Article Article
Automated Robotic Systems for Nondestructive Testing of Aerospace Composite Structures

Automated robotic systems are becoming prevalent in many aerospace manufacturing applications, such as laser ablation, sanding, drilling, final assembly, and painting. There are significant advantages to using automated robotic systems for inspection purposes as well: versatility, speed, and repeatability, to name a few. This paper explores using an automated robotic system for the nondestructive testing (NDT) of composite parts. It has a focus on phased array ultrasonic testing (PAUT) but highlights modularity principles in the system that are not coupled to a single inspection method. Because of the articulation inherent in multi-axis robots, inspections of contoured structures become straightforward if the system modules are designed correctly. Examples of such modules, and their advantages when interfaced to an automated robotic system, are included in this paper. It is the author’s intent to show how these system modules might maximize robot capabilities for a broad range of aerospace inspections while keeping a simplistic design that is modular, fast, and straightforward to use. When compared to other aerospace manufacturing processes already using automated robotic systems, the use of robots for NDT seems not only prudent but a favorable goal. This paper offers practical building blocks for achieving this goal.



Brekow, G., H.-J. Montag, R. Boehm, D. Brackrock, and J. Kitze, 2014, “Ultrasonic Testing Using Matrix Arrays for Discontinuity Detection,” Materials Evaluation, Vol. 72, No. 9, pp. 1131–1136

Craig, J., 2004, Introduction to Robotics: Mechanics and Control, 3rd ed., Prentice Hall

Fetzer, B., J. Serrill, and K. Shehab, 2019, Automated Ultrasonic Inspection of Elongated Composite Members Using Single-Pass Robotic System, US Patent 20200393418, filed 11 June 2019, and issued 17 December 2020

Fetzer, B., C. Brown, K. Bray, M. Duncan, and S. Walton, 2014, Non-Destructive Ultrasonic Inspection Apparatus, Systems, and Methods, US Patent 9,664,652, filed 30 October 2014, and issued 30 May 2017

Munikoti, V., M. Pohl, D. Sabrautzki, and D. Tscharntke, 2012, “Discontinuity Rating Using Distance Gain Size Technique for Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing,” Materials Evaluation, Vol. 70, No. 12, pp. 1365–1371

Olympus, 2004, “Introduction to Phased Array Ultrasonic Technology Applications,” available at

Tat, H., W. Tapia, B. Fetzer, G. Georgeson, M. Freet, and J. Thompson, 2017, Thermography Inspection for Near-Surface Inconsistencies of Composite Structures, US Patent 10,677,715, filed 22 November 2017, and issued 9 June 2020

Troy, J., B. Fetzer, S. Lea, and G. Georgeson, 2015, Location Calibration for Automated Production Manufacturing, US Patent 9,740,191, filed 12 February 2015, and issued 22 August 2017

Tumsys, O., and E. Jasiuniene, 2014, “The Focusing of the Ultrasonic Phased Array in the Case of Non-Contact NDT Methods,” Electronic Measurements, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 44–47,

Usage Shares
Total Views
99 Page Views
Total Shares
0 Tweets
0 PDF Downloads
0 Facebook Shares
Total Usage