butt fusion welding techniques, operators must properly perform quality checks of the welds to avoid future failures.

Currently, operators use visual examination and pressure testing to check the quality of joints, but these methods do not offer any assurance about long-term performance. Proper quality checks and continuous monitoring after pipe installation helps to avoid long downtimes and decreases rework or replacement costs. The availability of a cost-effective and accurate nondestructive test method of monitoring a plastic pipe weld condition is important.

Our customer, Impact Solutions, developed a simple-to-use, patented, cost-effective, and highly accurate method of nondestructive inspection based on A-scan ultrasonic technology. Impact Solutions approached us to help develop a software application to build an inspection system based on the new method. The idea behind the new method is in the analysis of ultrasound waves propagating through the weld substrate. The inspection system consists of an ultrasonic sensor, a transceiver, and a software application. The software application is responsible for the control and data acquisition from the ultrasonic transceiver, real-time data analysis, provision of inspection results, and creating a report based on the test results.

Figure 1. Field Tests of the Software Application on the Plastic Pipes

We used the LabVIEW graphical programming environment to build an application that satisfied all customer requirements. LabVIEW helped us develop the software in a short time, which was also one of the customer’s key requirements. A third-party company developed the hardware platform (ultrasonic transceiver). We used a special DLL provided by the hardware vendor to control it using LabVIEW.

We built the software application with special requirements to be fully customizable and able to configure almost every section and feature of the software. We can use the software platform to configure the pipe parameter, joint/coupler type and parameters, ultrasonic transceiver settings, and more. We intend for the software to be an easy-to-use application, so it features a clear user interface with real-time information on inspection results by means of a traffic light system. The system assesses each joint as green (no anomalies detected), yellow (some anomalies detected), or red (significant anomalies identified).

Figure 2. Live Test Screen of the Software Application

We can use the weld inspection system to build a full map of the joint and configure sections that are going to be checked during the monitoring. We can use a live test screen, which is the main interface of the software application, to view real-time data acquired from the ultrasonic sensors, analyze it, and deliver instant information on defect severity. We can also use the interface to create an inspection report as soon as the joint test is finished. The system logs all the information acquired during monitoring for later viewing and analysis. A special section of the software (offline viewing screen) is intended for the offline inspection of test results.

Figure 3. Offline Viewing Screen of the Software Application

Users can take advantage of the offline analysis feature of the application to view the acquired data for each section of the joint, while navigating through the joint map. The joint map indicates the defect type detected and shows the spectra and calculated peaks of the ultrasonic wave. We included some special requirements for the software application to support mobile devices, such as Windows-based tablets, and a data recovery feature. The system is mainly used in the field, so one of the requirements was proper data storage and recovery functionality, as low battery situations are common in such cases. The software makes it possible to fully recover the whole test data, independent on when the system was shut down.

We used LabVIEW to successfully build the system and meet all the requirements with real-time data processing and an instant defect detection mechanism, while consuming as little computing power as possible. We can also deploy software on low-performance tablets, which are common in field operations.

Solution Benefits

The weld inspection system helps drastically decrease the expenses required to fix failures in pipelines due to early detection of defects, and not proper welds of joints. Using the application does not require any training. It delivers comprehensive results with a green light and red light system to give the operator a clear picture of a joint’s welding. The system can be operated in the field from a mobile platform, detecting all common flaws in electrofusion welds.

Conclusion

We used LabVIEW to build this system and provide Impact Solutions with a software platform that it can use to check and monitor a plastic pipe weld’s quality and health. We benefitted from the flexibility of the LabVIEW graphical programming environment to easily integrate a third-party transceiver for data acquisition from an ultrasonic sensor. We developed an easily portable and compact system, which includes only a laptop and small ultrasonic probe.

Author Information:
Arev Hambardzumyan
RAFA Solutions LLC
45a Mashtots Ave, #92
Yerevan, AL 0009
Armenia
Tel: +1 (512) 782-9747
arevh@rafasolutions.com

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