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As a worldwide trusted stockist and supplier of high-performing metals, we are sometimes asked ‘What is non-destructive testing’. Simply put, non-destructive testing is a way of testing our specialist metals, without damaging them. This allows us to guarantee the ability of our products to perform in the field.

Consequently, non-destructive testing is an essential part of the service that we provide to our valued customers.

If we are to provide a more formal description, then non-destructive testing covers a wide variety of tests that are used to determine the integrity and properties of a specific material, product or system without damaging the test subject. 

These techniques are widely believed to be essential for quality regulation. They ensure that important structures like pipelines, mining plants and even medicines are durable and long-lasting.

Have you ever questioned ‘what is non-destructive testing?’ Read our blog to find out more!

what is non-destructive testing

Value of non-destructive testing

Non-destructive testing is very valuable within the metals industry. It does not affect the integrity of the product being reviewed and can thus save time and money when planning, evaluating and analysing certain projects.

Non-destructive testing is carried out in many different ways – see examples below – and can detect defects or damage on the surface of an item or within the microstructure of the product itself.

The presence of potential flaws in items could result in the reliability of whole systems being questioned and potentially increase the risk of an on-site failure. Early detection of flaws through non-destructive testing is seen as critical in preventing accidents and shutdowns.

Non-destructive testing techniques are used by many different industries, such as:

  •  – Forensic Engineering
  •  – Petroleum Engineering
  •  – Electrical Engineering
  •  – Civil Engineering
  •  – Aeronautical engineering
  •  – Medicine
  •  – Art

National and international trade associations work to promote the non-destructive testing industry, while sharing knowledge and developing international standardised methods and training.

These associations include the American Society for Non-Destructive Testing, the Non-Destructive Testing Management Association, the International Committee for Non-Destructive Testing, the European Federation for Non-Destructive Testing and the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing.

Special Piping Materials and non-destructive testing

Experts within the Special Piping Materials global teams are qualified to carry out non-destructive tests in-house, meaning we can provide a seamless service to our clients. We can perform tests such as Dye-Pen Inspections and Impact Testing. We have highly-trained, specialist ASNT and PCM-qualified personnel at all our offices around the world.

The majority of stock that we have in our warehouses around the world is tested in accordance with respective ASTM standards, ASME standards and international specifications such as Norsok MDS, Shell MESC & Exxon Mobil.

As an internationally-minded business, we know that different clients have diverse requirements and specifications for their products. This means that we do have to outsource some testing. We do this through a network of trusted and highly-qualified testing partners whom we subcontract for any testing requirements we cannot carry out in-house.

To safeguard the quality of the work, we only use NAMAS/UKAS-approved test houses. All these providers are also qualified to ISO17025 which ensures that they are both authorised to undertake the work and are objective and reliable in their evaluations.

Advantages of non-destructive testing 

Non-destructive testing is only one type of testing in heavy industries, with destructive testing also being popular.

Destructive testing does have advantages. For example, it is able to determine the physical properties of materials such as impact resistance, ductility, yield and ultimate tensile strength, fracture toughness and fatigue strength.

However, discontinuities and differences in material characteristics are thought to be more effectively found by non-destructive testing.

Non-destructive testing has many advantages. These include:

  • Immediate results: If the tests are performed by a supplier like Special Piping Materials, we are able to test the material as soon as it arrives in our warehouses.
  • Cost-effective: There is no need to buy extra material for it to be simply damaged through destructive testing.
  • Confidence: Because the actual items that are being tested end up in the field, end-users are assured that they meet the specifications required and can withstand the environments that they are being exposed to.


There are many different types of non-destructive tests. All of these can either be carried out internally at a Special Piping Materials office or through one of our trusted testing mill partners.

  •  – Dye Penetration Inspection: This is a consistent, reliable, and cost-effective method of finding surface flaws in non-porous materials such as metals, plastics or ceramics. It works by a dye being applied to an item, the excess removed and then it is given time to seep out of any discontinuities in the material, consequently highlighting any issues.

  •  – Magnetic particle inspection: This method is used to check for surface and ‘near-surface’ flaws in ferrous materials. It relies on magnetic field to produce results and therefore works best on ferrous materials, like nickel, iron, cobalt, and some alloys. Because this method relies on a magnetic field to produce results, it works best on ferrous materials, like nickel, iron, cobalt, and some alloys.

  •  – Ultrasonic inspection: Ultrasonic testing manipulates sound waves to detect cracks and defects in certain items and can also be used to determine the thickness of an area, such as a wall of a pipe. The results from this test are often clearly defined images and can show potential flaws that are deeper than surface level.

  •  – Thermal Infrared Testing: This evaluates and measures differences in temperature on the surface of a material using thermal imaging devices. Very small changes in temperature indicate that there are cracks or discontinuities in the material.

  •  – Ferrite Testing: This fast and inexpensive test is an accurate way to measure delta ferrite levels in both austenitic and duplex stainless steels. It checks to see if the ferrite content is too low or high. Too low could mean than the material is susceptible to hot cracking or solidification cracks whereas if it is too high it could lead to the item losing its ductility, toughness, and ability to resist corrosion.

  •  – Visual inspection: Non-destructive testing methods don’t necessarily need to use high-tech machinery. Visual Inspection is an important part of the process and involves highly qualified and trained individuals examining products to check for specific characteristics and attributes. For example, visual inspectors are likely to look for any obvious cracks or corrosion, as well as potential banding, surface discontinuities or even problems with material consistency.

Thanks for reading our blog, if you wish to know more about destructive testing, contact your local Special Piping Materials team.

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