We might not realise it, but Civil Engineering plays a crucial part in developing the infrastructure that makes our modern lives possible. From the roads we drive on, to the dams that collect our drinking water, from the buildings that house the companies we work for to the bridges that help us connect our communities, the impact of civil engineering is seen everywhere in the world.
And likewise, Non Destructive Testing has an integral role in ensuring the maintenance of the structures that Engineers create.
What role does non destructive testing play in civil engineering? Why does it help? Before we answer these questions, let’s ensure we have an accurate understanding of these two significant UK industries.
What is civil engineering?
Civil engineering is one of the oldest disciplines of engineering. It is the branch of engineering that deals with the design, construction and maintenance of the physical and natural environment, including works like bridges, roads, canals, dams and buildings.
Civil engineers are responsible for making sure that these structures are built to last and can withstand the elements. They use their knowledge of mathematics and physics to calculate the loads that a structure will bear, and they design it accordingly.
In recent years, civil engineering has also come to encompass environmental engineering. This branch deals with the management of resources like water and air, as well as waste disposal. It also looks at ways to reduce pollution and protect our natural environment.
As you can imagine, non destructive testing is a integral part of ensuring the continued structural integrity of the structures civil engineers design and build.
But what is non destructive testing? And how does it help ensure site structural integrity?
What is Non Destructive Testing?
Non Destructive Testing (NDT) is the process of looking for imperfections, damage and defects in materials and structures and reliably identifying the location of any issues.
As well as assessing the outside of any structures, NDT can also be used to look inside any pipes, tanks or storage vessels.
NDT technicians use a range of testing techniques to assess the integrity of a material. These include Magnetic Particle Inspection, Eddy Current Inspection, Corrosion Mapping, Radiography and Ultrasonic Testing among others.
Non destructive testing in civil engineering: why is it used?
1. It causes no damage
NDT, by it’s very nature, is a type of testing that can evaluate the properties of a material without causing damage. It is an important tool for civil engineers, as it allows them to assess the strength and integrity of structures without having to destroy them in the process.
It can be used on materials as a structure is being built, but they can also be used on a structure that is already in place, assessing its safety and reliability
2. It can access difficult locations
Civil engineering often includes the design and construction of very large structures, such as dams and bridges. The NDT industry has responded by equipping its technicians with techniques that allow them to access difficult places. Rope access is one of the most frequently used techniques, and most NDT companies will ensure their technicians have minimum IRATA Level 1 rope access, who will always be supervised by IRATA Level 3.
Technicians use ropes to gain access to the asset and use handheld equipment to test the component.
3. It is cost-effective
Improvements in technology have allowed the NDT industry to offer increasingly cost-effective solutions to the civil engineering sector. Robotic crawlers can access difficult places a technician would struggle to go, and Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs) are able to perform visual inspections of large areas without the need for huge teams of technicians. This type of smart technology can save the end client thousands of pounds over the course of a contract and not put technicians in harms way unnecessarily.
NDT in Civil Engineering: essential and cost-effective
Civil engineering is essential to the development of our infrastructure in the UK. Non destructive testing can be used to ensure that the construction of the structures that are built are safe throughout their lifespan without damaging the assets. In addition, new technology can ensure that cost-effective solutions are available, reducing operational costs.