ASNT Podcast about Intentionally Flawed Specimens

What is the ASNT Podcast?

Since last year sometime before the 2019 Annual Conference, the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) has been doing Podcasts called “CHAT NDT”. Last year they asked me to speak about my work on the World’s Largest Observation Wheel: the Las Vegas High Roller, that was fabricated in China. Last week I got to speak about intentionally Flawed Specimens with Caitlyn (Kitty) Horwatt, a Marketing and Communication Specialist at ASNT.

I enjoyed the interview and it was a great opportunity to share how the Society and the industry have provided me with many opportunities to increase my body of knowledge and my network thanks to some of the best in the industry worldwide.

FlawTech’s Position in the Industry

We talked about how it came to be that I ended up putting flaws in things on purpose. It was a pretty long journey after 30 plus years in providing NDT and Inspection services to a variety of industries including Marine, Petro-Chemical, Energy, Building Construction Amusement Park Rides, Rail and Infrastructure.  For me it started with an email from John Turner looking to fill a position at the right time in my career and believing that with 30 plus years in the industry I could make an honest contribution to FlawTech’s mission to provide the best intentionally flawed specimens for the intended purpose of their customers.

Kitty and I talked about all the industries that use intentionally flawed specimens. We also discussed how there are flawed specimens we can’t talk about due to who they are for and what the specimens are. We discussed how we make our realistic flaws, provide accurate mechanical measurements so that no matter what NDT method you use you are provided the actual true size of the flaw. This is the “Flaw Truth.” The “Flaw Truth” means that you train to improve sizing techniques of a given method to improve your technicians sizing performance per the NDT method they use. The “Flaw Truth” is based on measurements using NIST traceable calipers and other measuring devices. We also talked about how to ensure that the flaws we put in are the only flaws in the specimens using NDT procedures for detectability of the flaws and the weld cleanliness of the remaining volume for the weld and / or base material.

How We Started Making Flawed Specimens

We discussed the role that flawed specimens have played in my previous work in the industry including the High Roller Project. Flawed specimens have played a large role in my career from my very first UT , PT and  MT classes ( Level I & II) to more advanced classes like Phased Array. They have also played a role in specific skill sets for silver braze joints for the Navy, preparing for customers’ performance demonstration tests, and a project specific mock-up similar to what was used for the Las Vegas High Roller. This mock-up simulated the connection of the drive rail to the ring segments.

The Importance of Realistic Flawed Specimens

Then Kitty asked one the most important and serious questions of the interview. She asked me to describe the consequences of not using realistic flawed specimens. I replied that the absolute worst consequence is that a critical flaw is missed and it results in the loss of life. That is why ASNT’s mission statement is so important, because our ultimate goal is “creating a safer world”. FlawTech does its part to create a safer world by manufacturing our NDT Flawed Specimens to meet our customer’s intended purposes.  

Finally, we talked about our flawed specimen kits which have been developed over the years with input from industry and NDT service providers. We break down our kits primarily into three categories: Standard, Advanced, and Custom. The Standard Specimen Kits are pretty much universal and are manufactured with production in mind. The Standard Kits can be used for training and testing in a general manner. Our Advanced Specimen Kits are typically more specific and have tighter tolerances in the manufacturing of the flaws, joint configurations and are usually code specific for API, ASME, AWS, etc.  And of course, our Custom Specimen Kits are designed to meet specific customer requirements.

What the Podcast Missed About FlawTech

There is always a time after you give a presentation or an interview where you wish you had mentioned one thing or another. Here are a few things I wish I included in the interview. I neglected to mention that I had been requesting the purchase of FlawTech Flawed Specimens for many years with the companies I have worked with over the years. I actually worked with FlawTech back around 2012 -2013 in developing their AWS D1.8 Supplemental Qualification Kit before I even thought about coming to work at FlawTech. Back in 2005 AWS came out with the D1.8 Seismic Code. This code requires a supplemental qualification practical exam for UT technicians working on projects that specify this code. The UT technician must evaluate 20 Flaws for Indication Rating, Length, Depth and Location per the tolerances provided in the Code and score above a certain composite score. Anyway, sometime in 2005 I contacted FlawTech. John Turner and I worked on developing a custom kit for the company I worked for at the time. Everything came back full circle when John contacted me and said we are getting more requests for a kit like yours, lets develop one so we can package it and make it available as an Advanced Kit. The rest is history. 

