At the launch of South African Institute for Non-destructive Testing’s (SAINT) bi-annual Yearbook, African Fusion talks to current president, Keith Cain about advancing the creditability and professionalism of NDT in South Africa.
“This is actually our second book and it is bigger and more formal. We wanted a combination of an interesting coffee table book and a reference book for NDT professionals that can support their day to day needs – and the 2016/2017 book is full of explanations of the different methods and examples of best practices and procedures,” begins Cain.
“Our vision is to be the cornerstone of South African NDT, which is also the title of the 2016/2017 yearbook. As well as supporting NDT technicians and professionals, we strive to raise awareness of the NDT field as a specific and important branch of engineering. NDT professionals are responsible for testing the true condition of critical structures, components or vessels used on industrial plants. Based on the results of NDT inspections, engineers often have to sign-off on the fitness-for-purpose of plant equipment so that it can continue to be operated safely.
“Yet in spite of the vital nature of this role, NDT it is not well known or respected as a discipline in its own right, which is somewhat frustrating. So we continue to raise awareness of the field, its importance and its credibility,” he tells African Fusion.
“NDT is even being performed on Mars. When the Mars Rover takes a rock sample from the planet, it uses NDT-type testing techniques to test and analyse the rock sample before sending the results to Earth. Similar NDT principles, methods and techniques are being applied to plant equipment every day,” Cain argues.
Welding, according to Cain, is highly dependent on NDT. “Welding is like casting, a molten strip of metal fuses to solid metal on either side of the joint. This results in significant changes to the properties of the materials at the joint and if these changes are not managed correctly, they can seriously impair the integrity of the whole structure. Also, defects such as lack of fusion or porosity can be introduced during welding, or the weld may crack after welding due to shrinkage or a combination of cooling stresses and hydrogen, for example. These flaws are usually impossible to see with the naked eye. NDT has a critical role to play in both finding such flaws so that they can be repaired and validating the integrity of a completed weld so that we know that it can be safely put into service,” he explains.
“But the need for NDT is not limited to welding. There are more than 100 different testing techniques that are applied in all sorts of fields, leak and pressure testing, for example,” he adds.
The ‘big five’ NDT techniques in common use are penetrant testing (PT); magnetic testing (MT); ultrasonic testing (UT); radiographic testing (RT); and the fifth, eddy-current testing. “Eddy current testing is widely used on aircraft, for example, to make sure they are safe to continue flying,” Cain says. Many of these also have modern derivatives, though, such as phased array UT and digital radiography.
The professional body for NDT
Off the back of the very successful WCNDT conference held in Durban in 2012, SAINT began to transform to better meet the needs of its membership, NDT professionals and NDT users in industry. “To raise the status and professionalism of the practitioners, a professional body was needed to support development and improve the overall status and credibility of practitioners and the profession,” Cain says.
Following extensive consultations with stakeholders, the SAINT Professional Body for NDT (SPB NDT) was formed in accordance with the NQF act. “We have also been collaborating with SAQA and MERSETA to establish professional designations within the Organising Framework for Occupations for Level 1 and Level 2 NDT practitioners. These are now referred to as NDT operators and NDT technicians, respectively,” he says, adding that the framework for the Level 3 designation as NDT technologist has been established and a venture to establish the NDT engineer designation is set for 2017.
“We are not intending to enforce professional registration but we are going to be moving towards a licensing type of system based on the professional designation. End users will then be encouraged to always use licensed professionals to perform NDT according to their designation,” Cain explains.
SAINT is also now pursuing registration with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). “NDT is not yet a trade and we want it to be. We want young people to be able to do an apprenticeship and get a formal NDT qualification. Then NDT can become a formal occupation with SAINT as its professional body, hosting and accrediting evenings and courses to allow practitioners to accumulate CPD (continuous professional development) points to maintain their professional status,” he says.
SAINT has chosen to adopt a hybrid approach to NDT qualifications and professional development, based on the best features of ISO 9712 and the ASNT recommended practice. “ISO 9712 is very strong on the training and certification of NDT individuals, while the ASNT approach has a better focus on work place experience and on-the-job training. By merging the two systems, we believe industry and qualified practitioners can benefit from the best of both systems,” explains Cain.
“We aim to become a benchmarking Institute in South Africa. Slowly but surely, we are raising interest and improving the credibility and professionalism of NDT industry for the overall benefit of our members, South Africa and industry in general,” Cain concludes.