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Penetrant Testing

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Liquid penetrant inspection is a method that is used to reveal surface breaking flaws by bleedout of a colored or fluorescent dye from the flaw. The technique is based on the ability of a liquid to be drawn into a "clean" surface breaking flaw by capillary action. After a period of time called the "dwell," excess surface penetrant is removed and a developer applied. This acts as a blotter. It draws the penetrant from the flaw to reveal its presence. Colored (contrast) penetrants require good white light while fluorescent penetrants need to be used in darkened conditions with an ultraviolet "black light".
The advantage that a liquid penetrant inspection (LPI) offers over an unaided visual inspection is that it makes defects easier to see for the inspector. There are basically two ways that a penetrant inspection process makes flaws more easily seen. First, LPI produces a flaw indication that is much larger and easier for the eye to detect than the flaw itself. Many flaws are so small or narrow that they are undetectable by the unaided eye. Due to the physical features of the eye, there is a threshold below which objects cannot be resolved. This threshold of visual acuity is around 0.003 inch for a person with 20/20 vision.
The second way that LPI improves the detectability of a flaw is that it produces a flaw indication with a high level of contrast between the indication and the background also helping to make the indication more easily seen.


When a visible dye penetrant inspection is performed, the penetrant materials are formulated using a bright red dye that provides for a high level of contrast between the white developer. In other words, the developer serves as a high contrast background as well as a blotter to pull the trapped penetrant from the flaw. When a fluorescent penetrant inspection is performed, the penetrant materials are formulated to glow brightly and to give off light at a wavelength that the eye is most sensitive to under dim lighting conditions.


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