Meeting the need for speed and data
Although non-destructive testing of large concrete infrastructures has been around for decades, the arrival of the ELOP Insight rolling and dry coupled ultrasound scanner is changing the game. So far, similar inspection techniques have been complicated, unreliable, and time-consuming. However, as the ELOP Insight can look 2 m into the concrete, being more than 10 times faster and delivering continuous, real-time 3D-images of the inspected areas, the Testing and Inspection industry has finally gotten the right tool to meet its need for speed and data.
Technology always moves faster than lawmakers and regulators. That is why the Testing and Inspection businesses (TICs) not only need to focus on the here and now of current regulations, procedures and standards. They also need to look for better and more efficient technologies to perform inspections.
At first glance, the TIC industry may seem slow-moving, in the way it is committed to strictly following regulations, procedures and standards. But that thoroughness is its raison d´être. Testing and inspecting according to applicable requirements is the TIC industry’s bread and butter. However, the industry is aware that focusing solely on the regulation-driven part of its business is like driving your car by looking only in the rear-view mirror.
Scanning the market
So, TICs are constantly scanning the market for new technology, says Niklas Persson, ELOP’s head of global sales.
- They compete, and they want to develop. They are looking for new technology and they want to be the first to use it, because it gives them an advantage over their competitors. If they can convince their customers, the asset owners and/or construction companies, that new tech can optimize inspections and make asset maintenance more efficient, then they can develop new business models around new tools like the ELOP Insight scanner. And often, after these tools have been tested and have proven their worth, the new and advanced techniques are integrated into the official procedures and standards.
According to Persson, if you want to introduce new high-end technology to the TIC industry, just preaching about how sophisticated it is, won’t get you anywhere.
- People want to touch it, feel it, test and challenge it in order to see what it can do. That is why we’re currently doing a lot of demos for potential TIC clients. They want to see first-hand how the scanner works and what it’s capable of. Often, we do field tests as well. Recently, a large Scandinavian TIC asked us to do a field test. Soon we’re going to pack our gear and go out to scan a bridge or some other large concrete asset, compare techniques etc. That’s the way to do it. I believe that when the TICs realize the advantages of our scanner, they will find it easy to convince their customers to commit to the new services they can provide based on the scanner data. As soon as the large asset owners, responsible for let’s say a large bridge, a tunnel or a hydropower dam, find out that this technology exists, they’ll want a part of the action.
Faster scans and larger areas
Persson has worked in the non-destructive testing business for 25 years, so it is fair to say he knows a thing or two about it. And as he points out, the advantage of the ELOP Insight is that you can scan faster and larger areas with a high level of accuracy. That means you can produce much more information about the current condition of a specific asset.
- In the non-destructive testing business, you always use a combination of techniques to get an overview of the asset. While a technique like ground-penetrating radar is preferably used to assess the condition of the steel rebars inside the concrete, ultrasound is the preferred method when focusing on the concrete itself. It can detect voids, air pockets, cracks or delamination in the concrete.
According to him, due to the complexity and labour-intensive nature of older ultrasound tools, the inspection industry has been forced to solely focus on what they considered to be critical areas. Until now it just didn’t make sense business-wise to invest the hours and manpower needed to point scan larger areas, not to mention an entire asset.
- That has changed now. We are giving the TIC industry a tool proven to be unmatched when it comes to the detection and visualization of voids, air pockets, cracks or honeycombing within the concrete structure. Furthermore, its efficiency means it has the potential to create a more detailed overview of the asset’s condition than ever before.
Key data producer
Persson believes that this set of features makes ELOP Insight a key data producer for the complex, data-intensive asset management systems of the future.
- Everybody wants to go that way. A lot of TICs are looking at this right now. And asset owners as well. They share this vision of holistic, data-rich monitoring and management systems, that can help asset owners not only optimize maintenance, but also extend the asset’s lifetime. This will contribute heavily to reducing the environmental footprint of the concrete industry.
- To build these digital twins, who are virtual representatives that serve as the real-time digital counterparts of bridges, tunnels, or hydropower dams, you need a lot of data. Our scanner will be a cornerstone in such a system because of its ability to efficiently produce large amounts of high-quality data. This enables you to document the condition of the asset over time, and to set up a preventive maintenance program focusing on extending the asset’s lifetime.
As thousands of large concrete structures like bridges, tunnels and dams built in the 60’s and 70’s across Europe and the US, are reaching their expected lifetime, there is a growing need to assess their structural integrity. To do that job, the TIC industry has an urgent need for speed and data. A tool like the ELOP Insight scanner is just the right answer to that need.
It allows for fast and accurate inspections and generates large amounts of data, providing asset owners with a more holistic approach into how to monitor and manage the structural health of their assets.