Research partnership to explore automated weld inspection

Senior Research Fellow Dr Charles MacLeod of the University of Strathclyde who is researching automated weld inspection
Senior Research Fellow Dr Charles MacLeod of the University of Strathclyde who is researching automated weld inspection

The University of Strathclyde and Babcock International Group will jointly develop an innovative technology application to support high integrity welding in the manufacturing process, following a funding award from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Dr Charles MacLeod from the University’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering and the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering is one of eight recipients announced recently as part of the Royal Academy’s Research Chairs & Senior Research Fellowships programme.

As a Senior Research Fellow, Dr MacLeod will work with Babcock on a project which will focus on sensor-driven automated high integrity welding, using real time ultrasonic imaging to inspect the integrity of welded joints.

Welding – and the successful fusion of welded joints – is a critical manufacturing process utilised in multiple international sectors including energy, construction and transport. Traditionally, welding and inspection of high integrity joints are separate, sequential processes, reducing productivity and increasing rework if defects are only detected at completion.

The new fellowship seeks to introduce the volumetric imaging capability of ultrasonics directly into the welding process in order to help ensure the delivery of high integrity welds first time, every time.

Dr MacLeod said: “By revolutionising the automated welding of high value components, this fellowship can empower the work Babcock is doing in this field and, more broadly, help tackle key national societal energy and defence challenges, ensuring we lead with globally competitive, globally unique, high integrity manufacturing.

“In doing so we want to propel UK manufacturing forward, delivering internationally leading growth, jobs and efficiencies along with inspiring next generation inter-disciplinary engineers.

He added: “I am truly excited to lead this collaboration through answering and addressing fundamental research questions, generating practical manufacturing innovation and change and then translating this to industry to deliver real world impact, all increasing UK and wider society prosperity.”

Babcock International, the industry lead for the project, is routinely trusted to deliver high integrity welds in challenging applications across the defence and nuclear sectors.

Babcock’s Chief Innovation & Technology Officer Dr Jon Hall, said: “We believe innovation is often borne out of collaboration and Dr MacLeod’s concept of in-process ultrasonic control is highly visionary and hugely relevant to our future business growth and sustainability.

“Given the scale and nature of our business, we are often dealing with critical and complex engineering challenges but through this research opportunity with Strathclyde, we will be providing access to state of the art large -scale facilities, materials, high value specialised equipment and our own experts who will work alongside regulators and lead customers to drive the deployment and commercialisation of this technology.”