FlawTech is Built on Customer Feedback

We here at FlawTech rely heavily on feedback from our customer base. If you have an idea or concept for a kit that will benefit your industry give us a call and we will be glad to work with you on that concept. If it turns out we feel it should become a kit we should add to our inventory we will reward your effort accordingly. We are always looking for ways to better serve the NDT and Inspection community.

Read the Transcribed Podcast Below

Welcome to Chat NDT with ASNT. I’m your host, Kitty Horwatt. 

Today I’m joined by Ricky Morgan, the Vice President of FlawTech and an ASNT Fellow. Ricky has previously held many board roles for ASNT, up to and including chair at a local and national level.  He’s a level three certificate holder and welding inspector with 32 years of inspection and NDT experience. Currently, Ricky serves on the board of directors for the American Aerospace Technical Academy and was just elected to serve as the section operations council representative to the board of directors for ASNT. 

Kitty (K): Ricky thank you so much for joining me. 

Ricky (R): Well thank you Kitty for contacting me. This is pretty exciting, I really enjoy getting feedback and giving back to the ASNT group and society so it’s really nice to talk to you.

K: Yeah! You are our first repeat guest, you were on last year with Haley, so thank you for coming back.

R: No problem, I enjoy that and with 32 years I hopefully have something to talk about. 

K: I’m sure you do. Well today we’re going to talk a little about your work with flawed specimens, and I have to start by asking – how did you end up putting flaws in things on purpose?

R: Well, it started back in 1982 as far as FlawTech goes. George Pherigo, who actually passed away in 2008, who the tutorial citation is named after, he was originally an instructor at Ridgewater in Minnesota and he later came to EPRI and he was involved in the performance demonstration program at EPRI and developing flawed specimens. 

Of course field removed real specimens are some of the best specimens you can have so you can practice on the real live thing, but unfortunately you have to either wait for a demo or cut something out, and a lot of times you have to do destructive testing to verify the size and length that are actually in a flawed specimens because depending on what NDT method you may have a different size and length and volumetric. 

It probably started a little before that, as long as we’ve had NDT we’ve been making plates of our own and having welders do it and a Level three will verify that he’s matched the flaws properly. But as a flaw manufacturer we build flaws to a very tight tolerance, so irregardless of what NDT method you’re using we get mechanical measurements that allow you to know that is the actual size of the flaw in the part, regardless of what NDT method you’re using. 

K: Got it, so it sounds like you made it a lot more specific. So where are flaw specimens used in the industry and who are the people who are using them? 

R: They’re used pretty much all over the industry. We work with pretty much every industry, aerospace, railroad, infrastructure, just about every industry – oil and gas – a lot of oil and gas, both inline inspections and for surface inspections, fabrication and refineries, it’s used everywhere to qualify NDT techs. Technicians use them to train and practice. A lot of the NDT schools use them to train new or incoming technicians. Service companies buy them to test their personnel to qualify them for certain projects or for their own internal qualifications. Petrochemical companies use them to qualify service companies who come in. They will sometimes have a battery of tests they need to run through to determine corrosion, different types of things. And then of course, inspection societies. AWS, ASNT, API, and ASME are all using samples now to get further qualification tests and verify people’s performance demonstration. It’s also used by the industry for  Probability of Detection (POD)  studies, we make a lot of samples for that kind of thing where you make multiple samples and they try over and over, usually somewhere between 50 and 60 samples sometimes of almost the same flaw and they pass them out to verify how many times people can find them. And then also performance demonstration we do lots of mock ups for specific industries. For finding a specific flaw in a certain location. We’ve done flaws on anchor chairs for mooring type, offshore structures, we’ve done Link pins and different things for bridges. Any kind of connection, we’re actually working with an amusement park now that has a new special ride they’re doing that they want to make sure they can inspect a certain part while it’s in service. So we’re putting flaws in a similar piece, and that way they can verify whoever comes in and looks at it can see where the flaw is and see how well they can find it. 

K: So it seems like it’s kind of completely integrated into the NDT industry, it goes hand in hand with everything you do. 

