Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 498

Third Edition



Volume 2

Liquid Penetrant
Technical Editor
Noel A. Tracy

Patrick O. Moore

American Society for Nondestructive Testing



Volume 2

Liquid Penetrant
Technical Editor
Noel A. Tracy

Patrick O. Moore

American Society for Nondestructive Testing
Copyright 1999
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Nothing contained in this book is to be construed as a grant of any right of manufacture, sale or use in connection with
any method, process, apparatus, product or composition, whether or not covered by letters patent or registered
trademark, nor as a defense against liability for the infringement of letters patent or registered trademark.
The American Society for Nondestructive Testing, its employees and the contributors to this volume are not responsible
for the authenticity or accuracy of information herein, and opinions and statements published herein do not necessarily
reflect the opinion of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing or carry its endorsement or recommendation.
The American Society for Nondestructive Testing, its employees, and the contributors to this volume assume no
responsibility for the safety of persons using the information in this book.

American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Incorporated

1711 Arlingate Lane
PO Box 28518
Columbus, OH 43228-0518
(614) 274-6003; fax (614) 274-6899

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Liquid penetrant testing / technical editor, Noel A. Tracy ; editor, Patrick O.
p. cm. -- (Nondestructive testing handbook. Third edition ; v. 2)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13 978-1-57117-028-6
ISBN-10 1-57117-028-6
1. Penetrant inspection. I. Tracy, Noel A. II. Moore, Patrick O.
III. Series: Nondestructive testing handbook (3rd ed.) ; v. 2.
TA417.55.L57 1999
620.1127--dc21 99-34056

First printing 09/99.

Second printing 11/03.
Third printing 07/06, with new impositions for pages ii, 84.
Fourth printing 11/08.

Published by the American Society for Nondestructive Testing

Presidents Foreword

Liquid Penetrant Testing is the second The existence of Liquid Penetrant Testing
volume of the third edition of the is testimony to the commitment of the
Nondestructive Testing Handbook. This American Society for Nondestructive
volume continues to advance the series Testing (ASNT) to its missions of
mission of disseminating information providing technical information and
about the technology. instructional materials and of promoting
Nondestructive testing contributes to nondestructive testing technology as a
public safety and to our quality of life in profession.
countless ways. The technology has made
possible those advances in technology Robert E. Green, Jr.
that are the hallmark of this turn of the ASNT National President (1998-99)
Technology typically relies on things
that can be counted, on numbers on
measurements and data that can be
quantified, processed and stored by
computer. In such an age, liquid
penetrant testing occupies a special place
because it is a qualitative method that has
defied quantification. At the same time,
the method remains extremely sensitive,
reliable, cost effective and useful to
industry. Because liquid penetrant testing
relies so much on the training and
experience of the human inspector, an
authoritative handbook is especially
ASNT has been fortunate that the
Technical Councils Penetrant Committee
is superbly qualified to provide the
expertise needed to rewrite and review a
book of such importance and scope. The
collaboration between the volunteers and
staff in the writing and review of this
volume has made productive use of
ASNTs volunteer resources. Scores of
authors and reviewers have donated
thousands of hours to this volume.
Liquid Penetrant Testing was produced
under the guidance of ASNTs Handbook
Development Committee. A special note
of thanks is extended to Handbook
Development Director Gary Workman; to
recent Penetrant Committee Chairs
William E. Mooz, Vilma G. Holmgren,
Brian MacCracken and Michael L. White;
to Technical Editor Noel A. Tracy; and to
Handbook Editor Patrick Moore for their
dedicated efforts.

Liquid Penetrant Testing iii


for instance, may have little bearing on a

The Aims of a Handbook practical examination. Other parts of a
handbook are specific to a certain
The volume you are holding in your hand industry. Although a handbook does not
is the second in the third edition of the pretend to offer a complete treatment of
Nondestructive Testing Handbook. Now is a its subject, its value and convenience are
good time to reflect on the purposes and not to be denied.
nature of a handbook. The present volume is a worthy
Handbooks exist in many disciplines of addition to the third edition. The editors,
science and technology, and certain technical editors and many contributors
features set them apart from other and reviewers worked together to bring
reference works. A handbook should the project to completion. For their
ideally give the basic knowledge necessary scholarship and dedication I thank
for an understanding of the technology, them all.
including both scientific principles and
means of application. Gary L. Workman
The typical reader may be assumed to Handbook Development Director
have completed three years of college
toward a degree in mechanical
engineering or materials science and
hence has the background of an
elementary physics or mechanics course.
Occasionally an engineer may be
frustrated by the difficulty of the
discussion in a handbook. That happens
because the assumptions about the reader
vary according to the subject in any given
chapter. Computer science requires a sort
of background different from nuclear
physics, for example, and it is not possible
for the handbook to give all the
background knowledge ancillary to
nondestructive testing.
A handbook offers a view of its subject
at a certain period in time. Even before it
is published, it starts to get obsolete. The
authors and editors do their best to be
current but the technology will continue
to change even as the book goes to press.
Standards, specifications,
recommended practices and inspection
procedures may be discussed in a
handbook for instructional purposes, but
at a level of generalization that is
illustrative rather than comprehensive.
Standards writing bodies take great pains
to ensure that their documents are
definitive in wording and technical
accuracy. People writing contracts or
procedures should consult real standards
when appropriate.
Those who design qualifying
examinations or study for them draw on
handbooks as a quick and convenient way
of approximating the body of knowledge.
Committees and individuals who write or
anticipate questions are selective in what
they draw from any source. The parts of a
handbook that give scientific background,

iv Liquid Penetrant Testing


What could be simpler than directly in place of other, more expensive point
viewing a part with a suitable light to see sensitive techniques such as eddy current
an indication of a discontinuity produced testing. However, in some applications,
by dipping the part in a colored liquid, especially where residual compressive
washing excess liquid off with a water stresses exist, the surface opening of a
hose and drying the part? As one gains discontinuity may be too small for
experience with liquid penetrant testing, reliable liquid penetrant testing. A good
a more appropriate question may come to example is a small fatigue crack.
mind: how can a simple technique be so Liquid penetrant materials are
complex? constantly being improved to meet
Because the liquid penetrant test is general or specific application
fundamentally simple and the equipment requirements, to make the test process
(if any) is easy to operate, untrained more forgiving or to satisfy new
observers usually think they can save time environmental concerns. In some
and money by borrowing some liquid applications water washable liquid
penetrant materials and performing the penetrants are as sensitive as
test themselves. However, as training and postemulsifiable types. Equipment is also
experience show, the best materials are improving. Properly designed and
worthless without strict adherence to monitored automated processing systems
processing guidelines that direct and have the potential to more carefully
control the test from the preparation of control the liquid penetrant testing
the inspection surface (including the process while alleviating the monotony
crack surface), to the visual examination experienced by an inspector who applies
of the part to locate an indication. the test steps repetitively.
Furthermore, the materials themselves The technology of liquid penetrant
require some basic care so that they dont testing lacks a reliable and objective
spoil. Even experienced inspectors must scientific test for evaluating the sensitivity
avoid the trap of apparent simplicity, of a liquid penetrant test. Photometers
which breeds complacency. Inattention to have been used in the laboratory to assign
processing details and materials arbitrary sensitivity levels to liquid
maintenance will result in a test that will penetrant systems by measuring the
fail because it is out of control. The luminance of fluorescent indications.
editing of this volume has attempted to However, even with precisely controlled
emphasize these issues. processing parameters, the luminance
Perhaps complex is the wrong word to measurements on a set of low cycle
describe the test; methodical is probably a fatigue cracks have been reproducible
better descriptor. Apparent disadvantages only within 20 percent.
of the test can usually be overcome by Part of the problem has been the
modifying a step or applying a different difficulty of correlating the physical and
set of steps. For example, inspectors could chemical phenomena and properties of
work in tandem when testing large areas, liquid penetrants to practical liquid
for which process control is more penetrant test sensitivity. This difficulty
difficult, or use liquid penetrant that influenced the decision to limit the
requires more than just water to remove it theoretical discussions in this volume to
if removal of the liquid penetrant from the practical characteristics of liquid
shallow cracks is a concern. In another penetrant materials. Because an inspector
situation the requirement for strict is ultimately concerned about the
process control may be turned into an presence or absence of a relevant
advantage in that methodical adjustments indication, the more that is understood
in the process can adjust the sensitivity of about how the test process affects those
the test so that only the relevant characteristics, the more likely a visible
discontinuities are detected. indication will be produced.
Despite its subtlety liquid penetrant The future of liquid penetrant testing is
testing does work. Large areas, small areas, sure to include continued efforts to bring
plane surfaces, multifaceted surfaces, all machine vision and decision making up
can be inspected quickly and to the level of competency achieved with
economically. Because of this advantage it the human eye and brain. Initially,
is tempting to use liquid penetrant testing questions of economic feasibility will

Liquid Penetrant Testing v

have to be answered in light of the
current economic advantages of liquid
penetrant testing, but cheaper technology
that works will be used.
The Technical Editor is indebted to the
committee members, contributors,
reviewers who volunteered to help
assemble this book. The aim was to build
on the work of those who contributed to
previous editions, updating the technical
content while preserving the
technological story line of lessons learned.
The guidance and assistance of the ASNT
staff is also gratefully acknowledged.

Noel A. Tracy
Technical Editor

vi Liquid Penetrant Testing

3PT00 (i-xii) 8/13/99 12:35 PM Page vii

Editors Preface

The third edition of the Nondestructive

Testing Handbook continues as the second
edition did, with a volume on liquid
penetrant testing. This third edition
volume is indebted to the preceding Handbook Development
editions volume in many ways. Much of Committee
the text is the same, despite significant
additions and alterations. Gary L. Workman, University of Alabama,
The technical content of this third Huntsville
edition volume differs in several ways Michael W. Allgaier, GPU Nuclear
from that of the second. (1) Pages have Albert S. Birks, AKZO Nobel Chemicals
been added to cover new applications, Richard H. Bossi, Boeing Company, Seattle
such as filtered particle testing of Lisa Brasche, Iowa State University
aerospace composites and quality control Lawrence E. Bryant, Jr., Los Alamos
of down hole oil field tubular assemblies. National Laboratory
(2) A new section on probability of William C. Chedister, Circle Chemical Co.
detection may help some facilities to James L. Doyle, Northwest Research
evaluate their inspection procedures. Associates, Inc.
(3) The introduction includes new Allen T. Green, Acoustic Technology
information on method history and Group
measurement units. (4) The text reflects Robert E. Green, Jr., The Johns Hopkins
the fact that materials degrading to the University
environment have been regulated. Matthew J. Golis, Advanced Quality
(5) A comprehensive glossary is provided. Concepts
(6) An extensive bibliography lists liquid Frank A. Iddings
penetrant testing publications, more than Charles N. Jackson, Jr.
some practitioners of the method might John K. Keve, DynCorp Tri-Cities Services
have expected. (7) This third edition Lloyd P. Lemle, Jr., BP Oil Company
volume pays more attention to standards Xavier P.V. Maldague, University Laval
documents than did the second edition; Michael L. Mester, The Timken Company
references to current standards have been Paul McIntire, American Society for
added throughout. Nondestructive Testing
The contributors and reviewers all Ronnie K. Miller, Physical Acoustics
brought their gifts individually to this Corporation
project collectively they made it better Scott D. Miller, Saudi Aramco
than a product of one person could be. Patrick O. Moore, American Society for
Among these volunteers, the editors Nondestructive Testing
would like to thank William E. Mooz for Stanley Ness
the time he invested in careful reading of Ronald T. Nisbet, IESCO
the entire book. Louis G. Pagliaro, Technical Associates of
ASNT is indebted to Technical Editor Charlotte
Noel A. Tracy and to all the technical Emmanuel P. Papadakis, Quality Systems
experts listed at the end of this foreword. Concepts
(Please note that people listed as J. Thomas Schmidt, J.T. Schmidt
contributors were also reviewers but are Associates
listed only once, as contributors.) Fred Seppi, Williams International
It is difficult to overstate the Amos G. Sherwin, Sherwin Incorporated
contributions of staff members Hollis Kermit S. Skeie, Kermit Skeie Associates
Humphries and Joy Grimm to the art, Roderic K. Stanley, Quality Tubing
layout and text of the book. I would also Holger H. Streckert , General Atomics
like to thank Publications Manager Paul Stuart A. Tison, Millipore Corporation
McIntire for his support throughout Noel A. Tracy, Universal Technology
production. Corporation
Mark F.A. Warchol, Aluminum Company
Patrick O. Moore of America
Editor Glenn A. Washer, Turner-Fairbank
Highway Research Center
George C. Wheeler, Materials & Processes

Liquid Penetrant Testing vii

Contributors Ronald T. Nisbet, IESCO
Clifford D. Smith, Smiths NDT Services
James S. Borucki, Gould Bass NDT
Clint E. Surber, Boeing Company, Seattle
Art Cedillos, Palomar Plating Company
Michael L. Turnbow, Tennessee Valley
Jeffrey F. Cook, JFC NDE Engineering
Robert L. Crane, Air Force Research
Alexander Waluszko, UVP, Incorporated
Mark F.A. Warchol, Alcoa Technical
Charles W. Eick, Dassault Falcon Jet
John J. Flaherty, Flare Technology
Matthew J. Golis, Advanced Quality
Bruce C. Graham Multimedia Contributors
Frank V. Gricus, Reynolds Metals Thomas H. Bennett, Howmet Corporation
Company Charles J. Hellier, III, Hellier Associates
Donald J. Hagemaier, Boeing Company,
Long Beach
Norman J. Hendle
Vilma G. Holmgren, Magnaflux Division
of Illinois Tool Works
Dennis G. Hunley, Quality Assurance
Robert J. Lord, Jr., Boeing Company,
St. Louis
Brian A. MacCracken, Pratt & Whitney
Joseph L. Mackin, International Pipeline
Inspectors Association
William E. Mooz, Met-L-Chek Company
Stanley Ness
Samuel J. Robinson, Sherwin Incorporated
David J. Ross, Spectronics Corporation
Ward D. Rummel, D&W Enterprises
J. Thomas Schmidt, J.T. Schmidt
Amos G. Sherwin, Sherwin Incorporated
Kermit A. Skeie, Kermit Skeie Associates
Dennis S. Smith, Boeing Company, Long
Jack C. Spanner, Sr., Spanner Engineering
Holger H. Streckert, General Atomics
Richard Z. Struk, Shellcast Foundries
Noel A. Tracy, Universal Technology
Roger D. Wallace, Newport News
Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company
Michael L. White, Met-L-Chek Company

