Hi, I am Waseem Faidi and I lead the Inspection and Metrology Lab at GE Global Research in developing novel inspection and process monitoring solutions for various GE high performance parts, including aircraft engines, power generation turbines, and oil and gas equipment. You might say we do healthcare for machines. In our world, a stress fracture isn’t a broken bone but rather a defect in a part.
GE, of course, is well known for being pioneers in medical imaging. One of our early research pioneers, William Coolidge, developed a safe x-ray tube that greatly facilitated the use of x-ray for medical diagnosis. We have been pioneers in other imaging modalities as well, including MRI, CT and Ultrasound.
The great thing is my lab has been able to leverage all that expertise to transform industrial inspection. My team includes over 15 scientists and engineers, most with Ph.D. degrees, in five inspection modalities; ultrasound, electromagnetic, x-ray, flash Infrared (IR), and optical techniques.
The chart above gives an overview of the lab capabilities and growth areas. Throughout the past 30 years, the lab’s leading-edge research has yielded many innovations that include leveraging the GE Healthcare high-resolution x-ray flat panel digital imaging and phased array ultrasound imaging for industrial applications as well as the development of wide-area flash IR imaging systems for the inspection of GE aircraft engines complex-geometry metallic and composite parts.
For the past decade, the lab has been developing inspection technologies to support the development of high-temperature composites parts for GE gas turbines and aircraft engines. The development involves techniques to see inside the parts and protection coating for detecting defects and measuring dimensions of key part features. These technologies include computed tomography (CT) and flash infrared imaging. The extensive GE Healthcare experience has, once again, been leveraged here to advance the state of the art of the CT technique for industrial applications. Using commercially available systems, such as the Nano-CT machines from GE Inspection Technologies, the team was able to develop reconstruction and artifact reduction algorithms to significantly improve the detection capabilities of unwanted defects in the high-temperature composite parts. Assisted defect recognition (ADR) techniques have also been developed so that the image evaluation step of the inspection process can be done much faster and more reliably.
The Flash IR technique that was developed at Global Research and deployed at NASA and multiple GE locations for research applications is being industrialized for the inspection of aircraft engine parts in the production environment (images show a schematic of a lab Flash IR system and example inspection images of an aircraft engine turbine blade). The technique uses a set of high power flash lamps to heat the surface of the part slightly above room temperature for a very short period of time, and a very high speed IR camera to monitor the part surface temperature as the heat dissipate inside the part. The temperature profiles obtained with this measurement are, then, processed to detect defects hidden behind surface.
There’s the old saying that there is more to life than meets the eye. That is certainly true in the world of industrial inspection! Check out the short video below to hear learn more, straight from the Inspection Lab.