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DSPs improve non-destructive test equipment

Posted: 11 Nov 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DSP? testing equipment? defect detection?

Dapco Industries Inc. has selected Texas Instruments Inc.'s TMS320C6472 DSP to improve its non-destructive testing (NDT) equipment that is used to peer inside railroad rails, high-speed train wheels, high pressure gas cylinders, and other critical transportation, power generation and infrastructure components to pinpoint internal defects before structural failures cause safety risks to life and property.

Dapco will deliver the first commercial version of its C6472-based ultrasonic testing instrumentation to the Union Pacific Railroad next month. Processing power up to 4.2GHz, faster real-time processing speeds and the lowest power consumption were critical features imperative in Dapco's decision to deploy the six-core C6472 DSP at the heart of their test equipment.

"Our next-generation test and inspection instruments will have significantly greater precision and be capable of 3D imaging, similar to that of medical ultrasonic imaging; things that just were not possible with legacy equipment," said Ron Keenan instrumentation development leader at Dapco. "Internal defects in the structures and components we are dealing with are simply dangerous. Because of the capabilities of the C6472, our defect detection capability will increase in speed and accuracy. Technicians in the field, inspecting rail or high-pressure gas cylinders, and in factories where pipe and other product is being manufactured, will be able to locate and classify defects that were previously considered undetectable. By accelerating the speed and accuracy of these tests, we will lower the cost of the inspection process and make it more effective."

Dapco is implementing the C6472 in a new system architecture designed to detect the smallest defects quickly and allow technicians to examine their characteristics much more closely than they could in the past. Moreover, the system will have the intelligence to dynamically and automatically categorize defects, reducing the risk of human operator error. TI DSPs are also used by other companies for imaging and diagnostic systems as well as other high-performance imaging applications.

Dapco's next-generation NDT systems have been designed for "real-time" digital processing of received acoustic signals within a 100?s test cycle time. That is, every 100?s, the C6472-based system pulses acoustic energy into the test piece, and monitors the test piece for any returned acoustic energy. The system digitizes and analyzes the received acoustic signals for rendering of detailed 3D images of any internal anomalies, or for application to real-time pattern recognition algorithms.

The high-speed peripherals included with the C6472 were also critical to Dapco's selection of the device. In particular, Dapco is using the C6472's Serial RapidIO ports to achieve transfer rates of 5Gbit/s between the system's pre-processor FPGAs and the C6472 DSP cores. The C6472's high-speed GbE interface and DDR2 memory interface are also deployed in Dapco's next-generation systems.

The C6472's power consumption efficiency was another important consideration for Dapco. Future generations of Dapco's NDT inspection and test systems will be battery-operated. As a result, deploying the lowest power components in the next generation of their systems was an important step in this direction.

"We always try to design our systems with a 'green' mindset," said Keenan. "We will be designing low-power features into our next-generation systems so that partitions of the system can be powered down when they're not in use. That will reduce overall power consumption. And, of course, the low power consumption of the C6472 was a very big plus in this regard."

The TMS320C6472 is available starting at $140 in quantities of 1K units. To help speed development, developers can take advantage of the low cost high performance evaluation module TMDXEVM6472 for $349.

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