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Magnetic Particle

Magnetic particle testing is accomplished by inducing a magnetic field in a ferromagnetic material and then dusting the surface with iron particles (either dry or suspended in liquid). Surface and near-surface imperfections distort the magnetic field and concentrate iron particles near imperfections, previewing a visual indication of the flaw.  The method is used to inspect a variety of product forms such as castings, forgings, and weldments. Many different industries use magnetic particle inspection for determining a component's fitness-for-use. Some examples of industries that use magnetic particle inspection are the structural steel, automotive, petrochemical, power generation, and aerospace industries. Underwater inspection is another area where magnetic particle inspection may be used to test such things as offshore structures and underwater pipelines.

In theory, magnetic particle testing is a relatively simple concept. It can be considered as a combination of two nondestructive testing methods: magnetic flux leakage testing and visual testing. Consider a bar magnet. It has a magnetic field in and around the magnet. Any place that a magnetic line of force exits or enters the magnet is called a pole. A pole where a magnetic line of force exits the magnet is called a north pole and a pole where a line of force enters the magnet is called a south pole.

When a bar magnet is broken in the center of its length, two complete bar magnets with magnetic poles on each end of each piece will result. If the magnet is just cracked but not broken completely in two, a north and south pole will form at each edge of the crack. The magnetic field exits the north pole and reenters the at the south pole. The magnetic field spreads out when it encounter the small air gap created by the crack because the air can not support as much magnetic field per unit volume as the magnet can. When the field spreads out, it appears to leak out of the material and, thus, it is called a flux leakage field.

If iron particles are sprinkled on a cracked magnet, the particles will be attracted to and cluster not only at the poles at the ends of the magnet but also at the poles at the edges of the crack. This cluster of particles is much easier to see than the actual crack and this is the basis for magnetic particle inspection.

The following pictures are examples of using magnetic testing to identify flaws.


Crack originating at fastener hole


Crack at attachment holes in hinge


Cracks in a weld

 
Visual and magnetic test of crack originating at hole


Crack in saw blade

 

 

 

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(C) Copyright 2004 by Constellation Technology Corporation.  All rights reserved.            Updated December 3, 2004
Photos courtesy of NDT Resource Center of the Collaboration for NDT Education.