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Fully automated laser-guided inspection system for weld defect detection on ship hulls

Currently, the shipping industry faces a major pain: the safety management and the certification of vessels’ structural integrity. As the marine environment is extremely harsh, the precautions that need to be taken are much stricter than for other transportation industry sectors. Non-destructive testing (NDT) is often required to assure that the overall structure is seaworthy. ShipTest is going to redefine ship hull inspection, by introducing a fully automated and advanced NDT inspection system which can inspect safety-critical hull welds while the vessel is at sea, drastically reducing the need for inspection needed during dry docking. Building on the results of X-Scan, a previous collaborative FP7 project, we have developed an inspection system capable of inspecting welds on metal plates thinner than 10mm, without the need to remove coating, using a combination of phased array ultrasonic testing (PAUT), alternating current field measurement (ACFM) technology and optics based on a 2D laser profiler. Simultaneously, the laser system is also employed to provide precision guidance to the climbing robot.


The aim is to undertake the necessary activities to attain a market-ready product (from TRL 6 to TRL9). This involves fine-tuning of all existing hardware and software (ie the X-Scan system).


This approach will enable inspections to be more efficient, cost effective, faster and safer compared to the existing common practices, radiographic testing and manual ultrasonic testing. The financial projection is the growth of businesses by revenues of €47.7m, cumulatively over five years, through the sales of ShipTest and related analysis services, generating €19.04m in cumulative profits and creating 398 jobs over the five years following 2019.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.             

Horizon 2020