Imaging a safer future - No 26 - August 2020
Synthesizing Structural Monitoring Systems and NDE Applications
Commonalities Between Complex Structures
Complex bridges and dam structures are often equipped with monitoring devices that measure spatial or motion data. The same structures are often evaluated with nondestructive evaluation - NDE - devices as well. The two classes of technology produce very different types of data, but they share three very important commonalities.
The first is that both monitoring and NDE systems are looking for discrepancies, peculiars, abnormalities in an otherwise predictable set of data. For motion sensors, there are sudden jumps in values that set off alerts. For infrared, a blotch of strange temperature shows debonding or moisture. With high quality sensors, both can find, characterize, and record these irregularities reliably. This helps inspectors locate and focus on areas of concern.
Second is their ability to create records of structure conditions. Judging from past experience, it can be easy to focus solely on the - finding - part and forget about the potential of the - recording - part. Most inspection reports suffer from a lack of connection between past conditions and future projections, despite the clear benefits of trying to predict the overall lifespan of the structure. But this irony starts to make sense when you consider the shear amount and complexity of data that is generated from inspection projects. We have experienced this firsthand and have surmounted it by finding ways to format the data so that it is comparable to future inspections. For example, by scaling the results of a 2020 crack inspection data on a bridge soffit so that we can come back in 2022 and overlay our results on top of one another to calculate crack length propagation.
The third commonality is their propensity for programming automation. This is obvious in the case of monitoring systems, whose displacement values can be nicely packaged into a csv file and shipped into a findings report. NDE data can be boiled down similarly with the help of software solutions. NEXCO is actively developing technology to help with finding deficient features in structures so that reports can be generated alongside those of monitoring systems with the same ease. Companies and academic groups like NEXCO are already using findings from motion sensors and infrared cameras alike to create predictive models.
While the natures of the two classes of technology are quite different, we believe it is important to remember the overlap in their objectives, and instead of letting their results sit apart, analyze them in tandem. With their shared ground, both monitoring and non-destructive efforts can support decision-making and life cycle projections by contributing to a rich collection of inspection findings.
NEXCO uses its M360IS system to capture 3D imagery data for inspection purposes. It serves as a useful tool for navigating back through a site you have visited, or for looking at a certain feature in greater detail. Though our other systems, like DTSS and TSS, provide higher definition scaled imagery, it sometimes helps to have a complete 3D reference of the target structure you are inspecting in addition to the 2D images.
Tunnel and subway station interiors are perfect examples of how 2D and 3D imagery can benefit one another. Underground facilities often contain many objects that either block or prevent clear access to the target surfaces. Things like pipes, electrical lines, pillars, posters, and much more can be distributed about and pose problems for inspectors. It is unrealistic to remove all of these obstacles for a crack inspection, and when these objects are flattened into a 2D world, they can be confusing to look at during data analysis.
M360IS overcomes these challenges by offering inspectors a 3D video recording of the area, which is navigable with a computer mouse. You can zoom in and out to see certain features in detail, and The system can be mounted on a moving vehicle or on a backpack carrier, making it very accessible to inspection staff in a variety of site conditions.
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