Robert A. Baker
Thomas H. Bennett, Howmet Corporation
Lisa Brasche, Iowa State University
Patrick Dubosc, Babb Company SA
Rob Hagen, NDT Europa BV
William O. Holden, William Holden
Stephen C. Hoyt, American Society for
Nondestructive Testing
James F. Jackson
Brian F. Larson, Iowa State University
Richard D. McGuire, National Board of
Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors
Gregory F. Monks, QC Technologies,

viii Liquid Penetrant Testing


Chapter 1. Introduction to Liquid Chapter 4. Care and Maintenance of

Penetrant Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Liquid Penetrant Test Materials . 99
Part 1. Nondestructive Testing . . . . 2 Part 1. Importance of Maintenance
Part 2. Management of Liquid of Liquid Penetrant
Penetrant Testing . . . . . . . . 7 Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
Part 3. Personnel Selection and Part 2. Care and Maintenance of
Qualification for Liquid Liquid Penetrant Testing
Liquid Penetrant Materials in Storage . . . . 101
Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Part 3. Care and Maintenance of
Part 4. History of Liquid Penetrant Liquid Penetrants
Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 in Use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
Part 5. Units of Measure for Part 4. Care and Maintenance of
Nondestructive Testing . . 27 Liquid Penetrant
Emulsifiers and Removers
in Use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
Chapter 2. Principles of Liquid
Part 5. Care and Maintenance of
Penetrant Testing . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Developers in Use . . . . . 107
Part 1. Elements of Liquid Part 6. Quality Control Tests for
Penetrant Testing . . . . . . . 34 Liquid Penetrant
Part 2. Liquid Penetrant Testing Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . 109
Processes . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Part 7. Quality Control Tests for
Part 3. Principles of Emulsification Test Systems and
and Removal of Excess Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . 118
Surface Liquid
Penetrant . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Chapter 5. Interpretation of Liquid
Part 4. Principles of Application
Penetrant Indications . . . . . . . 125
and Operation of
Developers . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 Part 1. Inspector Functions and
Part 5. Inspection and Terminology for
Interpretation of Liquid Interpretation and
Penetrant Indications . . . 59 Evaluation of Liquid
Penetrant Indications . . 126
Part 6. Field Techniques for Liquid
Penetrant Testing . . . . . . . 65 Part 2. General Interpretation of
Liquid Penetrant
Part 7. Maintenance of Liquid Indications . . . . . . . . . . 133
Penetrant Test Systems . . 69
Part 3. Processing Effects
Part 8. Health and Safety Influencing Liquid
Precautions . . . . . . . . 71 Penetrant Indications . . 136
Part 4. Establishing Acceptance
Chapter 3. Characteristics of Liquid Standards for Liquid
Penetrant and Processing Penetrant Indications . . 140
Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Part 5. Interpretation of Liquid
Part 1. Liquid Properties of Liquid Penetrant Indications of
Penetrant . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 Cracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
Part 2. Liquid Penetrant Part 6. Interpretation of Liquid
Removal . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Penetrant Indications of
Part 3. Color of Liquid Laminar
Penetrants . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 Discontinuities . . . . . . . 147
Part 4. Action of Developers . . . . 92 Part 7. Interpretation of Liquid
Penetrant Indications of
Part 5. Viewing Indications . . . . . 95 Porosity and Leaks . . . . . 149
Part 8. Nonrelevant and False
Liquid Penetrant
Indications . . . . . . . . . . 151

Liquid Penetrant Testing ix

Part 9. Recognition Training of Chapter 10. Liquid Penetrant System
Liquid Penetrant Chemistry and Effluent Waste . 287
Inspectors . . . . . . . . . . . 153 Part 1. Effects of Sulfur and
Part 10. Specifications and Guides Chlorine Impurities in
for Evaluation of Liquid Liquid Penetrant
Penetrant Indications . . 154 Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . 288
Part 2. Mechanisms of Stress
Chapter 6. Surface Preparation and Corrosion Cracking of
Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 Austenitic Stainless
Steels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 295
Part 1. Effects of Test Object
Surface Contamination Part 3. Methods for Sulfur and
or Irregularities . . . . . . . 162 Halogen Analysis of
Liquid Penetrant
Part 2. Procedures for Cleaning
Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . 300
Surfaces before Liquid
Penetrant Testing . . . . . . 167 Part 4. Techniques for Control of
Pollution from Liquid
Part 3. Procedures for Postcleaning
Penetrant Waste . . . . . . . 306
Test Objects after Liquid
Penetrant Testing . . . . . . 178 Part 5. Recycling of Water Effluent
and Postemulsifiable
Part 4. Cleaning Requirements for
Liquid Penetrant . . . . . . 314
Fluorescent Liquid
Penetrant Testing in Part 6. Clarification and
Aircraft Overhaul . . . . . . 181 Distillation Recovery of
Waste Water . . . . . . . . . . 318
Part 5. Influence of Mechanical
Processing on Effectiveness
of Liquid Penetrant Chapter 11. Filtered Particle Testing . 325
Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184 Part 1. Principles of Filtered
Particle Testing . . . . . . . 326
Chapter 7. Liquid Penetrant Testing Part 2. Mechanisms of
Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201 Operation of Filtered
Part 1. Processing Equipment for Particle Tests . . . . . . . . . 328
Liquid Penetrant Part 3. Design and Selection of
Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202 Filtered Particle Test
Part 2. Large Scale Automated Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 331
Aerospace Liquid Part 4. Filtered Particle Test
Penetrant Test Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . 333
Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . 217 Part 5. Prewetting and Associated
Part 3. Lighting for Liquid Phenomena . . . . . . . . . . 335
Penetrant Testing . . . . . . 226 Part 6. Interpretation of Filtered
Part 4. Mechanized Scanning of Particle Test
Fluorescent Liquid Indications . . . . . . . . . . 337
Penetrant Indications . . 239 Part 7. Filtered Particle Testing
of Carbon Matrix
Components . . . . . . . . . 339
Chapter 8. Comparators and Reference
Panels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245
Part 1. Cracked Metal Chapter 12. Liquid Penetrant Testing
Comparator Blocks . . . . 246 in Primary Metals Production . 343
Part 2. Surface Cracked Part 1. Liquid Penetrant Testing
Nickel-Chrome Liquid in Foundries . . . . . . . . . 344
Penetrant Test Panels . . . 254 Part 2. Liquid Penetrant Testing
Part 3. Liquid Penetrant of Ferrous Metals . . . . . . 350
Comparators with Surface Part 3. Liquid Penetrant Testing
Indentations Simulating in Light Alloy
Discontinuities . . . . . . . 259 Foundries . . . . . . . . . . . . 352
Part 4. Test Panels for
Measurement of Chapter 13. Electric Power Applications
Background Levels . . . . . 264 of Liquid Penetrant Testing . . . 361
Part 1. Applications of Liquid
Chapter 9. Liquid Penetrant Testing Penetrant Testing in
Crack Detection Capabilities Electric and Power
and Reliability . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275 Plants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 362

x Liquid Penetrant Testing

Part 2. Liquid Penetrant Testing of Chapter 16. Liquid Penetrant Testing
Pressure Components of Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 433
Nuclear Power Plants . . . 364
Part 3. Examples of Liquid
Chapter 17. Liquid Penetrant Testing
Penetrant Indications of
Discontinuities in Reactor Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453
Piping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 369
Part 4. Personnel Performing Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 483
Liquid Penetrant Testing
in Power Plants . . . . . . . 374
Figure Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 493

Chapter 14. Aerospace Applications of

Liquid Penetrant Testing . . . . . 379 Movie Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 494
Part 1. Liquid Penetrant Testing
Process Specifications
in Aerospace
Manufacturing . . . . . . . . 380
Part 2. Liquid Penetrant
Performance without
Developer . . . . . . . . . . . 386
Part 3. Applications of Liquid
Penetrant Testing to
Liquid Oxygen Systems . 392
Part 4. Fluorescent Liquid
Penetrants with Depth
Sensing Capabilities . . . . 396
Part 5. Low Viscosity Liquid
Penetrant Testing of
Braze Bond Open Face
Honeycomb Seals . . . . . . 398
Part 6. Ultrasonic Enhancement
of Liquid Penetrant
Indications of Cracks in
Aerospace Structural
Weldments . . . . . . . . . . 402
Part 7. Applications of Liquid
Penetrant Testing in
Aircraft Fleet
Maintenance . . . . . . . . . 404
Part 8. Liquid Penetrant Testing
of Radioisotope Heat
Source Capsules for Deep
Space Missions . . . . . . . . 407

Chapter 15. Various Applications of

Liquid Penetrant Testing . . . . . 415
Part 1. Liquid Penetrant Testing
of Metal Cutting Tools . . 416
Part 2. Liquid Penetrant Testing
of Oil Field Down Hole
Tubular Parts . . . . . . . . . 419
Part 3. Marine Applications of
Liquid Penetrant
Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 421
Part 4. Liquid Penetrant Testing
of Automotive Parts . . . . 425
Part 5. Liquid Penetrant Testing
of Plastic Materials . . . . . 429

Liquid Penetrant Testing xi

Multimedia Contents

Chapter 2. Principles of Liquid Movie. False indications. . . . . . . . 151

Penetrant Testing . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Movie. Nonrelevant indications
Movie. Bleeding suggests can mask relevant
discontinuity severity. . . . 35 ones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
Movie. Fluorescent liquid Movie. Nonrelevant indication
penetrant. . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 from part geometry. . . . .151
Movie. Liquid penetrant seeps
into discontinuity. . . . . . . 36 Chapter 6. Surface Preparation and
Movie. Solvent removes excess Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
liquid penetrant from Movie. Postcleaning. . . . . . . . . . .178
part surface. . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Movie. Nonaqueous wet
developer enhances Chapter 12. Liquid Penetrant
visible dye contrast. . . . . . 38 Testing in Primary Metals
Movie. Hydrophilic prerinse. . . . . 43 Production . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343
Movie. Dip in hydrophilic Movie. Rejectable
emulsifier; dwell. . . . . . . . 43 discontinuity. . . . . . . . . .347
Movie. Water wash. . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Movie. Porosity in casting. . . . . . 353
Movie. Developer application. . . . 43 Movie. Fluorescent bleedout
reveals shrinkage. . . . . . .353
Movie. Viewing of developed
indications. . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Movie. Developer is applied. . . . . . 44
Movie. Wipe part. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Movie. Visible red dye liquid
penetrant bleeds out. . . . . 45
Movie. Indication in root pass
of weld. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Movie. Water wash. . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Movie. Developer application. . . . 56
Movie. Nonaqueous wet
developer enhances
visible dye contrast. . . . . . 58
Movie. Shake the spray can. . . . . . 58

Chapter 3. Characteristics of Liquid

Penetrant and Processing
Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Movie. Visible red dye liquid
penetrant bleeds out. . . . . 90

Chapter 5. Interpretation of Liquid

Penetrant Indications . . . . . . . 125
Movie. Fluorescent bleedout
reveals shrinkage. . . . . . 128
Movie. Quenching cracks. . . . . . . 130
Movie. Linear discontinuity. . . . . 133
Movie. Open and partially
open cracks. . . . . . . . . . . 133
Movie. Pitting and porosity. . . . . 133
Movie. Porosity in casting. . . . . . 149
Movie. Process control can
mask discontinuities. . . . 151

Liquid Penetrant Testing xii

3PT18 in (483-494) 8/13/99 1:01 PM Page 493

Figure Sources

The following list indicates owners of figures at time of submittal. Chapter 12

Figure 1 Reynolds Metals Company, Richmond, VA.
Chapter 1 Figures 2-3 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Tool Works, Glenview, IL.
Figures 1-2 D&W Enterprises, Limited, Littleton, CO.
Figures 3-5, 7-11, 14 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Tool Works, Chapter 13
Glenview, IL.
Figures 1-4 Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, OH.
Figure 6 Alys Alburger Braun, Somis, CA.
Figure 5 Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX.
Figures 6-7 Stone and Webster, Boston, MA.
Chapter 2
Figures 1-11 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Tool Works, Glenview, IL. Chapter 14
Figure 1-6 Boeing Company, Long Beach, CA.
Chapter 3 Figure 8 Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force
Base, OH.
Figures 1-11 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Tool Works, Glenview, IL.
Figures 9-14 Rockwell International, Canoga Park, CA.

Chapter 4
Chapter 15
Figures 1-2, 5, 7, 9 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Toolworks, Glenview, IL.
Figure 1 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Tool Works, Glenview, IL.
Figures 3-4, 6 Sherwin Incorporated, South Gate, CA.
Figure 2-3 International Pipe Inspectors Association, Houston, TX.
Figure 8 Met-L-Chek, Santa Monica, CA.
Figure 4 Chrysler Corporation, Detroit, MI.
Figure 5 Gregory F. Monks, QC Technologies, Incorporated, Noblesville, IN.
Chapter 5 Figure 6 Dennis G. Hunley, Quality Assurance Corporation, Indianapolis, IN.
Figures 1-6, 8, 12-15, 18-25 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Toolworks,
Glenview, IL.
Figures 7, 26 Allied Signal Aerospace Company [formerly AiResearch
Manufacturing Division, Garrett Corporation], Los Angeles, CA.
Figure 16-17 Turbodyne Technologies, Incorporated, Woodland Hills, CA.

Chapter 6
Figures 2-11 Boeing Company, Long Beach, CA.
Figures 12-25 Boeing Company, St. Louis, MO.

Chapter 7
Figures 1-4f, 4h, 6-8a, 25-26, 31, 34, 36-43 Magnaflux Division of Illinois
Tool Works, Glenview, IL.
Figures 8b, 8c Sherwin Incorporated, South Gate, CA.
Figures 9-15 Boeing Company, St. Louis, MO.
Figure 17-24 Northrop Grumman Corporation, Los Angeles, CA.
Figures 33, 35a-35b Spectronics Corporation, Westbury, NY.
Figures 35c Ely Chemical Company, Aurora, IL.

Chapter 8
Figures 2-4 Sherwin Incorporated, South Gate, CA.
Figures 5-7, 9-12 Boeing Company, St. Louis, MO.
Figure 13 Turco Products, Incorporated, Long Beach, CA.

Chapter 9
Figures 1-7 D&W Enterprises, Limited, Littleton, CO.

Chapter 10
Figures 1-6 Westinghouse Hanford, Hanford, WA.
Figure 7 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Tool Works, Glenview, IL.
Figures 8-10 Sherwin Incorporated, South Gate, CA.

