Rust never sleeps: Detecting corrosion in RCN vessels
By Joanie Veitch,
Participants in a defence innovation program recently put their work to the test with a public demonstration in Dartmouth.
Following a call for applicants last fall, nine participants were selected to submit their technological solutions to a defence industry challenge in a “sandbox” event put on by DND’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program.
Running from April 25 to May 20, the Corrosion Detection in Ships sandbox provides a platform for innovators to test and refine their ideas, giving each participant between three to five days to see how well their technology works in finding the hidden corrosion in a set of test panels, with experts from DND and CAF on hand as observers, as well as on an actual RCN ship.
By tapping into the potential of private-sector innovators, the IDEaS program aims to bolster Canada’s defence and security capabilities, explained Kristina Proulx, director of innovation operations with IDEaS.
“We’re asking them to identify solutions in a real world environment, and they get real world feedback to understand what the needs and challenges are from the CAF and DND perspective,” explained Kristina Proulx, director of innovation operations with IDEaS.
At the public demonstration event on May 3, at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) facility on the Dartmouth waterfront, two of the nine innovators — operating out of two separate test sites — demonstrated their technologies. They each worked with a series of test panels manufactured to recreate different parts of a Navy ship, such as decking with tile covering, pipes with valves and welded flanges, insulated pipes, and large painted steel plates.
Currently, dealing with corrosion on RCN ships involves removing insulation and deck covering to do a visual inspection. The process is time consuming and intrusive, and is generally not viable while the ship is operational, said Rene Blais, a marine engineer at DND and an observer at the event.
“Visual inspection is best, but it’s not cost effective to remove all hardware, especially when a ship is in operation,” he said. “Finding a way to do non-intrusive surveys would be better, and help us with planning.”
Bijan Mahbaz is the technical director and co-founder of Inspecterra Inc, a small company born at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and one of the nine participants taking part in the sandbox demonstration event.
Using a hand-held scanner with a highly sensitive magnetic sensor, Mahbaz showed how his company’s device detects changes in the magnetic properties of an object, indicating corrosion or other defects.
While demonstrating that the method can detect corrosion through various coverings, such as paint or insulation, Mahbaz said this is the company’s first time applying their technology in a ship environment.
“We have learned a lot. The development and improvement for us is huge… this sandbox program gave us an opportunity to understand more what the industry needs,” he said. “In a ship you don’t have much space, so you need your method to be very adjustable.”
Eddyfi Technologies, a Quebec-based company, also uses magnetic technology to detect corrosion. Using a portable magnetic flux leakage probe they previously designed to scan storage tank floors, Lloyd Graham, technical sales specialist with Eddyfi, said their goal was to show how their portable system can also be applied for use on ship decks.
“Actually trying it out on a ship, that’s the true test,” he said.
While there’s no guarantee of a contract following the demonstration event, the sandbox offers a great opportunity for learning and advancement, both for the companies showing their solutions and for DND and the CAF, said Glendinning.
“Each of the solutions is very different… some companies are using technology they had already developed and others are working with new applications they’re testing for the first time,” said Ryan Glendinning, DND’s lead corrosion scientist.
“We all gain from the potential here. It bridges that gap.”