At Eastpoint we are always looking for innovative, immersive solutions and commercial opportunities as part of the development process.
Over the last two years we worked on a new training aid for non-destructive testing (NDT), an ultrasonic simulator called TrainNDT which replicates the experience of finding real-world welding flaws.
Part of the project, led by TWI and co-funded by Innovate UK, was to investigate the possibility of augmented reality (AR) for training. While this was an optional deliverable, we saw a great opportunity.
We felt there was a practical use for augmented reality to visualise data, and alongside improved and commercially available software and the release of the affordable HoloLens headset, this was an accessible proposition.
As part of NDT training, learners are taught the complex mathematics of the reflection and refraction that happens when a beam passes through the sample (the sample is an accurate representation of a fault, for example a power plant pipe with a welding flaw).
We identified two areas of training that could be improved via AR:
Visualisation of the beam path that would otherwise need to be manually plotted
Account for the beam spread that is otherwise manually calculated
As well as understanding the maths the AR enables learners to ‘see’ the maths.
Our software shows the beam path (created by a virtual probe) refracting as it enters the sample, and reflecting off the sample, and learners can see and walk around the stationary path.
One of the key features is the beam spread. As the beam enters the sample it slowly spreads out into a cone shape, like a scattering effect, which can give anomalous results or cause confusion. This shape is otherwise difficult to represent in a 2D format.
The TrainNDT AR tool was showcased along with the TrainNDT simulator at the BINDT Materials Testing 2019 conference. The feedback was extremely positive, with several commenting that the AR tool would have helped them get past the first hurdle of understanding the visualisation. Without the AR tool, this is plotted on graphs.
The AR app was built using the Unity engine for the HoloLens and can also be deployed to other AR/VR headsets.
With further advancements the app could have a much further-reaching impact, particularly if developed for use in a real working environment.