Chapter 11
Figures 1-13 Magnaflux Division of Illinois Tool Works, Glenview, IL.
Figures 14-15 Robert L. Crane, Air Force Research Laboratory,
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Movie Sources

All video is copyrighted by ASNT or reproduced by permission of the Chapter 6

copyright holders. The following list indicates copyright ownership at time of
submittal. The participation of ASNT Past President Charles N. Hellier, III as Movie. Postcleaning American Society for Nondestructive Testing,
narrator and instructor in many of these movies is gratefully acknowledged. Columbus, OH.

Chapter 2 Chapter 12
Movie. Bleeding suggests discontinuity severity Hellier Associates, Movie. Rejectable discontinuity Hellier Associates, Incorporated, Niantic, CT.
Incorporated, Niantic, CT. Movie. Porosity in casting American Society for Nondestructive Testing,
Movie. Fluorescent liquid penetrant Hellier Associates, Incorporated, Columbus, OH.
Niantic, CT. Movie. Fluorescent bleedout reveals shrinkage ASM International, Materials
Movie. Liquid penetrant seeps into discontinuity ASM International, Park, OH.
Materials Park, OH.
Movie. Solvent removes excess liquid penetrant from part surface ASM
International, Materials Park, OH.
Movie. Nonaqueous wet developer enhances visible dye contrast ASM
International, Materials Park, OH.
Movie. Hydrophilic prerinse Howmet Castings, Whitehall, MI.
Movie. Dip in hydrophilic emulsifier; dwell Howmet Castings,
Whitehall, MI.
Movie. Water wash Howmet Castings, Whitehall, MI.
Movie. Developer application Howmet Castings, Whitehall, MI.
Movie. Viewing of developed indications Howmet Castings, Whitehall, MI.
Movie. Developer is applied American Society for Nondestructive Testing,
Columbus, OH.
Movie. Wipe part American Society for Nondestructive Testing,
Columbus, OH.
Movie. Visible red dye liquid penetrant bleeds out American Society for
Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.
Movie. Indication in root pass of weld Hellier Associates, Incorporated,
Niantic, CT.
Movie. Water wash Howmet Castings, Whitehall, MI.
Movie. Developer application Howmet Castings, Whitehall, MI.
Movie. Nonaqueous wet developer enhances visible dye contrast ASM
International, Materials Park, OH.
Movie. Shake the spray can Hellier Associated, Incorporated, Niantic, CT.
Movie. Nonaqueous wet developer enhances visible dye contrast ASM
International, Materials Park, OH.

Chapter 3
Movie. Visible red dye liquid penetrant bleeds out American Society for
Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

Chapter 5
Movie. Fluorescent bleedout reveals shrinkage ASM International,
Incorporated, Materials Park, OH.
Movie. Quenching cracks Hellier Associate, Incorporated, Niantic, CT.
Movie. Linear discontinuity American Society for Nondestructive Testing,
Columbus, OH.
Movie. Open and partially open cracks American Society for Nondestructive
Testing, Columbus, OH.
Movie. Pitting and porosity American Society for Nondestructive Testing,
Columbus, OH.
Movie. Porosity in casting American Society for Nondestructive Testing,
Columbus, OH.
Movie. Process control can mask discontinuities American Society for
Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.
Movie. False indications Hellier Associates, Incorporated, Niantic, CT.
Movie. Nonrelevant indications can mask relevant ones American Society
for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.
Movie. Nonrelevant indication from part geometry American Society for
Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

1H A P T E R

Introduction to Liquid
Penetrant Testing

John J. Flaherty, Flare Technology, Incorporated, Elk

Grove Village, Illinois
Ward D. Rummel, D&W Enterprises, Limited, Littleton,
Amos G. Sherwin, Sherwin Incorporated, South Gate,
Holger H. Streckert, General Atomics, San Diego,
Noel A. Tracy, Universal Technology Corporation,
Dayton, Ohio
PART 1. Nondestructive Testing1

Nondestructive testing (NDT) has been sampling. Sampling (that is, less than 100
defined as comprising those test methods percent testing to draw inferences about
used to examine or inspect a part or the unsampled lots) is nondestructive
material or system without impairing its testing if the tested sample is returned to
future usefulness.1 The term is generally service. If the steel is tested to verify the
applied to nonmedical investigations of alloy in some bolts that can then be
material integrity. returned to service, then the test is
Strictly speaking, this definition of nondestructive. In contrast, even if
nondestructive testing includes spectroscopy used in the chemical testing
noninvasive medical diagnostics. X-rays, of many fluids is inherently
ultrasound and endoscopes are used by nondestructive, the testing is destructive if
both medical and industrial the samples are poured down the drain
nondestructive testing. Medical after testing.
nondestructive testing, however, has come Nondestructive testing is not confined
to be treated by a body of learning so to crack detection. Other discontinuities
separate from industrial nondestructive include porosity, wall thinning from
testing that today most physicians never corrosion and many sorts of disbonds.
use the word nondestructive. Nondestructive material characterization
Nondestructive testing is used to is a growing field concerned with material
investigate specifically the material properties including material
integrity of the test object. A number of identification and microstructural
other technologies for instance, radio characteristics such as resin curing, case
astronomy, voltage and amperage hardening and stress that have a direct
measurement and rheometry (flow influence on the service life of the test
measurement) are nondestructive but object.
are not used specifically to evaluate Nondestructive testing has also been
material properties. Radar and sonar are defined by listing or classifying the
classified as nondestructive testing when various techniques.1-3 This approach
used to inspect dams, for instance, but conveys a sense of nondestructive testing
not when they are used to chart a river that is a practical sense in that it typically
bottom. highlights methods in use by industry.
Nondestructive testing asks Is there
something wrong with this material?
Various performance and proof tests, in
contrast, ask Does this component Purposes of
work? This is the reason that it is not Nondestructive Testing
considered nondestructive testing when
an inspector checks a circuit by running Since the 1920s, the art of testing without
electric current through it. Hydrostatic destroying the test object has developed
pressure testing is another form of proof from a laboratory curiosity to an
testing, one that may destroy the test indispensable tool of production. No
object. longer is visual testing of materials, parts
Another gray area that invites various and complete products the principal
interpretations in defining nondestructive means of determining adequate quality.
testing is future usefulness. Some material Nondestructive tests in great variety are in
investigations involve taking a sample of worldwide use to detect variations in
the inspected part for testing that is structure, minute changes in surface
inherently destructive. A noncritical part finish, the presence of cracks or other
of a pressure vessel may be scraped or physical discontinuities, to measure the
shaved to get a sample for electron thickness of materials and coatings and to
microscopy, for example. Although future determine other characteristics of
usefulness of the vessel is not impaired by industrial products. Scientists and
the loss of material, the procedure is engineers of many countries have
inherently destructive and the shaving contributed greatly to nondestructive test
itself in one sense the true test object development and applications.
has been removed from service The various nondestructive testing
permanently. methods are covered in detail in the
The idea of future usefulness is relevant literature, but it is always wise to consider
to the quality control practice of objectives before details. How is

2 Liquid Penetrant Testing

nondestructive testing useful? Why do life were not well known. After relatively
thousands of industrial concerns buy the short periods of service some of these
testing equipment, pay the subsequent aircraft suffered disastrous failures.
operating costs of the testing and even Sufficient and proper nondestructive tests
reshape manufacturing processes to fit the could have saved many lives.
needs and findings of nondestructive As technology improves and as service
testing? requirements increase, machines are
Modern nondestructive tests are used subjected to greater variations and to
by manufacturers (1) to ensure product wider extremes of all kinds of stress,
integrity and, in turn, reliability; (2) to creating an increasing demand for
avoid failures, prevent accidents and save stronger or more damage tolerant
human life; (3) to make a profit for the materials.
user; (4) to ensure customer satisfaction
and maintain the manufacturers Engineering Demands for Sounder
reputation; (5) to aid in better product
design; (6) to control manufacturing Materials
processes; (7) to lower manufacturing Another justification for nondestructive
costs; (8) to maintain uniform quality tests is the designers demand for sounder
level; and (9) to ensure operational materials. As size and weight decrease and
readiness. the factor of safety is lowered, more and
These reasons for widespread profitable more emphasis is placed on better raw
use of nondestructive testing are sufficient material control and higher quality of
in themselves, but parallel developments materials, manufacturing processes and
have contributed to its growth and workmanship.
acceptance. An interesting fact is that a producer of
raw material or of a finished product
Increased Demand on Machines sometimes does not improve quality or
performance until that improvement is
In the interest of greater speed and rising demanded by the customer. The pressure
costs of materials, the design engineer is of the customer is transferred to
often under pressure to reduce weight. implementation of improved design or
This can sometimes be done by manufacturing. Nondestructive testing is
substituting aluminum alloys, magnesium frequently called on to deliver this new
alloys or composite materials for steel or quality level.
iron, but such light parts may not be the
same size or design as those they replace.
The tendency is also to reduce the size. Public Demands for Greater Safety
These pressures on the designer have The demands and expectations of the
subjected parts of all sorts to increased public for greater safety are apparent
stress levels. Even such commonplace everywhere. Review the record of the
objects as sewing machines, sauce pans courts in granting higher and higher
and luggage are also lighter and more awards to injured persons. Consider the
heavily loaded than ever before. The stress outcry for greater automobile safety, as
to be supported is seldom static. It often evidenced by the required auto safety
fluctuates and reverses at low or high belts and the demand for air bags,
frequencies. Frequency of stress reversals blowout-proof tires and antilock braking
increases with the speeds of modern systems. The publicly supported activities
machines and thus parts tend to fatigue of the National Safety Council,
and fail more rapidly. Underwriters Laboratories, the
Another cause of increased stress on Occupational Safety and Health
modern products is a reduction in the Administration and the Federal Aviation
safety factor. An engineer designs with Administration in the United States, as
certain known loads in mind. On the well as the work of similar agencies
supposition that materials and abroad, are only a few of the ways in
workmanship are never perfect, a safety which this demand for safety is expressed.
factor of 2, 3, 5 or 10 is applied. However, It has been expressed directly by
because of other considerations, a lower passengers who cancel reservations
factor is often used that depends on the following a serious aircraft accident. This
importance of lighter weight or reduced demand for personal safety has been
cost or risk to consumer. another strong force in the development
New demands on machinery have also of nondestructive tests.
stimulated the development and use of
new materials whose operating Rising Costs of Failure
characteristics and performance are not
completely known. These new materials Aside from awards to the injured or to
create greater and potentially dangerous estates of the deceased and aside from
problems. As an example, an aircraft part costs to the public (e.g. evacuation due to
was built from an alloy whose work chemical leaks), consider briefly other
hardening, notch resistance and fatigue factors in the rising costs of mechanical

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 3

failure. These costs are increasing for materials and structures without
many reasons. Some important ones are disruption or impairment of serviceability.
(1) greater costs of materials and labor; Nondestructive testing makes it possible
(2) greater costs of complex parts; for internal properties or hidden
(3) greater costs due to the complexity of discontinuities to be revealed or inferred
assemblies; (4) greater probability that by appropriate methods.
failure of one part will cause failure of Nondestructive testing is becoming
others because of overloads; (5) trend to increasingly vital in the effective conduct
lower factors of safety; (6) probability that of research, development, design and
the failure of one part will damage other manufacturing programs. Only with
parts of high value; and (7) part failure in appropriate nondestructive testing
an automatic production machine, methods can the benefits of advanced
shutting down an entire high speed, materials science be fully realized. The
integrated, production line. When information required for appreciating the
production was carried out on many broad scope of nondestructive testing is
separate machines, the broken one could available in many publications and
be bypassed until repaired. Today, one reports.
machine is tied into the production of
several others. Loss of such production is
one of the greatest losses resulting from
part failure. Classification of Methods
In a report, the National Materials
Applications of Nondestructive Advisory Board (NMAB) Ad Hoc
Testing Committee on Nondestructive Evaluation
adopted a system that classified
Nondestructive testing is a branch of the techniques into six major method
materials sciences that is concerned with categories: visual, penetrating radiation,
all aspects of the uniformity, quality and magnetic-electrical, mechanical vibration,
serviceability of materials and structures. thermal and chemical-electrochemical.3 A
The science of nondestructive testing modified version is presented in Table 1.1
incorporates all the technology for Each method can be completely
detection and measurement of significant characterized in terms of five principal
properties, including discontinuities, in factors: (1) energy source or medium used
items ranging from research specimens to to probe object (such as X-rays, ultrasonic
finished hardware and products in service. waves or thermal radiation); (2) nature of
By definition, nondestructive testing the signals, image and/or signature
methods are means for inspecting resulting from interaction with the object

TABLE 1. Nondestructive testing method categories.

