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Thin Mat Material Foreign Object Debris (FOD) Inspection System



OBJECTIVE: The objective of the proposed program is to investigate and design an optimized nondestructive evaluation (NDE) system that can quickly and accurately detect and identify foreign object debris (FOD) in thin mat materials early in the production environment. 

DESCRIPTION: No nondestructive evaluation technique is currently used to inspect for FOD in the manufacture of thin mat material. An inspection technique is required to eliminate the possibility of incorporating contaminated material into aircraft parts and components during production or depot/field maintenance. Material buy-off and acceptance criteria needs to be improved and validated with quality assurance inspection data. Currently, due to the limited nature of FOD inspection, the possibility exists that material may be accepted and integrated into high value USAF aircraft components that may eventually fail performance and specification testing due to contaminated FOD material. The time to inspect and identify contaminated material is early in the manufacturing process before FOD becomes integrated into the aircraft components through initial aircraft production or depot/field repairs and maintenance. Finding FOD contaminants after it has been integrated into aircraft parts results in significant cost and schedule delays to identify and fix the problem. The proposed technology will be used in the early stages of thin mat material production to find and eliminate FOD in these materials BEFORE they are incorporated into aircraft parts and components. Potential technology approaches include the integration of near field sensors that can detect small visual or non-visual FOD defects that get incorporated into the mat material unknowingly. The optimized sensor package must be capable of inspecting the entire web of the material as it is being produced. The number of sensors, sensor configuration, standoff distance, frequency of operation, speed of data collection, and other critical engineering factors shall be investigated. The S&T involved in this requirement include a sensor suite, sensor integration into a suitable inspection system for the manufacturing environment, easy to use graphical user interface, software processing techniques to rapidly and accurately identify and detect defects, and development of a suitable output system to enable near real time information assessment. The required capability must meet stringent inspection criteria and yet be mobile and portable with the ability to be used on multiple materials on different thin mat production equipment. In addition to the prototype system there will be a comprehensive final report, engineering test data on various thin mat materials, and recommendations for full implementation to solve the problem. 

PHASE I: Demonstrate the feasibility of sensor system technology to non-destructively inspect thin mat material up to 54” in width in a laboratory environment on a set of commercially available materials. The thin mat material is being produced at a rate of up to 13’ per minute so the proposed prototype system must be capable of inspecting the entire web during the production process. Demonstrate the basic operation including the defect detection and software algorithms in a laboratory setting on representative thin mat materials. Any prototype sensor system must meet production and safety environment requirements. The existing thin mat material production equipment may accommodate an inspection system with width dimension of no more than 40” to be integrated into the production process to inspect real-time for FOD material. The initial prototype system may be a "brass-board" prototype with developmental software. 

PHASE II: Design and build an advanced prototype system based upon what was demonstrated in Phase I. Demonstrate the prototype's ability to measure 100% of the thin mat web material surface during the production process. Document the results in a detailed report. Develop a manufacturing plan for a fully optimized system with the capability to inspect for FOD. Rigorous technology demonstrations using commercially available materials in a representative manufacturing environment shall be performed. To that end, extensive test and evaluations of the novel prototype capability shall be carried out to include an optimized hardware and software system solution. 

PHASE III: Develop and execute a transition plan to military and commercial customers based on requirements. Because the nondestructive evaluation system is a tool, the main transition task will be to educate production workers how to operate the tool. 


1. "Non-destructive evaluation of aerospace materials with lock-in thermography,” Engineering Failure Analysis, Vol. 13, Issue 3, April 2006, pages 380-388, Carosena Meola, Giovanni Maria Carlomagno, Antonio Squillance, and Antonoi Vitiello.; 2. “Microwave and millimeter wave nondestructive testing and evaluation - Overview and recent advances,” IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine, Volume: 10, Issue: 2, April 2007, pages 26-38, Sergey Kharkovsky and Reza Zoughi

KEYWORDS: Nondestructive Evaluation, Thin Mat Inspection, Foreign Object Debris, Defect Detection 

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