Jet aircraft, racing cars and other high-performance machines are expensive to operate and maintain. As a consequence, asset owners expect the engineers and technicians tasked with maintaining their machines to minimise the time spent repairing and maintaining them.

To check the condition of aircraft engine turbines or the inner workings of a sports car usually means dismantling the components. According to Sean Fogarty, Senior Sales Specialist at Olympus, the ability to see inside an engine or other confined space without having to take it apart can save both time and money.

“Regularly inspecting the inside of an aircraft engine means that it only has to be opened up when a flaw or defect is observed,” says Fogarty.

Remote visual inspection (RVI) is one of many non-destructive testing (NDT) technologies manufactured and supported by Olympus. Fogarty says his company has been at the forefront of advances in RVI design and production for decades. A videoscope is an inspection instrument that consists of a small camera mounted on a length of cable. The camera can be controlled remotely by an operator while it is inserted in the cavity to be inspected. Modern videoscopes incorporate light sources into the tip of the probe as well as motors to move the LED and lens assembly. Olympus videoscopes can be used to carry out inspections without causing damage to the delicate parts of equipment.

“The iPLEX NX is the latest videoscope to be released by Olympus in Australia and incorporates high quality optics with bright illumination aids,” says Fogarty. “The optics have been combined with an intricate but robust mechanical network allowing fine articulation to improve usability.”

RVI of materials, components and structures allows engineers and technicians to inspect internal surfaces and other features of an engine, motor or machinery. Aircraft maintenance engineers regularly use them to inspect the inside of engines to ensure optimal performance.

“A constraint of videoscopes has been the challenge of getting the best optical and lighting components small enough to fit in the ‘business end’ of the videoscope’s probe,” Fogarty adds.

The iPLEX NX is equipped with sophisticated 3D stereo measurement capability over a much larger area. This functionality saves time and increases efficiency, especially when inspecting larger defects in aerospace components. The larger field of view (FoV) and greater depth of field (DoF) yields a measurement area four times wider than conventional scopes. Advances in image quality not only support accurate measurements, but also increased the probability of detection (PoD). The iPLEX NX has a tip to target range of 4mm-60mm, meaning flaws can be observed in the most inaccessible areas such as heat exchanger tubes or turbine blades.

Fundamental to supporting comprehensive inspections with speed and efficiency, improving accessibility of hard-to-reach areas directly increases PoD. Navigating through tight spaces can now be achieved by the operator with a combination of increased flexibility and control, protected by unparalleled abrasion resistance afforded by a 42-strand tungsten mesh. These advances enable the operator to easily direct the probe tip to visualise more of the component than previously possible, with direct sensitive control of articulation throughout the full 360-degree range.

The iPLEX NX has also improved operational efficiency by merging inspection and measurement capabilities into a true single operation. Historically the time-consuming flaw inspection workflow required two different tips to ensure accuracy. The videoscope features an upgraded charged couple device (CCD) allowing for much greater resolution yielding a bright, high-quality image. Combined with a high-illuminance laser diode, far more details become visible and thorough inspections can be carried out at a wide angle with a single screen view, guaranteeing the highest performance for both inspection and measurement – with just one measurement tip installed.

The high-quality images allow operators to quickly uncover and accurately measure flaws that in the past would have remained hidden. This permits a thorough inspecting of components for ultimate confidence in engine performance.

With conventional videoscopes, highly reflective materials such as metals, glass and oily surfaces result in dark images that cannot be used for taking measurements. However, under the same conditions, the super-wide field 3D stereooptics in the latest Olympus videoscope allow accurate measurement under the same conditions.

Another constraint for viewing and measuring tiny defects is that small surface areas are often too narrow to project grating patterns, meaning that measurement of the target is not possible with standard videoscopes. Using the IPLEX NX with super wide field 3D stereo measurement, the thin ends and edges of components can be accurately measured.

Advances in processor technology and computational algorithms have also underpinned improvements in measurement performance in addition to introducing valuable new capabilities. For example, displaying data in real-time provides a wealth of information, keeping the operator informed of surface shape and distance with no pause or break in the inspection. Distance from the scope tip to multiple points on the inspection surface is provided with multi-spot ranging. This technique supports immediate assessment of a target’s suitability for image capture via pre-measurement surface condition and confidence information.

Olympus continues to develop and market advanced, non-destructive testing systems, and a large selection of industrial scanners, probes, software programs, and instrument accessories. Fogarty concludes: “We are committed to the development of new technologies, products, and services that offer the best solutions to the needs of our customers.”