Categories Objectives

Basic Categories

Mechanical-optical color; cracks; dimensions; film thickness; gaging; reflectivity; strain distribution and magnitude; surface
finish; surface flaws; through-cracks
Penetrating radiation cracks; density and chemistry variations; elemental distribution; foreign objects; inclusions; microporosity;
misalignment; missing parts; segregation; service degradation; shrinkage; thickness; voids
Electromagnetic-electronic alloy content; anisotropy; cavities; cold work; local strain, hardness; composition; contamination;
corrosion; cracks; crack depth; crystal structure; electrical and thermal conductivities; flakes; heat
treatment; hot tears; inclusions; ion concentrations; laps; lattice strain; layer thickness; moisture content;
polarization; seams; segregation; shrinkage; state of cure; tensile strength; thickness; disbonds
Sonic-ultrasonic crack initiaion and propagation; cracks, voids; damping factor; degree of cure; degree of impregnation; degree of
sintering; delaminations; density; dimensions; elastic moduli; grain size; inclusions;
mechanical degradation; misalignment; porosity; radiation degradation; structure of composites; surface stress;
tensile, shear and compressive strength; disbonds; wear
Thermal and infrared bonding; composition; emissivity; heat contours; plating thickness; porosity; reflectivity; stress; thermal
conductivity; thickness; voids
Chemical-analytical alloy identification; composition; cracks; elemental analysis and distribution; grain size; inclusions; macrostructure;
porosity; segregation; surface anomalies

Auxiliary Categories
Image generation dimensional variations; dynamic performance; anomaly characterization and definition; anomaly
distribution; anomaly propagation; magnetic field configurations
Signal image analysis data selection, processing and display; anomaly mapping, correlation and identification; image enhancement;
separation of multiple variables; signature analysis

4 Liquid Penetrant Testing

(attenuation of X-rays or reflection of discontinuities. Volumetric methods
ultrasound, for example); (3) means of include radiography, ultrasonic testing,
detecting or sensing resultant signals acoustic emission testing, certain infrared
(photoemulsion, piezoelectric crystal or thermographic techniques and less
inductance coil); (4) method of indicating familiar methods such as
and/or recording signals (meter deflection, acoustoultrasonic testing and magnetic
oscilloscope trace or radiograph); and resonance imaging. Through-boundary
(5) basis for interpreting the results (direct methods described include leak testing,
or indirect indication, qualitative or some infrared thermographic techniques,
quantitative and pertinent dependencies). airborne ultrasonic testing and certain
The objective of each method is to techniques of acoustic emission testing.
provide information about the following Other less easily classified methods are
material parameters: material identification, vibration analysis
1. discontinuities and separations (cracks, and strain gaging.
voids, inclusions, delaminations etc.); No one nondestructive testing method
2. structure or malstructure (crystalline is all-revealing. That is not to say that one
structure, grain size, segregation, method or technique of a method is
misalignment etc.); rarely adequate for a specific object or
3. dimensions and metrology (thickness, component. However, in most cases it
diameter, gap size, discontinuity size takes a series of test methods to do a
etc.); complete nondestructive test of an object
4. physical and mechanical properties or component. For example, if surface
(reflectivity, conductivity, elastic cracks must be detected and eliminated
modulus, sonic velocity etc.); and the object or component is made of
5. composition and chemical analysis ferromagnetic material, then magnetic
(alloy identification, impurities, particle testing would be the obvious
elemental distributions etc.); choice. If that same material is aluminum
6. stress and dynamic response (residual or titanium, then the choice would be
stress, crack growth, wear, vibration liquid penetrant or electromagnetic
etc.); and testing. However, for either of these
7. signature analysis (image content, situations, if internal discontinuities were
frequency spectrum, field to be detected, then ultrasonics or
configuration etc.). radiography would be the selection. The
exact technique in either case would
Terms used in this block are further depend on the thickness and nature of
defined in Table 2 with respect to specific the material and the type or types of
objectives and specific attributes to be discontinuities that must be detected.
measured, detected and defined.
The limitations of a method include
conditions required by that method: Value of Nondestructive Testing
conditions to be met for method The contribution of nondestructive
application (access, physical contact, testing to profits has been acknowledged
preparation etc.) and requirements to in the medical field and computer and
adapt the probe or probe medium to the aerospace industries. However, in
object examined. Other factors limit the industries such as heavy metals, though
detection and/or characterization of nondestructive testing may be grudgingly
discontinuities, properties and other promoted, its contribution to profits may
attributes and limit interpretation of not be obvious to management.
signals and/or images generated. Nondestructive testing is sometimes
thought of only as a cost item. One
Classification Relative to Test possible reason is industry downsizing.
When a company cuts costs, two
Object vulnerable areas are quality and safety.
Nondestructive testing methods may be When bidding contract work, companies
classified according to how they detect add profit margin to all cost items,
indications relative to the surface of a test including nondestructive testing, so a
object. Surface methods include liquid profit should be made on the
penetrant testing, visual testing, grid and nondestructive testing. However, when
moir testing, holography and production is going poorly and it is
shearography. Surface/near-surface anticipated that a job might lose money,
methods include tap, potential drop, it seems like the first corner that
magnetic particle and electromagnetic production personnel will try to cut is
testing. When surface or nondestructive testing. This is
surface/near-surface methods are applied accomplished by subtle pressure on
during intermediate manufacturing nondestructive testing technicians to
processes, they provide preliminary accept a product that does not quite meet
assurance that volumetric methods a code or standard requirement. The
performed on the completed object or attitude toward nondestructive testing is
component will reveal few rejectable

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 5

gradually improving as management nondestructive testing at the end of a
comes to appreciate its value. manufacturing process. This approach will
Nondestructive testing should be used ultimately increase production costs.
as a control mechanism to ensure that When used properly, nondestructive
manufacturing processes are within design testing saves money for the manufacturer.
performance requirements. It should Rather than costing the manufacturer
never be used in an attempt to obtain money, nondestructive testing should add
quality in a product by using profits to the manufacturing process.

TABLE 2. Objectives of nondestructive testing methods.

Objectives Attributes Measured or Detected

Discontinuites and separations

Surface anomalies roughness; scratches; gouges; crazing; pitting; inclusions and imbedded foreign material
Surface connected anomalies cracks; porosity; pinholes; laps; seams; folds; inclusions
Internal anomalies cracks; separations; hot tears; cold shuts; shrinkage; voids; lack of fusion; pores; cavities;
delaminations; disbonds; poor bonds; inclusions; segregations
Microstructure molecular structure; crystalline structure and/or strain; lattice structure; strain; dislocation; vacancy;
Matrix structure grain structure, size, orientation and phase; sinter and porosity; impregnation; filler and/or
reinforcement distribution; anisotropy; heterogeneity; segregation
Small structural anomalies leaks (lack of seal or through-holes); poor fit; poor contact; loose parts; loose particles; foreign objects
Gross structural anomalies assembly errors; misalignment; poor spacing or ordering; deformation; malformation; missing parts
Dimensions and metrology
Displacement; position linear measurement; separation; gap size; discontinuity size, depth, location and orientation
Dimensional variations unevenness; nonuniformity; eccentricity; shape and contour; size and mass variations
Thickness; density film, coating, layer, plating, wall and sheet thickness; density or thickness variations
Physical and mechanical properties
Electrical properties resistivity; conductivity; dielectric constant and dissipation factor
Magnetic properties polarization; permeability; ferromagnetism; cohesive force
Thermal properties conductivity; thermal time constant and thermoelectric potential
Mechanical properties compressive, shear and tensile strength (and moduli); Poissons ratio; sonic velocity; hardness; temper and
Surface properties color; reflectivity; refraction index; emissivity
Chemical composition and analysis
Elemental analysis detection; identification, distribution and/or profile
Impurity concentrations contamination; depletion; doping and diffusants
Metallurgical content variation; alloy identification, verification and sorting
Physiochemical state moisture content; degree of cure; ion concentrations and corrosion; reaction products
Stress and dynamic response
Stress; strain; fatigue heat treatment, annealing and cold work effects; residual stress and strain; fatigue damage and life (residual)
Mechanical damage wear; spalling; erosion; friction effects
Chemical damage corrosion; stress corrosion; phase transformation
Other damage radiation damage and high frequency voltage breakdown
Dynamic performance crack initiation and propagation; plastic deformation; creep; excessive motion; vibration; damping; timing of
events; any anomalous behavior
Signature analysis
Electromagnetic field potential; strength; field distribution and pattern
Thermal field isotherms; heat contours; temperatures; heat flow; temperature distribution; heat leaks; hot spots
Acoustic signature noise; vibration characteristics; frequency amplitude; harmonic spectrum and/or analysis; sonic and/or
ultrasonic emissions
Radioactive signature distribution and diffusion of isotopes and tracers
Signal or image analysis image enhancement and quantization; pattern recognition; densitometry; signal classification, separation
and correlation; discontinuity identification, definition (size and shape) and distribution analysis;
discontinuity mapping and display

6 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 2. Management of Liquid Penetrant

indications and provides a contrasting

Synopsis of Liquid white background for visible (red) dye
liquid penetrant indications.
Penetrant Testing 5. Visually examine surfaces for liquid
Liquid penetrant testing can be defined as penetrant indications; interpret and
a physical and chemical nondestructive evaluate the indications.
testing procedure designed to detect and 6. Postclean the part to remove process
expose surface connected discontinuities residues if they will be detrimental to
in nonporous engineering materials. The subsequent operations or the parts
method relies on the physical interaction intended function. (In some cases, a
between an appropriately formulated treatment to prevent corrosion may be
chemical liquid and the surface of a part. required.)
This interaction causes the liquid to enter Liquid penetrant testing is popular
surface cavities and later to emerge, because it is relatively easy to use and has
visually indicating the location and a wide range of applications. Because it
approximate size and shape of the surface uses physical and chemical properties
opening. The objective of liquid penetrant rather than electrical or thermal
testing is to provide visual evidence of phenomena, it can be used in the field,
cracks, porosity, laps, seams and other far from power sources. Test equipment
surface discontinuities rapidly and can be as simple as a small, inexpensive
economically with a high degree of kit of aerosol cans or as extensive as a
reliability. This objective is facilitated by large mechanized and automated
formulating the liquid to include dyes installation. However, in all cases, the
that are highly visible with either white or success of liquid penetrant testing
near ultraviolet radiation. With proper depends on cleanliness of test surfaces, on
technique, liquid penetrant testing will absence of contamination or surface
detect a wide variety of discontinuities conditions that can interfere with liquid
ranging in size from readily visible to penetrant entry into and subsequent
microscopic. emergence from surface openings of
The liquid penetrant process consists of discontinuities, and on care by
six basic steps. inspectors/operators to ensure proper
1. Preclean and dry the test surfaces of processing techniques and observation of
the object to be tested. Cleaning is a test indications. Previous manufacturing
critical part of the liquid penetrant processes also may inhibit detection of
process and is emphasized because of some types of discontinuities by liquid
its effect on the test results. penetrants. For example, many seams and
Contaminants, soils or moisture, laps are forged shut by the hot rolling or
either inside a discontinuity or on the piercing processes that create these
part surface at the discontinuity elongated discontinuities; in addition,
opening, can reduce or completely local welding of the metal or trapping of
destroy the effectiveness of the test. heat treat byproducts within the opening
Etching and pickling are used at this can inhibit or prevent entry of the liquid
stage to remove smeared surface metal. penetrant, making testing ineffective.
2. Apply liquid penetrant to the test Liquid penetrant testing is also used for
surfaces and permit it to dwell on the leak testing. The same basic fundamentals
part surface for a period of time to apply but the liquid penetrant removal
allow it to enter and fill any step may be omitted. The container is
discontinuities open to the surface. either filled with liquid penetrant or the
3. Remove excess liquid penetrant from liquid penetrant is applied to one side of
the test surfaces. Care must be the container wall. The developer is
exercised to prevent removal of liquid applied to the opposite side, which is
penetrant contained in discontinuities. visually examined after allowing time for
4. Apply a developer, which aids in the liquid penetrant to seep through any
drawing any trapped liquid penetrant leak points. This method may be used on
from discontinuities and spreading it thin parts where there is access to both
on the test surface for improved surfaces and where the discontinuity is
discontinuity detection. Developer expected to extend through the material.
enhances the brightness of fluorescent

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 7

It may be further enhanced by the the inspector can visually see the
application of a pressure differential. discontinuity. Other methods such as
ultrasonic testing and eddy current
testing have a signal output that has
to be compared to that of a reference
Reasons for Selecting standard.
Liquid Penetrant Testing
Some of the reasons for choosing liquid
penetrant testing are as follows. Disadvantages and
1. Liquid penetrant testing can quickly Limitations of Liquid
examine all the accessible surfaces of
objects. Complex shapes can be Penetrant Testing
immersed or sprayed with liquid 1. Liquid penetrant testing depends on
penetrant to provide complete surface the ability of liquid penetrant to enter
coverage. and fill discontinuities. Liquid
2. Liquid penetrant testing can detect penetrant testing will only reveal
very small surface discontinuities. It is discontinuities open to the surface.
one of the most sensitive 2. Surfaces of objects to be tested must
nondestructive testing methods for be clean and free of organic or
detecting surface discontinuities. inorganic contaminants that will
3. Liquid penetrant testing can be used prevent interaction of the penetrating
on a wide variety of materials: ferrous media with a surface. Organic surface
and nonferrous metals and alloys; coatings, such as paint, oil, grease or
fired ceramics and cermets; powdered resin, are in this category. Any coating
metal products; glass; and some types that covers or blocks the discontinuity
of organic materials. Restrictions on opening will prevent liquid penetrant
materials imposed by the nature of the entry. Even when the coating does not
liquid penetrant process are covered in cover the opening, material at the
the discussion of limitations, below. edge of the opening may affect entry
4. Liquid penetrant testing can be or exit of liquid penetrant and greatly
accomplished with relatively reduce reliability of the test. Coatings
inexpensive, nonsophisticated in the vicinity of a discontinuity will
equipment. If the area to be tested is also retain liquid penetrant, causing
small, the test can be accomplished background indications. Cleaning test
with portable equipment. surfaces is discussed in more detail
5. Liquid penetrant testing magnifies the below.
apparent size of discontinuities, 3. It is also essential that the inside
making the indications more visible. surface of discontinuities be free of
In addition, the discontinuity materials such as corrosion,
location, orientation and approximate combustion products or other
size and shape are indicated on the contaminants that would restrict entry
part, making interpretation and of liquid penetrant. Because it is
evaluation possible. impossible to check inside
6. Liquid penetrant testing is readily discontinuities, one must trust that
adapted to volume processing, processes selected to clean test surfaces
permitting 100 percent surface testing. will clean inside surfaces of
Small parts may be placed in baskets discontinuities also.
for batch processing. Specialized 4. Mechanical operations, such as shot
systems may be partially or fully peening, some types of plastic media
automated to process many parts per blasting (PMB), machining, honing,
hour. abrasive blasting, buffing, brushing,
7. The sensitivity of a liquid penetrant grinding or sanding will smear or peen
testing process may be adjusted the surface of metals. This mechanical
through appropriate selection of liquid working closes or reduces the surface
penetrant, removal technique and opening of existing discontinuities.
type of developer. This allows the Mechanical working (smearing or
liquid penetrant process to be adapted peening) also occurs during service
to characteristics (e.g., composition, when parts are in contact or rub
surface condition) of the part together. Liquid penetrant testing will
requiring testing and to be tailored to not reliably detect discontinuities
detect specified minimum allowable when it is performed after a
discontinuities. Thus, inconsequential mechanical operation or service use
discontinuities can be suppressed that smears or peens the surface.
whereas larger discontinuities of more Depending on the severity of the
concern are indicated. mechanical operation, chemical
8. Liquid penetrant testing is a direct removal (etching) of smeared metal
nondestructive testing method in that may restore test reliability.