R: Yes, it’s really interesting for me having worked in the industry as a service provider for 32 years almost, actually only 30 years because I’ve been here for 2 years. You know, all the times I wish I could have had some of these mockups that we make to verify and know for sure you’re seeing the same thing that’s actually there. It makes you very confident in your approach to finding flaws when you know you’ve found the flaws in the samples, and when you see them in the field you’re very confident that you’re making the correct call. And it’s always good to have a confident technician who knows he’s made a good call. 

K: Absolutely, so what kind of process do you use to create these flaws? 

R: Well, almost all our flaws are real. If it’s slag we put in slag, if it’s a crack we manufacture a crack and plant it into the piece. Same thing for lack of fusions – these are all real flaws that we put in. We manufacture them basically like they do in the real world, by accident, we do it on purpose. 

K: So when you do that how do you insure you’re not creating unintentional flaws in addition to the intentional flaw you’re trying to make?

R: That’s a very good question. It really is, because that’s where the skill 0set comes in for our flaw technicians. It takes between 1-2 years depending on how good the person is or how experienced they are and how easily they take to it, but it takes about 1-2 years for a person to be a full fledged flaw technician. It takes a lot of control and a lot of work, and a lot of training under someone who has done this for awhile, and we do here is we have a pretty stiff quality program and every specimen we make we check for weld cleanliness. So that there are no unintended flaws other than the flaws that we put in on purpose. And if we do find those, we will offer for the customer to keep that flaw and annotate it on their as-builds or we can go back in and remove that flaw that’s in the way and rebuild that piece to make sure that only the flaws that are supposed to be there are there. But we’ve got a pretty good record of not having to redo those so that works out pretty well. 

K: Makes you the experts, right? 

R: Yes it makes a big difference, we have meetings periodically to discuss how to do things a little better. Of course there’s always a certain flaw technician that’s a little better at making a flaw than others, and it’s always better that they cross talk and help each other here. So it makes it kind of a tight niche within our group here. 

K: Now you mentioned this before and you’ve worked in several different positions across the NDT industry you have a very extensive resume even just with your volunteer service with ASNT. How did flawed specimens intersect with your work throughout the years? 

R: Well, they intersected right from the beginning actually. I went to the college of oceaneering after I got out of the army, that was for commercial diving and they also had an NDT program. So right after we finished the diving portion we’d go into the NDT portion and we had samples that we used to take underwater and samples we did in the classroom right from the very beginning on training on those. And trying to hone your skills and get some experience turning on the machine, scanning, calibrating the machine, and looking for flaws. And hopefully documenting them properly and of course if you didn’t do it right then you get another sample and you try again and then, you know, repetition, and the more hours you spend (mostly on ultrasonics) the most time you spend on your screen or setting up your source or with your eddy current machine, in a training setting, the more confidence you’ll have in the real world once you get out there. Because the more things you see the more you understand what you see. So the greater opportunities you have at seeing flaws that you’ve seen before and you can call them out properly. 

K: Yes, so I know that there’s in addition to there being tons of different types of flaws that can be created, there’s tons of different specimens. So can you talk a little bit about the difference between standard, code specific, and custom specimens? 

R: Sure, so our standard specimens are relatively simple and they’re made at a lower tolerance of quality slightly. They’re plus or minus 150 thousandths (0.150”) and so they’re not quite as tight of a tolerance, they’re a little more reasonable to buy. I think they’re very good for training purposes at the entry levels. So the flaws are bigger, they’re easier to find, so it’s kind of a walk before you run. So the standards are easy to get into. They’re very simple, they’re very practical to certain types of industries. They’re a pipe or a tee, a shackle, a bolt. They’re very practical, we call them practical exams. So then we go into the industry specific – we have some that have specific weld joints for API. We have certain types of pipes. Certain types of joint configurations for AWS, we also have some that are built towards the bridge industry, the D1.5. And then we also have some that are built towards D1.8 which is the seismic code that came out in 2005. So that required inspectors to evaluate 20 flaws and get graded on that before they could do work in areas where they have seismic activity where that code is called out. The API ones we have are based on helping people pass certain tests from API. We have some ASME based ones that are based on certain specifications within ASME. But those are specific to code types. And then we have what we called advanced type flaws which have the highest tolerance or highest quality. Those are at point 040 tolerance so our flaws are all within 40 thousandths. So those are very tight and usually smaller flaws and a little more difficult to find and then we also have what we call the custom specimens. Custom specimens are built just like they say. They’re built customized for a particular industry or a particular customer that has a certain type of condition that they want to verify or assure that the inspectors that come to look at those can come to find those flaws they definitely have to find. Usually these could be fracture connections, they could be something that if something fails at this point, this is a critical failure time. It’s going to be in the structure pretty much. So they’re very critical and they’re built very specifically to a customer’s own needs. So we cover a full gambit for types of flawed specimens I guess you would say. And customs are actually the most fun for me. Because it requires us to really look at it and work with the customer and it’s really nice when you achieve exactly – they pick up their piece or get it delivered and say “this is exactly what I needed” you know, that’s a real good pay back from your customer when you have provided them the specimen that’s really fit for their purpose. 

