University of Strathclyde
Supervisors: Dr Ehsan Mohseni & Prof S. Gareth Pierce
Industrial funder: Spirit AeroSystems
The increasing use of advanced engineering materials such as Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) composites in the aerospace industry offers enormous ecological and financial benefits as the reduced final weight of aerostructures directly helps save on fuel consumption. This trend can be seen in modern civil aircraft such as the Airbus A380 where 25% of the weight is consisting of composites that are largely manufactured and supplied by Spirit AeroSystems, as the technology and market leader for years. CFRP exhibits superior mechanical tensile properties in preferred directions where the application loadings are expected to be the highest owing to the composition of carbon fibers and resin. However, many manufacturing defects such as pores, delamination, lack of bonding, in-plane/through-thickness fibre waviness, and changes in the fibre volume fraction can occur after molding. Since the manufactured CFRP components are safety-critical and should be of the highest integrity to be used in airframes, non-destructive testing (NDT) based on methods such as Phased Array Ultrasound Testing (PAUT) is an essential post-manufacturing stage for certification.
PAUT probes and controllers allow for individual transmit/receive of the probe array elements enabling electronic beamforming, focusing, and steering within the target material. This introduces improved inspection coverage and reliability as compared to conventional UT systems. However, manual inspection of typical large-sized aircraft components made of CFRPs such as wing covers, pressure bulkheads, fuselage, and flaps is quite a slow process creating a bottleneck in the entire production cycle. The recent advances in the deployment of industrial robots for NDT, and particularly for UT of CFRPs , however, have alleviated some of the hurdles for the inspection speed. Although high-speed inspection systems that sometimes reach 500 mm/s acquiring 10,000 frames/s have obvious benefits, the enormous data obtained through these should be managed and processed by intelligent algorithms to truly reach the full potential of the automated inspection.
The encoded PAUT data generated by these scans are in the form of amplitude scans (A-scans) which correspond to the amplitude versus time response of transmit-receive by each element/sub-aperture. Different projections such as B-scan, C-scan, and D-scan of the volumetric data can be produced to efficiently detect and characterize the potential bulk defects. This project will explore the implementation of automated PAUT data interpretation for CFRPs through two approaches: I) developing a low latency Deep Neural Network (DNN) to analyse the A-scan data on the fly, while the scan is being performed, for geometrical feature recognition, automated gating of time series, and defect detection, and II) developing a Multitask Network (MN)  for image analysis, detection of geometrical features/defects on each B-scan, D-scan, and C-scan projection, and cross-validation of findings at the combination stage. The real-time DNN applied to the A-scan data will serve to provide warnings for defects flagged during the inspection while the MN, with potentially improved learning through different related tasks empowered by the multi-view analysis of the data, should be able to detect the defects with higher confidence.
The project is relevant to the many advanced industrial sectors such as Aerospace, Defence, Automotive & general High-Value Manufacturing striving to bring autonomy to their production/ inspection processes using machine learning.
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 Zhou, Yue, et al. “Multi-task learning for segmentation and classification of tumors in 3D automated breast ultrasound images.” Medical Image Analysis 70 (2021): 101918.
Aligned with the financial commitment from the industrial partner, the project scope is centered around the current NDE demands of Spirit AeroSystems with the target to a) develop and deliver more industry-focused NDE solutions to promote the partner’s and UK’s business growth, and b) to introduce development program for the student, where highly demanded skills by the industry, access to a network of NDE experts in academia and industry, access to the state-of-the-art research facilities, and specialized NDE training can be offered to the student.
The project will make extensive use of the £29 million cutting-edge Sensor Enabled Automation & Control Hub (SEARCH) hosting several advanced industrial robots and NDE equipment at the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE) at the University of Strathclyde. The student will have access to and will work closely with the Aerospace Innovation Centre (AIC) established by Spirit AeroSystems at their Prestwick manufacturing facility and NMIS facilities in Renfrew.
entify the nature of common process defect types, location, and size
- Investigate the strengths and shortcomings of different NDE modalities for each manufacturing stage in a comparative study through modelings and experiments
- Provide possible innovative alteration of NDE modality, deployment, and sensors for improved detection performance at each stage
Aligned with the financial commitment from the industrial partner, the project scope is centered around the current NDE demands of Spirit AeroSystems with the target to a) develop and deliver more industry-focused NDE solutions to promote the partner’s and UK’s business growth, and b) to introduce development program for the student, where highly demanded skills by the industry, access to a network of NDE experts in academia and industry, access to the state-of-the-art research facilities, and specialized NDE training can be offered to the student. The project will be primarily supervised by Dr E. Mohseni at Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE), whose appointment is defined through the Spirit/RAE Research Chair, Prof. S. G. Pierce, in automated NDE of composites.
The student will be incorporated within the NDE training programme that is exclusively offered to CDT FIND students by the leading academics in the field of NDE from a range of the best UK universities. The training includes a series of networking, project management, interpersonal skill development, the theoretical background of frequently used NDE methods, and hands-on experience with these technologies. The student will be provided with training courses in robotics to gain knowledge about the robot safety procedures, operation, and programming as well as programming courses to acquire the essential coding and system integration skills. The student will also have access to the £26M Sensor Enabled Automation, Robotics, and Control Hub (SEARCH) facilities housing several advanced industrial robots and NDE equipment, and the Aerospace Innovation Centre (AIC) established by Spirit AeroSystems at their Prestwick manufacturing facility. The candidate will be trained to operate a fully automated CFRP inspection cell located at SEARCH and will have access to a range of CFRP components and reference samples manufactured by Spirit and NCC for testing and data collection.