8 Liquid Penetrant Testing

5. Unless special procedures are used, discontinuities) produced by other
liquid penetrant testing is impractical nondestructive test techniques. For
on certain materials, such as some instance, a forged steel bracket might
types of anodized aluminum surfaces, have such a sharp change of section
other protective coatings and certain that test processes such as magnetic
nonmetallic parts. Liquid penetrant particle tests would show nonrelevant
rapidly enters pores of the material indications in that area. Or a weld
and becomes trapped. This can result might be so located that a change in
in an overall background fluorescence thickness could mask the X-ray
or color that could mask any potential indication of a crack.
discontinuity indications. In addition, 3. When the size or shape of the surface
removal of the liquid penetrant may discontinuity is such that it can escape
not be possible after the test. detection by other techniques. An
6. Penetrants, emulsifiers and some types aluminum forging may have a forging
of developers have very good wetting lap, almost sealed shut, which is so
and detergent properties. They can act small that only liquid penetrant
as solvents for fats and oils. They also testing can show it. A tiny crack in the
can clean ferrous materials so radius of a turbine bucket is very
thoroughly that rust will begin almost difficult to find by any means other
immediately if corrosion inhibitor is than liquid penetrant testing.
not applied. If allowed to remain in 4. When parts are to be tested in
contact with human skin for extended locations where electric power is not
periods, they may cause irritation. available or is too expensive or too
inconvenient to use or where
electricity creates a safety hazard.
When the surface of parts must be
Reasons for Using Liquid checked in the field, perhaps in
remote areas, liquid penetrant systems
Penetrant Testing are especially advantageous.
Liquid penetrant testing is often the first However, if the test material is
nondestructive testing method ferromagnetic, magnetic tests may offer
management considers for testing of advantages over liquid penetrant tests in
industrial products (1) because it often detection of near-surface discontinuities
requires minimal capital expenditure for and surface discontinuities that do not
implementation and (2) because it can permit entry of a liquid penetrant. If tests
accommodate a variety of test object for internal and surface soundness are
materials, shapes and sizes, test locations required, then liquid penetrant testing
and environmental conditions. However, can be used in addition to other
the outcome of a liquid penetrant test is nondestructive test methods such as
largely dependent on the human operator. penetrating radiation, ultrasonic or eddy
Liquid penetrant testing is a labor current tests.
intensive method. Therefore, labor
constitutes a high recurring test cost. In
short, the quality of the test and the cost
of testing warrant considerable Choosing Which Liquid
management attention to the selection,
training, management and audit of liquid Penetrant Process
penetrant testing personnel. When the decision to use liquid penetrant
Liquid penetrant testing detects only testing has been made, which system
those discontinuities that are present on should be selected? There are varieties of
or are open to the surface of the part. penetrants, liquid penetrant removal
Therefore, if only surface discontinuities systems and developers; there are also
are of interest, liquid penetrant processes many ways to combine these different
may be appropriate in the following liquid penetrant system elements. The
situations. manager must consider the specific
1. When the test material is a application. For the great majority of
nonmagnetic metal (such as annealed parts, the conventional water washable or
austenitic stainless steel, titanium, postemulsifiable penetrants are suitable
aluminum, magnesium and copper and adequate. However, many factors
alloys) or a nonmetallic material (such must be considered when selecting the
as plastics or ceramics). Although optimum liquid penetrant system. For
magnetic particle testing is usually example, the preferred system should
thought of for magnetic materials, (1) indicate significant discontinuities
liquid penetrant testing could also be open to part surfaces; (2) not adversely
used. affect the material or the part in later
2. When the geometry of the part is such service, (3) be affordable and (4) not take
that the shape itself may hide or so much time that it unreasonably
obscure indications (of surface disrupts production schedules.

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 9

What Material Is in Test Parts? test sensitivity. Depending on the
quantity involved, it may be more
Most materials, both metallic and
economical to install a conventional
nonmetallic, can be satisfactorily tested by
liquid penetrant system for the majority
conventional fluorescent or visible dye
of parts and send the one item with
penetrants. But austenitic stainless steels,
stricter requirements to a commercial
nickel base alloys and titanium (at
nondestructive testing laboratory for
elevated temperatures) are subject to stress
processing. (In like manner, many
corrosion; for these metals, the liquid
companies have their own X-ray machine
penetrant materials should be low in
for normal applications but have a
sulfur and in halogens, especially
commercial nondestructive test laboratory
chlorine. For materials harmed by water, a
handle parts requiring very large X-ray
nonaqueous system is indicated. Some
nonmetallic materials are affected by oil
base liquid penetrants or emulsifiers; for
these test objects, a water base liquid How Many Parts Are to Be Tested
penetrant system should be selected. and How Often?
After having established the size and type
What Type of Service Is Expected of discontinuity that must be found,
for Test Parts? managers may find that there are several
liquid penetrant systems that would
Ordinary liquid penetrant systems are
probably be equally suitable. Therefore,
suitable for nearly all parts. But if the
the choice in this case, will usually be
service involves exposure to liquid oxygen
based on cost factors such as the capital
or gaseous oxygen or in nuclear
investment required, the materials used,
applications, special penetrants should be
the volume of parts to be processed, the
necessity for treating waste water or the
plant space needed for test operations.
What Size of Discontinuity Is
Significant in Test Parts? Where Is Test to Be Performed?
The optimum liquid penetrant process Management must ask, especially if there
indicates surface discontinuities that are only a small number of parts to be
could adversely affect the serviceability of tested, whether it would be cheaper to use
test parts while minimizing nonrelevant a commercial nondestructive testing
indications from such causes as surface laboratory. Are commercial facilities easily
roughness. To select this optimum system, accessible or would it cause an
engineering must decide which unacceptable delay to ship parts into and
discontinuities are important: what type, out of the plant? How much space is
size and location will really affect service. available in the plant for liquid penetrant
Prior history from similar parts is very processing and where is it located? When
helpful in making such decisions. If the is the part to be checked: in receiving
operation is new or lacking good service inspection, in process, just before final
records, management can draw on the assembly, as the finished product or at
experience of liquid penetrant system several of these areas? Are there some
suppliers or reported information on the items that must be checked on test stands
capabilities of liquid penetrant testing. or high in the air, or in the field away
For instance, if small shallow from other installations? For these,
discontinuities on the surface do not portable liquid penetrant kits may be the
affect the part, one might select a water best selection.
washable fluorescent liquid penetrant
process. But if shallow discontinuities are
of major concern, this is not the best What Handling of Parts Is
choice, because trapped liquid penetrant Involved?
can be washed out of shallow What is the range of size, shape and
discontinuities so the discontinuity weight of part to be checked by liquid
indications cannot be formed. Sometimes, penetrant? Are the parts large, heavy and
one part will present a special problem unwieldy or are they small lightweight
because both large and small items or a mixture of both? Are additional
discontinuities are of consequence; a handling facilities required?
special liquid penetrant may be the
solution in this case.
What Is Surface Condition of Test
What Facility Should Test Parts?
Occasional Critical Test Parts? If most parts are checked in the as-cast
condition, this will be a big factor in
In typical cases, the great majority of parts selecting the best liquid penetrant system.
to be checked may be much alike, with If some are rough as-cast or as-forged parts
only one critical item demanding utmost and others are highly machined, the

10 Liquid Penetrant Testing

liquid penetrant test procedure may have
to be modified to get equally good results
on both types of surfaces.

Checklist of Factors for

Choosing Liquid Penetrant
Testing Technique
Managers are urged to consider the
following important factors and to discuss
them with suppliers of liquid penetrant
test equipment and processing materials
before reaching a decision on the type of
liquid penetrant testing system to install
or use:
1. test object material (aluminum,
magnesium, copper alloys, austenitic
stainless steel, nickel alloys, titanium,
iron, steel or others);
2. number of test parts or test areas to be
tested (per hour, per shift, per day or
per week);
3. size of test object to be handled
(largest dimension under 20 mm,
100 mm, 500 mm, 1 m, 2 m, 5 m,
10 m etc.);
4. weight of test objects to be handled
(1 to 300 g, 300 g to 1 kg, 1 to 3 kg, 3
to 10 kg, 10 to 30 kg, 30 to 100 kg
5. location at which testing is required
(receiving department, in process
along production line, during
assembly, as final inspection, in field
during erection, in service or at
maintenance bases);
6. types of discontinuities to be detected:
small, deep, large, shallow, clustered or
scattered; porosity, cracks, seams, laps,
7. surface condition of parts to be tested
(as-cast, as-forged, machined, ground,
lapped, polished, plated, painted,
corroded, oily, engine varnish, eroded,
scratched, scaled);
8. conditions to which parts will be
subjected after testing (medical,
nuclear, liquid or gaseous oxygen
systems; welding, plating or finishing
operation; high temperature,
aerospace, industrial or transportation
uses; inaccessible locations; consumer
products; etc.).

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 11

PART 3. Personnel Selection and Qualification
for Liquid Penetrant Testing4

Liquid Penetrant Testing

Qualification of Liquid Dependence on Management
Penetrant Testing Interest
Capabilities Inspectors with the proper temperament,
discipline, vigilance and integrity must be
Reliable liquid penetrant testing in selected and sustained by management to
industry requires (1) qualification of the ensure consistent and reliable
test method for revealing critical performance in the testing environment.
conditions in test parts to be evaluated; The effectiveness of liquid penetrant
(2) qualification of the test personnel for testing depends on management policy,
the method and performance level personnel selection and motivation and
required; and (3) management of test direct interest and involvement.
operations to ensure consistent However, liquid penetrant testing is
performance. also process dependent. Proper selection
Productivity in liquid penetrant testing and control of liquid penetrant process
requires consistent and reliable test variables are mandatory to qualify a liquid
performance at minimum cost. penetrant testing process to reveal critical
conditions in the part to be tested and to
Skill and Integrity of Liquid establish inspector confidence that the
Penetrant Testing Personnel task objectives of detection of critical
discontinuities are attainable. (Variables in
The success of a liquid penetrant test the liquid penetrant process are described
depends primarily on the personnel in detail elsewhere in this volume.)
performing the varying processing steps
and on their interpretation of the cause
and criticality of indications produced by
the test process. Qualification, skill and Requirements for Liquid
excellence in performance are important
to reliable liquid penetrant testing. Penetrant Testing
Liquid penetrant testing involves Personnel
skillful and judicious processing to Liquid penetrant testing requires that test
produce visible evidence of the soundness personnel be (1) physically and mentally
of a part. Vigilant observation and qualified to perform the required
decision making based on this visual processing steps; (2) skilled and
evidence is used to ascertain acceptance of experienced in performing the actual
test parts for service. Thus, liquid processing steps; (3) alert to consistent
penetrant testing is people dependent. In processing and resultant indications;
most cases, the skill and integrity of the (4) motivated to perform with vigilance at
liquid penetrant inspector must be equal the required detection and reliability
to or greater than that of the operator level; and (5) capable of consistent,
who produced the part. Unlike the independent and unbiased decisions
production of the part, there is usually no based on interpretation of resultant liquid
tangible evidence (no permanent record) penetrant indications.
of the quality of testing completed. The
reliability of and confidence in the test
(and ultimately in the part) depend on Qualification of Personnel for
the test operator. The test operator is a Liquid Penetrant Testing
professional and must be selected and Personnel qualification depends on
treated as one. Management inattention requirements of the test to be performed,
to human factors in liquid penetrant the individual capabilities of the inspector
testing will waste production resources and the management philosophy and skill
and may compromise the reliability of the applied. Qualification for one liquid
hardware submitted for testing. penetrant testing operation may not be
reasonable or valid for a second operation.
Personnel qualification cannot be
separated from the operating facility.
Thus, the nondestructive test method and

12 Liquid Penetrant Testing

management factors must be considered operation. In general, the inspector
for each application. should able to perform the test with little
The apparent simplicity of liquid physical discomfort and minimal fatigue
penetrant testing is deceptive. Very slight during the test.
process variations during the performance
of a test can invalidate the test by
counteracting the formation of
indications. It is essential that personnel Ensuring Good Vision of
performing liquid penetrant testing be Liquid Penetrant
trained and experienced in the liquid
penetrant process. All individuals who Inspectors
apply liquid penetrant materials or Liquid penetrant testing requires visual
examine components for penetrant examination of part surfaces under
indications should be qualified. conditions unique to the test process. The
Qualification requires classroom and conditions under which the human eye is
practical training, passing marks on used play a large role in determining the
examinations and experience. Typical behavior of the eye and must always be
qualification requirements are contained taken into account. No single test or set of
in ANSI/ASNT CP-189, Standard for tests has been devised to screen operators
Qualification and Certification of for all conditions and characteristics
Nondestructive Testing Personnel;5 in EN important to liquid penetrant testing.
473, Qualification and Certification of NDT Factors that have been identified as
Personnel General Principles;6 in ISO influencing the visual capabilities of
9712, Nondestructive Testing liquid penetrant inspectors include vision
Qualification and Certification of Personnel;7 acuity, vernier acuity, color vision, motion
and in AIA/NAS 410, NAS Certification & detection, distance perception and dark
Qualification of Nondestructive Test adaptation. The characteristic of the eye
Personnel.8 Another widely used document that is probably of greatest interest to the
intended as a guideline for employers to optical engineer is its ability to recognize
establish their own written practice for small, fine details. Vision acuity is defined
the qualification and certification of their and measured in terms of the angular size
nondestructive testing personnel is ASNT of the smallest character that can be
Recommended Practice No. SNT-TC-1A.9 In recognized.
the 1990s, the American Society for Filtered mercury arc ultraviolet sources
Nondestructive Testing introduced the emit a substantial amount of 405 nm
ASNT Central Certification Program.10 (violet) radiation only dimly seen by the
human eye. The plastic lens implants that
result from cataract surgery are
transparent at 405 nm. An inspector with
Physical Qualifications of such plastic lens implants is thus
the Liquid Penetrant inspecting against a bright violet light
background and can easily overlook tiny
Inspector fluorescent indications. Goggles that filter
A liquid penetrant inspector must be ultraviolet radiation would be appropriate.
physically qualified to perform liquid
penetrant testing reliably. The inspectors Vision Acuity Examinations
capability depends on the inspectors
health, physical strength and dexterity, Various eye test methods have been
good vision and consistency in devised and are used routinely in industry
performance. to measure vision acuity. The vision
acuity of the liquid penetrant operator
must be sufficient to detect and evaluate
Motor Ability and Dexterity of the the indications produced by the test
Liquid Penetrant Inspector process. To confirm natural or corrected
The liquid penetrant inspectors vision, eyes should be examined initially
coordination must be sufficient to enable and periodically to ensure continuing
performance of precise, time dependent performance. Specifications and industrial
execution of all processing steps. Liquid standards set requirements for vision
penetrant inspectors must have the acuity and the frequency of its
physical capabilities necessary for timely reverification for liquid penetrant testing
application of fluids to test objects or for personnel.
timely movement of test parts through
various processing fluid exposures. Ensuring Adequate Color Vision
Inspectors must also be able to visually
test all critical areas of the test objects for The inspector must perceive color
evidence of anomalies. Physical strength, brightness and contrast to perform liquid
motor ability and dexterity requirements penetrant testing with visible dye (color
vary with the hardware to be tested and contrast) penetrants. One of the
with the nature of the production challenging unsolved problems of vision

