The Changing Face of NDT Within the Mining Industry: Today, Tomorrow & Over the Long-Term
Mining presents one of the most challenging industries when it comes to efficient NDT methods. Locations are often remote, with extremes of temperature and weather that present unique environmental conditions. Historical testing is generally laborious, expensive and requires assets being offline for extended periods.
The evolution of Industry 4.0 in the realm of NDT heralds an era of great flux. Advancing robotics, automation and IoT will gradually remove the need for highly trained specialists to manually perform testing processes.
The face of NDT is changing, So, what can we look forward to in the short, mid and long-term?
Plotting the Future Direction of NDT Technology
Some of major advances that will gradually reshape common NDT tasks include:
- Wireless connectivity
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)
- Digital Twins
As the capabilities of all these increases, we can expect them to become inexorably linked to testing equipment. Automating tasks with semi and, eventually, fully autonomous robots will become commonplace. This doesn’t just apply to the actual testing processes, but also to the analysis of the data returned. As AI improves, so will intelligent interpretation of testing data and the automation of required actions.
We can expect future advances to upgrade the speed, accuracy, and safety of regular NDT. Eventually, we might expect sensors to be embedded into assets to continually monitor condition, material stresses, damage and general wear. This real-time data will be instantly analysed and, when necessary, robotic equipment will automatically deploy to carry out necessary maintenance.
However, such scenarios aren’t in our near future. Testing advances that are or will soon become current are focused on honing both semi and fully autonomous equipment that’s already altering the testing landscape.
Crawlers, drones and inspection cameras are advancing rapidly. One standout solution that’s challenging the status quo for the inspection of vertical spaces is Zenith. The ideal option for the NDT of mining shafts and stacks, this unique kit is probably the only proven and fully autonomous on the market right now.
The inspection of hard-to-reach vertical assets has historically required human entry into confined spaces, working at height and/or the erection of scaffolding. The geography of such spaces demands a radical solution to improve such outdated testing scenarios – one that Zenith brings firmly to the playing field.
This innovative solution offers:
- The ability to access any entry point – even those that are offset or have a large overhang. This is thanks to the unique tripod from which the camera hangs that can be customised according to entry needs. This means the operator should never have to break the plane for confined space entry.
- 360-degree inspection of >500ft vertical drop: The camera can rotate as required and has excellent capacity for secondary payload, including thermal and radiation sensors, LIDAR etc.
- Full camera control: Pan up and down through 180 degrees, photo, video and zoom as required.
- > 2 hours of operation: From a single charge.
- Lighting capability: Integrated LED lights provide excellent imaging in all situations.
- Map 3D imaging reports: Utilising mapping software.
The only human intervention that Zenith requires (apart from the initial physical setup) is the input of the asset dimensions and the required zoom. Once done, the complete testing process is carried out at the touch of a button. The operator can watch in real-time via a large HD screen built into the controller and there’s the option for a second video receiver to transmit to a TV, computer or screen.
Equipment, such as Zenith, is what we can typically expect to be rolled out over the next decade. Another huge advantage of such kit is that using it requires minimal to no training.
Nexxis is a key innovator of technology such as this, providing their clients with carefully crafted, advanced solutions to reduce NDT costs, improve the process and ultimately benefit your bottom line.