Innovating testing, sorting, and predicting numerical results of heat treatment with ibg NDT Technology

The different techniques of heat treatment for steel and alloys have evolved and improved over centuries. They range from highly selective induction-based procedures to traditional oven-based ones. These techniques may include different process steps such as heating, quenching, and tempering. The purpose is to trim the properties of both the inner structure and the surface to meet different characteristics required by the final part or component. Even small deviations in the process may lead to fundamentally different outcomes, impacting the mechanical characteristics and potentially causing failure.

The Genesis of Heat Treatment Evaluation

Different approaches are taken to verify the results of heat treatment. The most common is destructive testing based on cutting, preparation, and pin-testing. However, this method is lab-intensive work and unsuitable for sorting or larger samples.

For efficient testing and sorting purposes, Eddy Current Testing (ET) has become the standard both in the lab and for 100% inline installations. ibg NDT Technology leads in terms of user-friendliness, accuracy, and prevention by detecting a wide range of flaws. Up until now, that method was limited to classification.

Now that is history. With the “AI ready” line of eddyvisor®C/SC and eddyliner®S in addition to our new AI Cube evaluation unit, it is now possible to  predict surface hardness and case depth of the hardening numerically and non-destructive. This opens a new world of monitoring and optimizing options.

The standard set by ibg for structure testing

The differentiation and the level of requirements of heat-treated parts and components are increasing across all industries, not only in automotive but also in aerospace, and wind energy to name a few. Therefore, the variance of challenges for heat treatment is huge and ever-growing for every manufacturer around the world. They need easy-to-operate testing and sorting instrumentation that is reliable and suitable for demanding factory environments. Over decades, ibg has developed a set of well-recognized technologies, that precisely address these needs. Today, they are the gold standard for NDT preventive quality assurance, namely iPMFT, iSHA and iTAS, used for classificatory testing and sorting. 

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Introducing the future of numerical material characterization by AI

The first application developed by ibg, in cooperation with leading global automotive suppliers, is the testing of the results of inductive heat treatment of constant velocity (CV) joints. The usual random sampling methods of destructive laboratory preparation for determining hardening depth, no longer meet the demands of the manufacturers and the end-customers.
They require an efficient, reliable, and non-destructive evaluation method, allowing larger amounts of samples up to ideally 100% inline prediction of hardness characteristics.

In components made from ferromagnetic steel, the combination of  transmitted and received eddy current signals reflect the physical material properties of the steel such as electrical conductivity and magnetic permeability, which are directly related to the mechanical-technological material properties. Through a range of ibg technologies, the measurement effects can be separated. Additional information from different surface layer depths is obtained by a series of different transmitted frequencies. A subsequent deep learning AI evaluation by ibg provides reliable prediction values for surface hardness and achieved hardening depth.

The cost and time efficiency of the new method allows a dramatic increase in data points of the heat treatment results. This facilitates better control and optimization of the different procedures and phases. This opens new opportunities for design, quality, and specifications which should ultimately lead to energy and CO2 reduction as well.

ibg´s extended AI platform, which comprises the new “AI ready" generation of the ibg test controllers / instruments eddyvisor® and eddyliner®, is used in conjunction with pre-configured AI Cube evaluation units. A retrofit of existing structure test installations is possible in many cases. 

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