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NDT Ceramics

Mateusz Matysiak, Duncan Hand, Jon Shephard


The objectives of this project are to develop optical techniques that can identify flaws in a bulk ceramic sample which are sufficient to have a significant impact on its mechanical properties. One application would be in the fabrication of dental crowns and bridges. An ultimate aim is to develop a fully automated non‑contact system that could rapidly determine, non-destructively, the extent of flaws introduced during a fabrication process. This should be a non-contact, non-destructive technique that can be applied with the part in-situ without the need to “remove-inspect-relocate” during processing, hence reducing as much as possible the impact on the overall fabrication time.

Results using visible light

  • Sample inspected containing mm sized laser drilled holes
  • Significant changes of the light structure can be easily detected.
  • Applying visible light for the detection of bulk flaws and features in Zirconia works to some degree in that a change in the transmitted light indicates the presence of flaws.
  • It is not possible to determine the position and size of even mm-scale features.
  • Unlikely that it could be used to detect µm-scale defects due to the high degree of scattering.

Figure 1 a) Specimen tested with visible light, b) Intensity of light transmitted through sample without buried features, and c) False colour gray scale image of light transmitted through sample – LED illuminates the central part of the specimen

Mid infrared transmission imaging (MIR-TI) technique

FT-IR measurements carried out on Zirconia samples showed that the Mid-Infrared wavelength range has potential for optical, non-destructive inspection of Y-TZP components due to a “transmission window” existing between 3 and 7 μm. 

Figure 2 Set-up for mid-infrared transmission imaging technique

  • The smallest feature which could be observed was 50 μm.
  • Results for the Mid-Infrared system are significantly better compared to VIS technique.
  • All the drilled holes are visible.
  • Possible to precisely define all the features, for example depth and distance from the observed surface of each of the holes.

Figure 3 MIR-TI result of sample shown in figure 1 – picture consists of two combined images

  • Investigated the ability to detect mm scale cracks and flaws
  • Flaws in the surface facing away from the camera were detected.
  • ESEM images confirm that these features are indeed cracks, but with air gaps in the region of only 1 μm.
  • In the Mid Infrared image, these cracks appeared much larger due to shadowing.
  • Cracks actually propagate deeper in the material and the MIR TI system with a depth of field of 115 μm provides truly 3D information about an object rather than just imaging its surface.
  • MIR TI technique not only provides precise position of the crack, but also the crack shape can be established.

 Figure 4 Laser drilled sample and Figure 5 Flaws detected with MIR-TI technique; a) MIR-TI image; b, c) ESEM images


  • With ongoing development we are exploring the possibilities for the MIR-TI technique to become a reliable and robust technique suitable for a manufacturing environment.
  • There is also a drive to make a fully automated system without the need for a human operator.
  • This is potentially useful for a wide range of ceramic based applications, particularly biomedical.
  • Already we have demonstrated that the Mid-Infrared transmission imaging technique can be used for inspection of thick sections of Y-TZP material.
  • An optical transparency window in the Mid-Infrared wavelength region is exploited, resulting in much clearer images of flaws in comparison with visible light imaging.
  • The presented approach can be applied to test specimens up to 6 mm thick, considerably thicker than other techniques currently used to non-destructively examine Y-TZP.




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