K: Yeah and there is a little more work up front with finding the right flawed specimen then you would expect, right? 

R: Absolutely, sometimes some of these are one ups – I keep going back to the amusement park thing that I’ve used. A lot of the rides that you go to at some of the bigger parks, there is only one like that one. So that’s the only design that’s going to be exactly like that and bridges are a lot like that too. Certain configurations of bridge – you go to the San Francisco Bay bridge – there’s connections on it that aren’t on any other bridge. You go to another bridge somewhere else and they have similar connections but they’re not exactly the same. It’s very important to get a configuration that resembles what you’re actually doing to get your best results. 

K: So when you talk about bridges and roller coasters it kind of makes it pretty easy for me to answer the next question I have for you but I’m going to ask it anyways. What are the potential consequences for not using a realistically flawed specimen? 

R: Well, unfortunately the ultimate failure is actually loss of life. Losing service of a product or losing service of a piece of equipment is really not very important. The ultimate is the loss of life and critical failures can cause that to happen. I know you’re probably very familiar with the Fireball Rideincident at the state fair a few years back where a section of a ride flew off at the Ohio State fair and two people were killed. That was not an inspection problem though. The inspectors were never told to inspect this part that failed and that was a design issue. They should have determined when they inspected it what to inspect, but then it also takes – the thing is – it also takes the engineering group and everyone has to play a role in the quality of a piece to know when to inspect it. The aviation world has done a really good job and petrochemical do as well for fitness of service, they know what timelines they have and when they need to inspect, and what things need to be inspected at certain times because they know that the wear and tear of a certain part is when it has to be looked at to avoid those kind of things. And the amusement park ride designers do the same thing. They allocate the timelines of when things are inspected and when they should be inspected. But on that particular ride they didn’t outline to inspect for this particular corrosion type flaw that caused that failure. 

K: So last year you joined our podcast to discuss your work on the Las Vegas High Roller which is the world’s largest observation wheel, kind of in this same vein of these roller coasters and amusement park rides we talk about. Did flaw specimens factor into that project? 

R: Now, this was a little different. We were fabricating this in China. So they actually built a mock up there in the fab shop which does happen on a lot of fabrication type jobs. So they built an actual mock up of the attachment which was their most critical area. This is a fracture critical area on the ride where the drive rail meets the ring assembly. And they mocked up that exact location, they put some flaws in, both the fabricator’sinspectors, and our inspectors checked the part. And then they took apart the mockup to verify the flaws found in mock-upwe actually did some Tensile tests as well to make sure the weld strength was correct. And we also did some Sharpy V notches in the welds to ensure the strength of the welds were proper. And then we also verified that the flaws we did find were the sizes and locations we said they were. So it was a mockup made to be destructively tested as well. Which we get sometimes too. We make parts sometimes and send them to some place and people destructively test our parts and get feedback on that as well. Where they destructively test our parts and say “Oh yeah, that does really look like the flaw you said it was.” 

K: And you’re like, “exactly! That’s what we’re going for” 

R: That’s why we do what we do. 

K: Well you talked a little bit earlier about your work with FlawTech but I was wondering if you wanted to share anything else about what that company does? 