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 13

is determination of the response of the After a short time, the eyes adjust or adapt
human eye to colors that differ in hue to the low light level and objects in the
and saturation as well as brightness. dark room become visible. The time
Tests of inspectors for color blindness required for dark adaptation before visual
are required by some liquid penetrant examination for indications can be
specifications, with varying criteria for performed varies with the individual and
acceptance. Although such tests provide depends on the overall health and age of
an indication of operator capability for the individual operator. A dark adaptation
performing liquid penetrant testing, they time of 1 min is usually sufficient for
do not definitively measure operator fluorescent liquid penetrant testing.
capability. If color vision tests indicate a (Complete dark adaptation may take as
color deficiency, the operator should be long as 20 min.)
tested on his ability to distinguish actual Suitable red lens eyeglasses may reduce
liquid penetrant indications. Color the required time for dark adaption but
blindness is usually inherited. Most forms should not be worn during inspection.
of inherited color blindness can occur
without being associated with other kinds Disuse of Photosensitive Eye
of visual anomalies. Color blindness is
usually found in both eyes but is Glasses
occasionally confined to one eye. There Photosensitive eyeglasses darken in the
are also acquired types of color blindness presence of ultraviolet radiation. Lens
that may affect performance. The type darkening is proportional to the amount
and severity of color blindness will of incident radiation. Although this type
determine the capability of an inspector of lens has advantages in sunlight
for liquid penetrant testing. In some cases, conditions, such glasses can decrease the
the type and severity of color blindness ability of an operator to perform
will permit the inspector to perform fluorescent liquid penetrant testing. Use
fluorescent liquid penetrant testing (color of photosensitive eyeglass lenses by liquid
contrast discrimination not required) even penetrant operators is not permitted. On
though the inspector is incapable of the other hand, suitable red eyeglasses
performing testing with color contrast may aid dark adaptation. Eyeglass frames
visible dye penetrants. that fluoresce and cause an unnecessary
background during fluorescent liquid
Ensuring Adequate Brightness penetrant testing should not be used.
Magnification in Evaluation of
Brightness discrimination is necessary for
fluorescent liquid penetrant inspectors. Small Liquid Penetrant Indications
The sensitivity of fluorescent liquid Testing using optical magnification can
penetrant is usually measured in terms of assist vision acuity of liquid penetrant
the brightness of the indications it inspectors, particularly when small
produces. Although color blindness is the indications are involved. A 10
usual cause for variation in discrimination magnifying glass or 10 magnifier on a
of brightness or contrast in white light, supporting stand should be included in
other factors may contribute. Inherited the standard equipment available to
anomalies, eye disease and external liquid penetrant inspectors. In this
factors such as photosensitive eyeglasses connection, the value of a broad field
may affect brightness discrimination. This microscope for critical viewing cannot be
factor is evaluated by observance of actual overemphasized. The microscope is an
liquid penetrant indications. indispensable tool for the analysis of
microindications (with 20 to 100
Ensuring Adequate Dark enlargements) as well as for determining
the extent and nature of macroindications
Adaptation (with 5 to 20 enlargements).
The lowest level of brightness that can be
seen or detected is determined by the
light level to which the eye has become
accustomed. When the illumination level Mental and Skill
is reduced, the pupil of the eye expands, Qualifications Required of
admitting more light. The retina of the
eye becomes more sensitive by switching the Liquid Penetrant
from cone vision to rod vision and also by Inspector
an electrochemical mechanism involving Liquid penetrant testing requires skillful,
rhodopsin, the visual purple pigment. repetitive performance of multiple
This process is called dark adaptation. processing steps and the interpretation of
Everyone has had the experience of not the resultant visual indications. To qualify
being able to see a thing on passing from as a liquid penetrant inspector, the
a brightly lighted room into a dark one. operator must not only understand and

14 Liquid Penetrant Testing

be familiar with test principles and production techniques, indications of a
execution steps but also with factors that relevant nature and specification
may influence the success and/or results interpretation comprise the elements of
of the liquid penetrant testing process. the training process for liquid penetrant
Liquid penetrant testing principles and inspectors. Skill in execution of liquid
practices are discussed in detail penetrant testing must then be developed
throughout this volume. The inspector by practice. Ideally, practice would
should be able to answer written and include experimental cross sectioning of
verbal questions concerning processing tested parts to determine the nature of
principles and to demonstrate a thorough discontinuities whose indications were
knowledge of the subject. Demonstrated observed and whose indications were
knowledge should include interpretation missed. This process of metallurgical
of causes for failure of the liquid evaluation is too costly in most industrial
penetrant process to reveal material operations, and practical skill must be
anomalies. This knowledge should cover gained by working with an experienced,
test procedures used and the production knowledgeable and skilled inspector.
history of the articles to be tested. Practice should develop skill in executing
the liquid penetrant testing process, skill
in performing the process and confidence
in the outcome of the process.
Ensuring Inspector After knowledge of the liquid penetrant
Knowledge of Types and process has been demonstrated by verbal
and written examination and after skill in
Locations of Indications the methods has been developed by
Sought practice, the inspector should be able to
Liquid penetrant testing reveals a variety demonstrate ability in liquid penetrant
of material surface conditions. Knowledge tests of typical production hardware
of the source and kinds of material containing known and documented
anomalies to be revealed by the liquid discontinuities. Demonstrations should be
penetrant process is required to use liquid repeated periodically to ascertain a
penetrant process principles effectively. In measure of performance and confidence
short, the inspector must know where to in the test. Skill and technique must be
look for indications, how to interpret the developed for each liquid penetrant
indications and how to judge system for each part type. Skill in testing
acceptability of test objects for use in of one part type, e.g., forgings, cannot be
service. The liquid penetrant inspector assumed in testing of a second part type,
must be able to recognize relevant e.g., weldments. Skill and technique for
indications and to distinguish relevant varying situations are developed by
indications from nonrelevant (noise) experience and no substitute for
indications. The inspector must then experience is known.
evaluate relevant indications with respect
to the requirements of the product being Attaining Productivity by Judicious
tested. This skill is gained by observation Application of Tools Available
and experience in liquid penetrant
testing. Liquid penetrant testing must detect
The liquid penetrant inspector must be discontinuities reliably and economically
able not only to perform the required to be of value in the production process.
liquid penetrant process and locate and The liquid penetrant inspector must in
evaluate liquid penetrant indications but turn perform the test reliably in the
the inspector must also determine the shortest practical time to be productive.
frequency and severity of discontinuities Productivity is measured both by the
and analyze these with respect to number of tests completed and by the
specification requirements. At first glance reliability of detection of rejectable
this task appears to be straightforward. For discontinuities, without rejection of
inspectors who work for a producer who acceptable test objects.
checks similar parts each day to company Test process output may be increased
specifications, this may be true. However, by the addition of tools, jigs, materials
the situation is quite different for and parts sequencing in the same manner
inspectors working for commercial as any other production process step.
laboratories. Interpretation and grading of Learning curves and shop efficiency
liquid penetrant test indications must be factors familiar to those dealing with
done in accordance with requirements of other shop operations are applicable to
the particular part involved and may liquid penetrant testing. However, check
involve understanding and interpretation and balance measurements with respect to
of both written and verbal instructions. operator performance are not as simple
Acquiring written and verbally and available as are those for other
demonstrated knowledge of liquid processes. No increase in productivity is
penetrant testing principles, part gained unless the reliability and

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 15

3PT01 (1-32) 8/13/99 12:30 PM Page 16

FIGURE 1. Aluminum alloy flat plate by crack length: (a) as machined; (b) after etch; (c) after

Probability of Detection (percent) 90









0 1.3 2.5 3.8 5.1 6.4 7.6 8.9 10.2 11.4 12.7 14.0 15.2 16.5 17.8 19.1
0 (0.05) (0.10) (0.15) (0.20) (0.25) (0.30) (0.35) (0.40) (0.45) (0.50) (0.55) (0.60) (0.65) (0.70) (0.75)
Actual Crack Length, mm (in.)

Probability of Detection (percent)









0 1.3 2.5 3.8 5.1 6.4 7.6 8.9 10.2 11.4 12.7 14.0 15.2 16.5 17.8 19.1
0 (0.05) (0.10) (0.15) (0.20) (0.25) (0.30) (0.35) (0.40) (0.45) (0.50) (0.55) (0.60) (0.65) (0.70) (0.75)
Actual Crack Length, mm (in.)

Probability of Detection (percent)









0 1.3 2.5 3.8 5.1 6.4 7.6 8.9 10.2 11.4 12.7 14.0 15.2 16.5 17.8 19.1
0 (0.05) (0.10) (0.15) (0.20) (0.25) (0.30) (0.35) (0.40) (0.45) (0.50) (0.55) (0.60) (0.65) (0.70) (0.75)
Actual Crack Length, mm (in.)
= predicted probability of detection
X = hit data
Copyright 1999, D&W Enterprises, Littleton, CO.

16 Liquid Penetrant Testing

3PT01 (1-32) 8/13/99 12:31 PM Page 17

FIGURE 2. Aluminum alloy flat plate by crack depth: (a) as machined; (b) after etch; (c) after


Probability of Detection (percent)









0 1.3 2.5 3.8 5.1
0 (0.05) (0.10) (0.15) (0.20)
Actual Crack Depth, mm (in.)

Probability of Detection (percent)









0 1.3 2.5 3.8 5.1
0 (0.05) (0.10) (0.15) (0.20)
Actual Crack Depth, mm (in.)

Probability of Detection (percent)









0 1.3 2.5 3.8 5.1
0 (0.05) (0.10) (0.15) (0.20)
Actual Crack Depth, mm (in.)
= predicted probability of detection
X = hit data
Copyright 1999, D&W Enterprises, Littleton, CO.

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 17

consistency of the testing process are Measuring Inspector Performance
maintained. in Terms of Throughput and
Before measuring an inspectors
Ensuring Reliability of Test performance, it is necessary to ensure that
Results rejectable discontinuities can be found by
the testing process. This task is a part of
When a test is performed, there are four the design qualification for a new
possible outcomes: (1) a discontinuity can production part. Reliable detection of
be found when a discontinuity is present; rejectable discontinuities should have
(2) a discontinuity can be missed even been demonstrated by actual test or by
when a discontinuity is present; (3) a similarity to parts for which testing has
discontinuity can be found when none is been demonstrated.
present; and (4) no discontinuity is found Because all discontinuities are not
when none is present. A reliable testing equally detectable, the type of
process and a reliable inspector should discontinuity to be detected must be the
find all discontinuities of concern with no basis for testing qualification. For
discontinuities missed (no errors as in example, machining tears may be easily
case 2, above) and no false callouts detected by a given liquid penetrant
(case 3, above). process whereas grinding cracks may be
To achieve this goal, the probability of completely missed by that specific
finding a discontinuity must be high and process. The liquid penetrant testing
the inspector must be both proficient in process must be qualified to the part
the testing process and motivated to produced.
perform a maximum efficiency. A reckless Because discontinuity size affects
inspector may accept parts that contain detection, the size of discontinuity to be
discontinuities, with the resultant detected must be the basis for test
consequences of possible inservice part qualification. Figures 1 and 2 and Table 3
failure. A conservative inspector may show actual demonstrated liquid
reject parts that contain actual penetrant detection reliability as a
discontinuities but the inspector also may function of fatigue crack size in
reject parts that do not contain aluminum alloy flat plate. A discontinuity
discontinuities, with the resultant size is shown at the inflection point of the
consequences of unnecessary scrap and curve. This process would be expected to
repair. Neither inspector is doing a good reliably detect discontinuities greater than
job. the threshold size. Acceptance criteria
should be based on discontinuities of this
size or larger.

TABLE 3. Probability of detection for fluorescent liquid penetrant testing of aluminum flat
plates (see Figs. 1 and 2). False calls were not documented.
Quantity Threshold for 90 Percent
of Cracks Probability of Detection
Data Set Condition Detected/Present mm (in.)

Crack Length
C1001C (Fig. 1a) as machined 233/311 7.95 mm (0.313 in.)
C1002C (Fig. 1b) after etch 260/311 2.69 mm (0.106 in.)
C1003C (Fig. 1c) after proof testing 280/306 1.50 mm (0.059 in.)
Crack Depth
C1001C (Fig. 2a) as machined 233/311 3.56 mm (0.140 in.)
C1002C (Fig. 2b) after etch 260/311 0.79 mm (0.031 in.)
C1003C (Fig. 2c) after proof testing 280/306 0.38 mm (0.015 in.)

18 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 4. History of Liquid Penetrant Testing11

Through their efforts, a number of found. There were no standards, no

creative people made significant penetration time, nothing about the
contributions to the technology of liquid quality of the materials or even what
penetrant testing, a major method of kinds of materials to use. People who used
nondestructive testing. The story should it could find gross discontinuities, but the
be especially interesting to readers results were not consistent. The
familiar with the green stuff, with its interesting thing was that, although the
features and problems, with its approach found and located
tremendous capabilities and its frustrating discontinuities, it had little to do with the
limitations. It is the story of problems and innovations that led to the useful and
how ingenious people solved them. practical techniques routinely used in the
fluorescent technique of liquid penetrant
testing. With the introduction of the
magnetic particle method in the 1930s,
Oil and Whiting the oil-and-whiting technique became
It is generally agreed that the origins of obsolete.4
the liquid penetrant testing method lie in
the railroad industry in a technique
known as the oil-and-whiting method.12
This approach was in use early in this Need for Nonferrous
century and possibly even before. It was a Surface Testing
craft that was used to test critical steel In the mid-1930s, the use of aluminum
components for discontinuities. and other nonmagnetic metals was
Basically, the oil-and-whiting increasing significantly. The need for a
technique worked as follows. The part to simple and effective nondestructive
be tested was cleaned and immersed in testing method for locating surface
dirty crankcase oil diluted in kerosene.12 discontinuities in these materials was
(The oil used in the large railroad engines obvious. Carl E. Betz, F.B. Doane and
was very heavy, on the order of 600 Taber DeForest were a few of the people
weight, and experience showed that dirty who were experimenting with everything
oil worked best.) The part was then and anything that might solve this
allowed to drain and was cleaned with a industrial need. Techniques using brittle
solvent. After this, it was covered with lacquer, electrolysis, anodizing, etching
whiting (powdered chalk).13 The and color contrast penetrants were all
entrapped oil would then bleed into the evaluated and generally discarded with
whiting (Fig. 3). It also has been reported the exception of the anodizing process.14
that alcohol based or water based chalk This was used by the military for detailing
suspension was used as the developer.4 cracks in critical aluminum airframe
The technique was widely used but members. A specification was generated to
never refined. Results were not consistent, define and control this process.15
and only gross discontinuities could be In the fall of 1941, Carl E. Betz (Fig. 4)
received a telephone call from a person
FIGURE 3. In the early 1930s, the oil-and-whiting method is who identified himself as Robert C.
used in a railroad shop on a locomotive coupler. Bleeding of Switzer (Fig. 5). Switzer said that he had
oil indicates crack. developed a new method for the detection
of surface cracks, and the claims had just
been allowed on the patent application.
He knew of Magnaflux and thought it
might be interested in some sort of
At that time, Betz was in charge of
Magnafluxs sales office in New York, NY.
Switzer had assumed that Magnaflux was
centered out of New York whereas it was
actually located in Chicago. This turned
out to be a fortunate mistake. Because of
Betzs previous work on the development
of nondestructive testing methods for

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 19

FIGURE 4. Carl E. Betz. FIGURE 6. James R. Alburger.

