Non-destructive testing and condition monitoring - what, why and how?

Focus Articles
21 August 2015 | Focus Articles | thomas thomas

Non-destructive testing (NDT) and condition monitoring (CM) are the branches of engineering concerned with all methods of detecting, evaluating and monitoring flaws in materials or machinery.

The essential feature of NDT and CM is that the test process itself produces no damaging effects on the material or structure under test, leaving the inspected material or component fit for further use.

Tony Dunhill, immediate Past President of the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT), offers the following advice to any person contemplating a career in NDT or CM, whether considering a change of direction mid-career or leaving compulsory education: “NDT and CM are careers that use every type of physics you can imagine.

Whether it’s magnetics, heat, light or sound, there are applications of NDT and CM that use all of them. So, if you have a remote interest in science and you are interested in doing exciting, important and rewarding work, then NDT or CM may well be the right career for you. They both require a whole range of skills and so, even if you are not academically gifted, there is still plenty of opportunity.” BINDT carried out a demographic review across a number of European countries.

The results showed that, in general, the age profile of Institute membership is rising, with over 50% over the age of 50 and less than 20% under the age of 40. Tony says: “This highlights that we need to be encouraging at least 500 people per year into the industry, if not 900. It is therefore crucial that action be taken to raise the profile of NDT and CM throughout the education system by developing schemes such as apprenticeships, industrial placements and engineering doctorates.”

In July 2015, BINDT received confirmation of its success in developing an ‘NDT Engineering Technician’ apprenticeship standard. The apprenticeship will be appropriate for all industries, including power generation, aerospace, motor sport (F1), petrochemical, gas, rail, steel, nuclear, marine, service inspection, construction and many more. The design of the apprenticeship will allow applicants to follow different pathways to success by conforming to appropriate international standards.

The end result will be a fully-rounded technician who has the skills to carry out appropriate NDT tasks within their industrial sector. Each successful NDT apprentice will meet the requirements for professional registration as an Engineering Technician (EngTech) with the Engineering Council.

NDT and CM are highly-regulated industries, accurately reflecting their importance as safety-critical disciplines throughout British industry. Due to this, highly-skilled and certificated NDT and CM personnel are essential to the industry. This has led to the introduction of certification schemes such as BINDT’s PCN (Personnel Certification in NDT/CM) Scheme.

PCN is a certification scheme that sets and maintains the highest standards for the proficiency of NDT and CM personnel through independent examination and assessment. PCN certification is widely known and highly respected throughout the industrial world. The scheme, which has been in existence since 1984, is owned and operated by BINDT and is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

There are three levels of PCN examination, which all require specific durations of training and experience within any chosen NDT or CM method. To be eligible for PCN examinations, candidates must have successfully completed a PCN-approved course appropriate to the selected level of examination. In order to become qualified after examination, experience in each method applied for is required.

It is important to note that there are no demographic boundaries in the NDT/CM industry; training and employment opportunities are open to all, irrelevant of age, race, ethnicity, gender and so on. For further information or advice about a career in NDT/CM contact BINDT on telephone number +44 (0)1604 89 3811, or email:

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