RPC brings breakthrough FRP testing to Australia & SE Asia

RPC Technologies has secured the exclusive licence to UTComp’s UltraAnalytix™, a non-destructive Pulse Echo Ultrasonic system enabling inservice condition assessments on fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) assets such as tanks, pipes and other glass-reinforced polymer (GRP) structures while they are still operating.

By Joanne Crowley

Tony Caristo, RPC Managing Director, says he is excited to bring this capability to asset managers and owners in Australia, NZ and SE Asia. “Combined with RPC’s FRP/GRP experience, UltraAnalytix™ is an effective tool to help clients manage all their FRP/GRP assets without the need for expensive and time-consuming shutdowns as well as the ability to make informed value decisions and better risk management,” he said. The UltraAnalytix™ system is based on more than 60 years of research originally conducted by NASA. The system combines ultrasonic data collected in the field, external visual inspection and analysis using a proprietary algorithm. It is more than conventional ultrasonic thickness testing: innovative post processing of the raw ultrasonic data provides accurate, quantifiable and repeatable results. These results have been validated by UTComp’s internal research and by independent research at the University of Alabama and York University in Toronto, Ontario.

For assets or products and components that are already in operation, the benefits include: • FRP/GRP assets of all ages can be evaluated without original information such as design specifications or engineering diagrams.

  • The commencement of regular scheduled inspections creates an integrity-life curve.
  • Proactive and regular inspection minimises the risk of unforeseen failures thus improving safety and avoiding costly unbudgeted repairs and clean-ups.
  • Data is collected from an external surface, often while the assets are in operation, thereby limiting or eliminating the need for confined- space entry and avoiding shutdowns.
  • Cut-test samples from the asset are not required, allowing the structural integrity to remain intact.

For new products or components in the manufacturing stage, the benefits include:

  • A baseline at time of manufacture or installation can be established for ongoing inspections.
  • Provides measurement for acceptance criteria and verifies the quality of manufacture.

The testing process kicks off with an initial briefing as well as a review of existing data on the assets to be inspected. Following the submission of an agreed inspection plan, the assets and their environment will be examined by RPC’s inspectors who then conduct the inspection using the UltraAnalytix™ Pulse-Echo Ultrasound system.

The process of analysing the data, assessing the asset’s condition and composing and submitting an asset report on detected faults, estimated Remaining Service Life (RSL) and recommendations for remediation or maintenance takes approximately three weeks, although can be fast tracked in the case of an emergency.

The licence to RPC was issued by UTComp because of its significant experience in designing, engineering, manufacturing and installing composite assets across the water, wastewater, odour control, mining and industrial, transport and defence sectors across Australasia.

The take up of the service has been rapid with more than 50 inspections completed in the past 12 months and major asset owners now looking to adopt the technology for ongoing regular testing.

Tony Caristo cited the 2019 Australian Government Infrastructure Audit which highlighted that overall, infrastructure asset management was not well-reflected in planning processes and could be vastly improved in the Australian market. “Quality asset management has become key to owners and managers to maximise the ROI on their investments and to ensure quality and safety of delivery to the communities those assets serve,” said Tony. “Asset management has become the critical line-of-site from the boardroom to the asset. Utilising UltraAnalytix™ as one of our ‘tools’, onboarding digitisation and the IoT, and leveraging our deep experience, RPC is bringing a full suite of FRP/GRP asset management services to the market.”