Joseph Switzer had a magic act that

FIGURE 5. Robert C. Switzer. consisted of an invisible presentation in
which the performers were all dressed in
black. When a particular event was to be
shown, it was painted white. The stage
was darkened, and white lights were used
so that only the objects that were painted
white were visible. Switzer had the idea of
using ultraviolet radiation and fluorescent
paint instead of white paint and white
lights.17 Ultimately Joseph Switzer and his
brother Robert set up a business called
Switzer Brothers Ultra-Violet Laboratories
and started to manufacture and sell
fluorescent equipment and chemicals in
August 1934.
The Switzer brothers abilities were
brought to the attention of Continental
Lithograph Corporation, Cleveland, Ohio.
Continental was a subsidiary of Warner
Brothers motion pictures and did all of
the printing for Warners advertising. In
1936 the brothers moved to Cleveland,
licensed Continental in all fields of
fluorescence and continued their
nonmagnetic materials, he was quick to development work.
realize the potential value of Switzers A very interesting use for fluorescence
claims. The phone call lasted several that had significant later implications for
hours and was soon followed by a visit to nondestructive testing was in law
Switzer by A.V. DeForest and his son enforcement. The Federal Bureau of
Taber.10 Investigation and the postal authorities
used some of Switzers materials and
Early Applications of Fluorescence equipment to track suspects. A superfine
pigment that had brilliant fluorescent
Fluorescent liquid penetrant is partially properties was often dusted on evidence
rooted in the theater. John Pop such as currency and was used as an
Shannon supplied liquid penetrant invisible branding mark. If the suspect
material to Flo Ziegfield who staged shows stole the evidence, the fine invisible
using fluorescent costumes and lighting. pigment was usually smeared all over the
James Alburger (Fig. 6), Shannons son-in- suspect, the suspects household and in
law, eventually branched out from many cases members of the suspects
theatrical and esoteric fluorescent family. Because the pigment was invisible
applications into liquid penetrant.16 under normal lighting, the suspect was
In another part of the country teenager not aware that he was being tracked.

20 Liquid Penetrant Testing

When the law enforcement people closed patents on discontinuity detection. He
in and used ultraviolet radiation in a was impressed with the scope of coverage
darkened area, the results were and decided to investigate the company
devastating and confessions usually further. He read everything he could
occurred on the spot. about Magnaflux while prosecuting his
patent application.
The patent office finally notified
Switzer in the summer of 1941 that his
Invention of Fluorescent claims were allowed and that the patent
Liquid Penetrant would be issued. Switzer immediately
called Carl Betz at Magnafluxs New York
One of the important observations made office.
was that it was difficult to remove the
fluorescent material. It was difficult
enough to remove the material even Successful Demonstration of
when you were aware of it, so the chances Liquid Penetrant Testing
of accidental removal were practically The two people that came to Switzers
zero. It was noted that you could scrub development were also very remarkable
and scrub, and the stuff would stay in the individuals (Fig. 7). A.V. DeForest had
cracks and pores of your hands. This already made his name as the chief
observation was the key to the later use of inventor of the magnetic particle
fluorescent materials for nondestructive process.19 Taber DeForests many
It turned out that Robert Switzer,
Josephs brother, had more interest
finding uses for fluorescent materials. In FIGURE 7. The DeForest brothers: (a) A.V.
late 1937, Switzer became aware of a DeForest; (b) Taber DeForest.
serious problem that one of the local (a)
casting companies was having with Ford
Motor Company. It seemed that a very
large batch of aluminum castings was
found to contain a significant number of
discontinuities, specifically surface cracks.
The cracks did not become visible until
the parts were machined.
Ford Motor was in the process of
attempting to collect damages for all
machining expenses as well as the cost of
the parts. Switzer remembered the
experience with the superfine fluorescent
pigment remaining in the cracks and
pores of his hands. He thought he might
be able to use that property of the fine
material to detail the surface cracks. He
had a friend who worked with the
company and was able to obtain samples
of the castings for his experiments.
Like most good ideas, it did not work at
first. His initial approach was to use the (b)
pigment that was used in the crime
detection effort. But surface cracks in
castings were not the same as the cracks in
ones hands. Switzer persisted and
developed the idea of using liquids to carry
the fluorescent material into the cracks.
He was not satisfied with his results
and continued his developmental efforts.
The work was done mostly in his home
because both Continental and his brother
Joseph Switzer were not interested in this
activity. On August 17, 1938, Robert
Switzer applied for a patent on the
process.18 Robert asked Joseph for his
share of the patent filing fee, which
amounted to fifteen dollars. Joseph
refused to spend the money.
Switzer did his own patent work and,
while performing the search, ran across a
number of Magnaflux Corporation

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 21

significant contributions to the Liquid Penetrant Testing Process
nondestructive testing field were yet to
The process used that day was very similar
come. However, he had been working on
in many ways to the process used today.
a visible dye liquid penetrant for several
The part was cleaned in a strong
years with no measurable success.12
chlorinated solvent, probably carbon
Switzer met with his guests at the
tetrachloride. The part was then immersed
Continental Lithograph laboratories and
in the liquid penetrant solution for more
spent most of the day trying to
than 10 min. Sometimes the part was
demonstrate his process. Things did not
heated. After penetration, it was rinsed
go well. His samples were castings that he
with a strong solvent and was wiped dry
hoped contained surface discontinuities.
until clean while being observed under
In his earlier work, after liquid penetrant
ultraviolet radiation. It was then subjected
testing revealed a discontinuity, Switzer
to repeated hammer blows. The purpose
had to section and thereby destroy the
of the last operation was to drive the
test sample. So he would start the test
entrapped material out of the surface
without knowing whether the sample
cracks into the openings on the surface.
contained discontinuities. As mentioned
Then the part was examined for
above, he was never completely satisfied
discontinuities under ultraviolet radiation.
with his results.
The number of variables was significant
At the end of many frustrating hours,
and results were not very repeatable.
A.V. DeForest quietly suggested that
Magnafluxs experience with magnetic
Robert Switzer try a sample that DeForest
particle testing had shown that
pulled from an old leather satchel. This
repeatability was a key to acceptance. It
was a sample that DeForest relied on for
was decided to continue the development
comparison between various experimental
effort to make the processing techniques
magnetic particle materials. He knew
more suitable to the production
where each discontinuity was located.
Switzer processed the part. As the
Magnaflux Corporation and the Switzer
indications became visible, all three were
Brothers then entered into a license
astounded by the results. Discontinuities
agreement through Continental
were displayed that DeForest had not seen
Lithograph.12 A joint development effort
before (Fig. 8). They looked back at the
was initiated. Many formulations were
castings and quickly noted that the
tried and many different techniques were
surfaces of these parts had been peened,
evaluated. The astounding results formed
so any discontinuities present were
the basis for developments years later. The
probably closed, making the samples very
Magnaflux effort was led by Greer Ellis
unsuitable for liquid penetrant testing.
(Fig. 9) and Taber DeForest. The
The effort that Switzer had spent
development work at Switzer Brothers was
improving the process from 1937 to 1941
done by Joseph Switzer (Fig. 10), who was
had paid off: the method was very
now very interested, and by R.A. Ward.12
sensitive to fine discontinuities.

FIGURE 8. Photograph of first penetrant test FIGURE 9. Greer Ellis.


22 Liquid Penetrant Testing

FIGURE 10. Joseph Switzer (left) and Robert Switzer. FIGURE 11. The first liquid penetrant testing unit, model ZA1,
delivered on October 23, 1942.

Water Washable Liquid

Penetrant essentially described the hydrophilic
The most significant development to remover process. This was not introduced
come from this joint effort was the water commercially until 1963.
washable liquid penetrant. A line of
equipment for handling and processing
parts was also developed. In June 1942,
water washable materials and equipment Developers
were offered for sale (Fig. 11). A flood of
The introduction of developers shortly
inquiries resulted and a number of
followed.21 This was the result of efforts of
companies started using the process. The
Harry Kuhrt and Taber DeForest and was
first equipment sale occurred in October
heavily influenced by whiting in the
1942 to Aluminum Industries, Cincinnati,
oil-and-whiting process. The first
Ohio, for the testing of aluminum
commercial products were dry, yellowish
materials consisting mainly of talc. The
Some of the early applications were for
wet developer process did not appear until
the testing of aluminum propeller blades
late in 1944.11
and engine oil cases. Pistons, valves, spark
By 1942, a fluorescent water washable
plug housings and critical airframe
liquid penetrant and a dry developer were
structures also were tested. The most
commercially available. Processing
significant early use of the process was in
equipment was available and many trials
the maintenance and overhaul of aircraft
in industrial plants had been completed.
engines. The method worked very well
The first sale had taken place.
and in a short time gained wide
A patent on the water washable process
was applied for in June 1942 and was Development of Dye
issued in July 1945 to R.A. Ward.20 It is
interesting to note that in column five of Liquid Penetrant
the patents text, Ward states that the During this period, a need arose for a less
emulsifier agent could be used in the complex technique of surface crack
wash water and need not be included in testing for nonferrous components. The
the testing agent. Thus postemulsification fluorescent liquid penetrant testing
was mentioned long before it became a process as it existed required holding
commercial reality. Also, in describing the tanks, a water supply, electricity and a
inclusion in the wash water, Ward had darkened area for viewing the indications.

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 23

A great deal of development work was located. The area was very bright in the
going on in fluorescent liquid penetrant California daylight. Smith Sparling tried
testing technology: sensitivity and various ways to use the fluorescent
reliability were significantly improved, but techniques, but to no avail. She
the techniques were becoming more remembered her experience with the
complex in the process. The water oil-and-whiting technique in her early
washable technique was relatively simple railroad days. She decided to try to
and reasonably fast, but something even improve the process.
simpler was needed. She stated in one conversation, All
A Northrop metallurgist named housewives know this about cleaning
Rebecca Smith (later Rebecca Smith porcelain sinks. Dirt will remain in the
Sparling) in the mid-1940s had developed cracks in the sink and will be highlighted
a process that satisfied these needs.4,12 against the white background of the
This was the dye liquid penetrant testing porcelain. Smith Sparling enlisted the
technique, which has become one of the help of a Northrop chemist by the name
most commonly used techniques for of Loy Sockman (Fig. 13),22 as well as a
surface discontinuity detection. young man by the name of Elliot Brady,
Smith Sparling (Fig. 12) graduated from and pursued the development of this idea.
Vanderbilt University Nashville,
Tennessee, in 1932 with a masters degree
in physical chemistry. During the next ten
years, she worked at a number of forging
companies and in 1941 was in southern FIGURE 13. Rebecca Smith Sparling and Loy
Wisconsin, working for Lakeside Malleable Sockman (1950).
Casting. At this location, she had her first
detailed introduction to the
oil-and-whiting technique. Lakeside was
involved in the manufacture of castings
for both the railroad and the automotive
industries. She became familiar with the

FIGURE 12. Rebecca Smith Sparling (1949).

Smith Sparling would suggest an

approach and the chemists would work
on it. She would then evaluate and
comment on their progress and they
would modify and innovate. This process
continued for a number of years and
resulted in the first practical dye liquid
penetrant.19 A patent was applied for by
Sockman in March 1949.23 Smith Sparling
was also involved in setting up a number
of standards that were eventually to
become industry references for the dye
In the mid-1940s, Smith Sparling was liquid penetrant testing technique.
working in the Turbodyne Engine This new technique filled an important
Division of Northrop Corporation. She market need that Northrop recognized.
was involved in the final testing of jet The technology and patents were sold to
engines and was concerned with certain Turco Products. Sockman left Northrop
crack formation occurring on turbine and founded the company Met-L-Chek in
blades during the test cycle. The engines the early 1950s; there he developed and
were located at the top of a gantry some sold a dye liquid penetrant. Magnaflux
3 m (10 ft) off the floor, close to the offered their version of dye liquid
ceiling where overhead windows were penetrant in 1952.19

24 Liquid Penetrant Testing

A few years later, an interesting point overwash problem of the water washable
developed with respect to the Sockman process. A great deal of effort had been
patent: a patent interference occurred expended in an attempt to solve this
between it and claims filed by Robert problem, but with little success.
Switzer. To understand this fully, the Parker realized that the overwash was
original claims filed by Switzer in August caused by the emulsifiers being mixed in
1938 must be remembered. In this patent the liquid penetrant. For certain types of
application, Switzer included claims for gross discontinuities, the wash water
visible as well as fluorescent penetrants. could penetrate the discontinuity and
The patent office required division of the emulsify the retained liquid penetrant,
fluorescent from the visible claims as one and the wash cycle would remove the
of the early office actions. The fluorescent fluorescence. Parker removed the
patent was issued in 1941 to Switzer, as emulsifier from the liquid penetrant and
stated earlier. applied it later as a separate, independent
Robert Switzer filed the visible claims operating step, so shallow, open cracks
in 1945 as a continuation of the earlier could be detected easily with no overwash
filing. The interference occurred after problem.
Sockmans patent was issued in 1954. To In addition to this, a significant new
complicate the issue further, a number of capability for increased sensitivity was
other similar patents for dye penetrants added to liquid penetrant testing: the
were issued in this period.24,25 After a emulsification time and wash time were
number of years, the patent office ruled in now mutually exclusive variables. Each
favor of the Switzer claims, allowing the variable could now be adjusted for the
early filing date and assigning a number optimum time independently of the
of the issued visible dye liquid penetrant other.
patents to Switzer.11,18,26 The first postemulsification products
were introduced in 1953. A patent was
Postemulsification in Fluorescent applied for by Taber DeForest and Parker
in July 1954 on the process.28 In 1955,
Liquid Penetrant Testing Parker developed two new emulsifiers and
The next significant improvement applied for a patent in 1956.29
occurred in 1952 with the development of Parker and DeForest also experimented
the postemulsification process.27 This with other ideas concerning the removal
development was precipitated by the fact of the fluorescent background. Instead of
that Rebecca Smith Sparling used visible washing it off, they thought of quenching
dye liquid penetrant to find cracks in its fluorescence.30 This was eventually
turbine buckets that fluorescent liquid done by large quantities of ultraviolet
penetrant had missed.16 Tabor DeForest radiation acting on the dyes instability to
and Donald Parker (Fig. 14), both of high doses of energy. This approach,
Magnaflux, set out to improve the called the fugitive dye technique, was
performance of fluorescent liquid patented by DeForest and Parker.
penetrant. Parker was concerned with the Although much time was spent trying to
make it practical, it was never used
FIGURE 14. Donald Parker (1955).

