Which engineering industry impacts on every aspect of our daily lives?

20.11.2015

‘The Non Destructive Testing (NDT) industry involves every branch of engineering and impinges on our daily lives in more ways than you can think of.'

Dr Peter Charlton: Senior Research Fellow – Non Destructive Testing (NDT)

Dr Peter Charlton, Non-Destructive Testing, Senior Research FellowThree little letters can offer you the chance to travel the world. NDT supports every branch of engineering and life – and it’s a huge growth area.

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David offers the only taught NDT postgraduate qualification in the UK.

Expert in the field, Dr Peter Charlton, is a senior research fellow at UWTSD Swansea. He has over 25 years’ experience and is responsible for industrial engagement for NDT and commercial activity. He is PhD supervisor for advanced applied ultrasonic imaging research and MSc NDT programme director, teaching every subject from electromagnetics to statistics.

So what is Non Destructive Testing?

Dr Charlton explains: “NDT is a means of evaluating materials, structures or components without causing harm. It’s analogous to the medical imaging field, but its use is in industrial application. We are all familiar with X-rays and ultrasonic imaging, CAT scans, magnetic residency. In approach it is similar to the medical field bu1t we look for defects in structures as opposed to the human body.”

It’s a growth area that offers opportunities for students from a range of disciplines, he adds.

“Multi-physics, multi-disciplined, there are people from all walks of engineering, physics, material scientists, chemical analysts and statisticians. The industry is full of different kinds of people and that’s part of its uniqueness.  Unlike other industries NDT is growing and is very strong in South Wales.”

There are three major NDT companies in the Swansea Region: TWI Technology Centre Wales; Oceaneering Services International Ltd; and, Silverwing (UK) Ltd. UWTSD students and staff undertake project work with them. UWTSD also has industry links with other companies such as Calsonic, TATA and Ford.

So who studies NDT?

“We recruit from general engineering (electronic engineering, software engineering, mechanical engineering), or physics and materials science disciplines. It is completely multi-disciplined. I supervise students from the School of Automotive Engineering as well who might want to use NDT techniques such as ultrasound to determine physical properties for automotive structures, or just simply to determine underlying material properties,” says Dr Charlton, who comes from a microelectronics background.

“I was a student here in the 80s, studying Microelectronics and Computer Systems  Engineering,” he says.

“I went on a student placement with Silverwing a service inspection company at the time, who wanted to look at some research and development. I developed inspection software for inspecting power plant heat exchangers. I worked for them while I completed my degree and then they sponsored my PhD. We developed the world’s first commercially available magnetic flux leakage corrosion mapping system for oil storage tanks”

He went on to set up his own business, Inspection Solutions (Cymru) Ltd, developing advanced inspection equipment for the petrochemical, aerospace and power generation industries.

In 2009, he sold the Intellectual property to Silver. That year, Dr Charlton was asked to work part-time at the University. He went on to become Senior Research Fellow looking after the ASTUTE programme for UWTSD (Advanced Sustainable Manufacturing Technologies) embedding advanced and sustainable NDT technologies and solutions into Welsh Manufacturing. 

Originally the MSc in NDT&E was established part-time with employees from TWI, Oceaneering RTD (Applus), Atlas and Bombardier attending and is now also run on a full-time basis  Recent graduates have gone on to work as graduate engineers within the industry as well as PhD research.

Why study NDT?

“You get to travel,” says Dr Charlton. “The fact that it is multi-discipline and a growth area. The NDT industry supports every branch of engineering and is an essential part of life that you can think of.” 

Visit the course page for MSc Non-Destructive Testing to find out more.