R: Well sure, FlawTech is, like you said, it has been around since 1982 and we’re heavily involved with ASNT. John, the president, has served on the board. He’s still on the finance committee. We believe heavily in giving back to the industry. We enjoy working with everybody out there and our main purpose is to make flawed specimens fit for the customer’s intended purpose. So we guarantee our product if it doesn’t work the way you need it or want it, we will work with you to get you the piece you need or the specimen you need. And we’re actually getting ready to open a new division of FlawTech which we’re going to be calling Gladio. It’s going to be about NDT Tactics. It’s going to be to help different companies develop mock ups for themselves or training for specific applications. I recently did some work with a steel manufacturer in Middletown Ohio, AK Steel, and they had some particular issues with some railroad rails. We actually built the mockups here and we brought them here on site to train with their single rail rolling machine, or UT machine that rolls on a single rail. And we did some extra training on that. And we took them out and used their actual mockups to help calibrate and set up their machines so that when they went back to work they were able to take a real life application right to work and go to work with it. So that was a pretty fun thing to do. So we’re looking to do more of that work within the NDT community and help bridge the gaps where different companies are trying to get to different areas and to improve, and stay along with the ASNT mantra and create a safer world. The better we make our technicians, the more likely they will have less incidents. And we don’t have that many now but zero is always a good number. 

K: It’s interesting to think about the fact that the better you get at making something that is bad or flawed, the safer the world gets. 

R: Yeah it is kind of contradictory. But you know having a really good flawed sample is good for technicians…the better they train on a realistic flaw the better they get at finding the real flaws in the real situation. 

K: So if someone were to purchase one of the different kits of flawed specimens that FlawTech offers, what can they expect to come in the kit?

R:The kits, we have various kits for different methods of NDT. I guess we have our Standard Kits, we have our Advanced Kits, but usually you get between 5 and 15 different pieces of different specimens ranging from about 15 flaws up to about 50 flaws. We have the one I was talking about with 15 specimens, that’s our AWS, our CWI’s…it’s a visual kit that’s made of polyurethane. And we actually sent our flawed samples up to a place to get molded and then the Traveler kit weighs less than 15 lbs, but it gives you a way to show people these samples and train in a visual inspection. And it gives you lots of different flaws to look at. We have the API kits which will have four specimens in it and three flaws in each. And we have a variety of flaws we can put in. We have some masters already made for a lot of our kits. We have an A, B, C, D, so you can buy multiple kits. Some of the larger service companies will buy different kits for different locations of their company. Then they will swap them around so their technicians can’t get too used to testing out on the same pieces. So we can’t recognize them and we mix up the flaws with them. And actually some of our customers have us make perfectly good samples to test their personnel to make sure they will not be over cautious and call things they shouldn’t call. 

K: Sounds like you keep a lot of people on their toes out there. 

R: Yeah it’s really kind of fun for me, having been in the service industry and getting feedback from people. I really enjoy it. 

K: Ricky thank you so much for joining me, this has been so fun. Where can people find you if they want to find a little more about you or get in touch. 

R: Well, Kitty, you can find us just about anywhere. Our website is one of our best places to start. And we’ve actually just started a blog. Last week was my first blog on there that we’re going to start talking about some of our specimens and get more in depth about each specimen and you could probably check out the blog at some point. We’re on Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, and Twitter. We do different pictures of us in different phases in fabrication and just a little bit of what we do there. We can’t always give you everything because some of it’s proprietary, and we want to keep doing it. But we do show some of the stuff. We recently had a post on Linked In and Twitter and Instagram where we had an 8” thick piece that weighed 1400 lbs on a stand that we made specifically for it and with one finger I could spin it around and stop it. And we actually had pins where we could spin it around in a horizontal position or at 45 degrees. So we also make stands to hold some of these large pieces. We’ve done 30 foot long pipe sections. It’s pretty neat…we get a wide variety of things we get to manufacture. We’ve gotten very small things that we’re not even allowed to know what they are. We’ve gotten materials where someone just says “put a flaw in this and this is what we want, and we’re not telling you what it is.” 

K: Well it sounds like you guys are giving me a run for our money when it comes to social media. 

R: We’re trying, we’re trying to have a social footprint to some extent. I’ve learned from certain ASNT members like Maribeth and some of these other people that we need to have a social footprint nowadays even though I have a few more gray hairs then most people do. But I’m staying pretty socially savvy. I try anyway. 

K: I love it. Well thank you again Ricky this has been awesome. 

R: No problem, that’s what makes it fun. That’s what I really like about the NDT industry is that we get to do something new every day and we get to learn something new every day. Thank you very much Kitty. 

K: You’re welcome.