The standard method of joining plastic pipe in the field is the butt fusion process. As in any pipeline application, joint quality greatly affects overall operational safety of the system. Currently no simple, reliable, cost effective method of assessing the quality of fusion joints in the field exists. Visual examination and pressure testing are current non-destructive approaches, which do not provide any assurance about the long-term pipeline performance. This project will develop, demonstrate, and validate an in-situ non-destructive inspection method for butt fusion joints in gas distribution plastic pipelines. The inspection system will include a laser based image-recognition system that will automatically generate and interpret digital images of pipe joints and assign them a pass/fail rating, which eliminates operator bias in evaluating joint quality. A Weld Zone Inspection Method (WZIM) is being developed in which local heat is applied to the joint region to relax the residual stresses formed by the original joining operation and reveal the surface condition of the joint. In cases where the joint is not formed under optimal conditions, and the intermolecular forces between contacting surfaces are not strong enough, the relaxation of macromolecules in the surface layer causes the material to pull back, revealing a fusion line. If the joint is sound, the bond line image does not develop. To establish initial feasibility of the approach, welds were performed under standard and non-standard conditions. These welds were subjected to the WZIM and tensile testing. There appears to be a direct correlation between the WZIM and tensile testing results. Although WZIM appears to be more sensitive than tensile testing can verify, the approach appears valid.
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DOIS: 10.2172/828896 10.2172/835268 10.2172/842206