New Industrial Research Chair at ÉTS
Pushing the limits of ultrasonic inspectionThursday, February 14, 2019
Professors, students and partners gathered at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) last week for the official launching of the Olympus Industrial Research Chair on Ultrasonic Nondestructive Testing. Professor Pierre Bélanger and his team were joined by representatives of the new chair’s industrial partner to outline the challenges they will tackle over the next five years.
The chair’s purpose – nondestructive testing – can be used in many sectors, ranging from the marine and oil industries, to the nuclear, aeronautical and aerospace sectors, as well as countless others. Nondestructive testing involves using a range of techniques to analyze the condition of a structure or a material without damaging it. It can be used to determine whether a ship’s hull, a pipeline, a storage tank, an airplane wing or an engine block are in good condition without having to disassemble them.
A versatile chairholder
Chairholder Pierre Bélanger joined ÉTS in 2013, after working for three years in industry. Before becoming a professor, he worked as an engineer at the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 racing team where he developed an expertise in instrumentation development. When he began at ÉTS, Professor Bélanger came up with the idea of combining his instrumentation expertise with the knowledge of the propagation of ultrasonic waves he had gathered during his years as a Ph.D. student.
Olympus approached him for the first time in 2014, during a conference. “I was presenting a paper on a novel technique to measure the residual thickness for corrosion under pipe supports,” he remembers.
A forward-looking partner
Japanese multinational Olympus is the world’s leading manufacturer and distributor of nondestructive testing equipment, which is used for industrial applications and research purposes in many sectors. Olympus began collaborating with Professor Bélanger in 2016 on a number of projects so as to stay on the cutting edge of innovation.
Fabrice Cancre, President of Olympus Scientific Solutions Americas (OSSA), one of three divisions at Olympus, stresses the importance of what he calls “staying in touch with research”. Being a physicist himself, he believes that the chair will play a leading role by “providing Olympus with new ideas and new technologies.” Innovation is crucial because, while current methods used in nondestructive testing are efficient, there are definite limitations.
Many positive outcomes
Inspecting structures and materials is a complex undertaking. “It is highly dependent on the user,” explains Professor Bélanger. Interpreting results is so difficult that results can vary considerably from one inspector to the next. One objective of this research chair is to simplify the interpretation of data obtained through ultrasonic testing.
Another challenge will be to design novel ultrasonic transducers for harsh environments. These devices will reduce the need to manipulate structures, among other things. Professor Bélanger explains that you currently need to raise a pipeline to measure its residual thickness when you want to inspect the pipeline where it joins the support. “We are developing a technique that will enable us to measure this thickness while the pipe is operating.” Mr. Cancre adds: “Our goal is to launch a totally innovative product within five years that will grow out of the research and development done in collaboration with ÉTS.”
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