Cascading Dyes
The next significant development was of
cascading dyes, first accomplished by
James Alburger. This became another
Parker effort.27 This approach permitted
another quantum leap in sensitivity.
Parker discovered that sensitivity could be
improved dramatically by combining
several different dyes in the liquid
penetrant. What occurred in this mixture
was a cascading effect or a linking between
the dyes. One dye had its absorption peak
in the ultraviolet range whereas its main
emission peak was in the blue range. The
other dye had its main absorption in the
blue and its main emission in the yellow
or yellow-green range. The cascading effect
had a net efficiency greater than that of a
single dye. A patent was applied for by
Parker and Joseph Switzer, and the process
was incorporated into commercial
products in 1954.32

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 25

So, in 1961, twenty years after Switzer
Value and Price had the first successful demonstration of
fluorescent penetrants, both fluorescent
In the mid-1950s, an interesting event and visible dye penetrants were being
pointed out the relationship and used by a number of industries. Materials
communication between users and of great sensitivity were available.
product developers. After the Industry and government standards were
breakthrough in cascading dyes, Parker being established. Water washable and
decided to develop the ultimate liquid postemulsification processes were in use,
penetrant. This would not be a commercial and developers were in common use.
product; rather, it would represent what a
liquid penetrant could do. It would be a
laboratory material a standard that all
new products would be referenced Other Contributors
against. It contained such a high level of
A number of other people have
dye that the selling price would be
contributed to the development of liquid
prohibitive.20 Parker developed the liquid
penetrant testing technology during this
penetrant, and it was good. One day, he
period. Frank Catlin of Magnaflux worked
demonstrated it to personnel of a large
on both fluorescent and dye penetrants in
aircraft manufacturer and showed them
the early years.13 Ferdi Stern of Magnaflux
how it could find very minute cracks on
worked with Greer Ellis on the field trials
their turbine blades. The users comment
of the early penetrants. Orlando Molino
on Parkers material was that they
of Rockwell developed and patented the
couldnt afford not to use it. So it became
high resolution liquid penetrant testing
a product. In fact, with some small
process in the late 1950s. About the same
refinements, it still is in use today.
time major improvements in the
sensitivity of water washable liquid
penetrants were introduced by James
Military Standards Alburger, who was also the first to
commercially introduce hydrophilic
The first military specification for liquid emulsifier a little later. J. Thomas Schmidt
penetrant testing was AN-1-30a, issued on of Magnaflux developed and refined the
September 18, 1946.33 It covered both the quality control and test procedures for
process and the material. It was a very product uniformity in the 1960s. People
general specification and allowed a great like Al Robinson at General Electric,
deal of latitude. A detailed process Victor McBride at Pratt & Whitney, O.E.
specification, MIL-I-6866, was issued in Stutsman of Wright Field and William
1950.34 Hitt of Douglas critiqued materials and
A key milestone occurred when the refined the processes. Other people,
military material specification unnamed here, made contributions to
MIL-I-25135 was issued on August 6, liquid penetrant testing in this period.
1956.35 This last specification resulted As a result of the efforts of all of these
from a meeting attended by industry and pioneering people, there has been a
military experts in 1955.9 As a result of dramatic increase in the reliability of our
this meeting, the first specific military aircraft engines and airframes. The
standards for liquid penetrant testing contributions of these people have made
materials were established. Some possible also some of the very significant
important long term policies were advances in aircraft performance that
specified, such as the concept of families have occurred in this period. Application
of penetrants. This standard lasted for of liquid penetrant testing has followed
thirty years with only minor changes. the increased use of a variety of
nonferrous metals in critical applications
in the nuclear, automotive, space,
ordnance and electronic fields.
Quantitative Approaches The next twenty-five years were to see
Used the following developments:
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a great (1) development of hydrophilic remover,
deal of work was done quantitatively to (2) development of the high sensitivity
analyze the performance of penetrants. water washable products, (3) refinements
Many data were generated. Details such as of military standards, (4) introduction of
effect of liquid penetrant film thickness, automatic test techniques and
ultraviolet radiation absorption and (5) investigations of heat fade and
theoretical effects of developers were statistical techniques of measurement.
studied and applied to new liquid Because of its sensitivity and economy,
penetrant development. The industry liquid penetrant testing will remain one
moved toward a more scientific phase of of the most important nondestructive
development.36 testing methods in the twenty-first

26 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 5. Units of Measure for Nondestructive

through national standards organizations

Origin and Use of the SI and specialized information compiled by
technical organizations.36,37
In 1960 the General Conference on
Weights and Measures devised the
International System of Units. Le Systeme Multipliers
Internationale dUnites (SI) was designed so Very large or very small numbers with
that a single set of interrelated units are expressed by using the SI
measurement units could be used by all multipliers, prefixes of 103 intervals
branches of science, engineering and the (Table 7) in science and engineering. The
general public. Without SI, this multiplier becomes a property of the SI
Nondestructive Testing Handbook volume unit. For example, a millimeter (mm) is
could have contained a confusing mix of 0.001 meter (m). The volume unit cubic
Imperial units, obsolete centimeter (cm3) is (0.01)3 or 106 m3.
centimeter-gram-second (cgs) metric Unit submultiples such as the centimeter,
system version units and the units decimeter, dekameter (or decameter) and
preferred by certain localities or scientific hectometer are avoided in scientific and
specialties. technical uses of SI because of their
SI is the modern version of the metric variance from the 103 interval. However,
system and ends the division between dm3 and cm3 are in use specifically
metric units used by scientists and metric because they represent a 103 variance.
units used by engineers and the public.
Scientists have given up their units based
on centimeter and gram and engineers
made a fundamental change in TABLE 5. Derived SI units with special names.
abandoning the kilogram-force in favor of
the newton. Electrical engineers have Relation
retained their ampere, volt and ohm but to Other
Quantity Units Symbol SI Unitsa
changed all units related to magnetism.
The main effect of SI has been the
Frequency (periodic) hertz Hz 1s1
reduction of conversion factors between
Force newton N kgms2
units to one (1) in other words, to
eliminate them entirely. Pressure (stress) pascal Pa Nm2
Table 4 lists seven base units. Table 5 Energy joule J Nm
lists derived units with special names. Power watt W Js1
Table 6 gives examples of conversions to Electric charge coulomb C As
SI units. In SI, the unit of time is the Electric potentialb volt V WA1
second (s) but hour (h) is recognized for Capacitance farad F CV1
use with SI. Electric resistance ohm VA1
For more information, the reader is Conductance siemens S AV1
referred to the information available
Magnetic flux weber Wb Vs
Magnetic flux density tesla T Wbm2
Inductance henry H WbA1
Luminous flux lumen lm cdsr
TABLE 4. Base SI units.
Illuminance lux lx lmm2
Quantity Unit Symbol Plane angle radian rad 1
Length meter m Radioactivity becquerel Bq 1s1
Mass kilogram kg Radiation absorbed dose gray Gy Jkg1
Time second s Radiation dose equivalent sievert Sv Jkg1
Electric current ampere A Solid angle steradian sr 1
Temperaturea kelvin K Time hour h 3600 s
Amount of substance mole mol Volumec liter L dm3
Luminous intensity candela cd
a. Number one expresses dimensionless relationship.
a. Kelvin can be expressed in degrees celsius b. Electromotive force.
(C = K 273.15). c. The only prefixes that may be used with liter are milli (m) and micro ().

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 27

TABLE 6. Examples of conversions to SI units.
Quantity Measurement in Non-SI Unit Multiply by To Get Measurement in SI Unit

Area square inch (in.2) 645 square millimeter (mm2)

Distance angstrom () 0.1 nanometer (nm)
inch (in.) 25.4 millimeter (mm)
Energy British thermal unit (BTU) 1.055 kilojoule (kJ)
calorie (cal) 4.19 joule (J)
British thermal unit per hour (BTUh1) 0.293 watt (W)
Specific heat British thermal unit per pound 4.19 kilojoule per kilogram per kelvin (kJkg1K1)
per degree Fahrenheit (BTUlbm1F1)
Force (torque, couple) foot-pound (ft-lbf) 1.36 joule (J)
Force or pressure pound force per square inch (lbfin.2) 6.89 kilopascal (kPa)
Frequency (cycle) cycle per minute 1/60 hertz (Hz)
Illuminance footcandle (ftc) 10.76 lux (lx)
phot (ph) 10 000 lux (lx)
Luminance candela per square foot (cdft2) 10.76 candela per square meter (cdm2)
candela per square inch (cdin. ) 1 550 candela per square meter (cdm2)
footlambert 3.426 candela per square meter (cdm2)
lambert 3 183 (= 10 000/) candela per square meter (cdm2)
nit (nt) 1 candela per square meter (cdm2)
stilb (sb) 10 000 candela per square meter (cdm2)
Radioactivity curie (Ci) 37 gigabecquerel (GBq)
Ionizing radiation exposure roentgen (R) 0.258 millicoulomb per kilogram (mCkg1)
Mass pound (lbm) 0.454 kilogram (kg)
Temperature (difference) degree fahrenheit (F) 0.556 degree celsius (C)
Temperature (scale) degree fahrenheit (F) (F 32)/1.8 degree celsius (C)
(F 32)/1.8) + 273.15 kelvin (K)

should be observed. For example, the

meanings of the prefix m (milli) and the
TABLE 7. SI multipliers. prefix M (mega) differ by nine orders of
Prefix Symbol Multiplier magnitude.

yotta Y 1024
zetta Z 1021
exa E 1018 SI Units to Express
peta P 1015 Particular Quantities in
tera T 1012 Nondestructive Testing
giga G 109
mega M 106
kilo k 103 Pressure
hectoa h 102 The pascal (Pa), equal to one newton per
deka (or deca)a da 10 square meter (1 Nm2), is used to express
decia d 101 pressure, stress etc. It is used in place of
centia c 102 units of pound force per square inch
milli m 103 (lbfin.2), atmosphere, millimeter of
micro 106 mercury (mm Hg), torr, bar, inch of
mercury (in. Hg), inch of water (H2O) and
nano n 109
other units. The text must indicate
pico p 1012
whether gage, absolute or differential
femto f 1015 pressure is meant.
atto a 1018
zepto z 1021
yocto y 1024
The cubic meter (m3) is the only volume
a. Avoid these prefixes (except in dm3 and cm3) for
science and engineering.
measurement unit in SI. It takes the place
of cubic foot, cubic inch, gallon, pint,
barrel and more. In SI, the liter (L) is also
Note that 1 cm3 is not equal to 0.01 m3. approved for use. The liter is a special
Also, in equations, submultiples such as name for cubic decimeter (1 L = 1 dm3 =
centimeter (cm) or decimeter (dm) should 103 m3). Only the milli (m) and micro ()
be avoided because they disturb the prefixes may be used with liter.
convenient 103 or 103 intervals that The fundamental units of time,
make equations easy to manipulate. temperature, pressure and volume are
In SI, the distinction between upper expressed every time movement of a fluid
and lower case letters is meaningful and (liquid or gas) is measured.

28 Liquid Penetrant Testing

Light is electromagnetic radiation in the TABLE 8. Abrasive particle size and sieve apertures.
visible range of wavelength or frequency. Mesh Designation Sieve Lines
___________________ Nominal ISO __________________
Vision requires a source of USA FEPA Sieve Aperture per (per
illumination. The light source is measured Grit Grit (m) 10 mm 1.0 in.)
in candela (cd), defined as the luminous
intensity in a given direction of a source 70 to 80 213 212 to 180 30.3 (76.9)
that emits monochromatic radiation of 80 to 100 181 180 to 150 39.4 (100.0)
540 1012 hertz (540 THz) at a radiant 100 to 120 151 150 to 125 43.7 (111.1)
intensity of 1/683 watt per steradian
120 to 150 126 125 to 106 49.2 (125.1)
(about 0.0015 Wsr1).
140 to 170 107 106 to 90 59.1 (150.1)
The luminous flux in a steradian (sr) is
measured in lumen (lm). The
measurement in lumen is the product of
candela and steradian (1 lm = 1 cdsr). from being indicated in tests. Finish also
A light flux of one lumen (1 lm) affects adherence of materials to a surface.
striking one square meter (1 m2) on the In preparation of test panels for
surface of the sphere around the source evaluation, the type and size of abrasive
illuminates it with one lux (1 lx), the blasting is often specified.
unit of luminance, or brightness. If the Abrasive particle size (coarse versus
source itself is scaled to one square meter fine) in the United States has traditionally
and emits one candela (1 cd), the been specified using industry accepted
luminance of the source is 1 cdm2. gage numbers that correspond to the
Some terms have been replaced in SI. number of lines (or wires) per inch in
Illumination is now illuminance. sieves used to sift the abrasive grit. A
Transmission factor is now transmittance. number of standards govern grit
Meter-candle is now lux. Nit is candela per specifications in the abrasive industries
square meter (cdm2). for example, ANSI B 74.16 for industrial
Old units are to be converted (Table 6). diamonds. Table 8 shows several of the
Footcandle (ftc) and phot (ph) now many levels of grit designations based on
convert to lux (lx). Stilb (sb), footlambert particle size.39
and lambert convert to candela per square Organizations that issue standards in
meter (cdm2). For measurement of this area include the American National
wavelength, nanometer (nm) obviates Standards Institute (ANSI), the American
angstrom (): 10 = 1 nm. Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM),
the Federation of the European Producers
Viscosity of Abrasives (FEPA) and the International
Standardization Organization (ISO).
Dynamic viscosity is expressed in SI by the
pascal second. An older unit is the
poise (P), or centipoise (cP): 100 cP = 1 P =
0.1 Pas.
Kinematic viscosity is expressed in SI as
square meter per second, equivalent to
the dynamic viscosity divided by mass
density. An older unit is the stokes (St):
1 cSt = 0.01 St = 1 mm2s1; 1 St =
0.0001 m2s1.

Porosity is reported as a ratio of volume to
volume and can be expressed as a
percentage. For example, if hydrogen
content in aluminum is measured as
2.5 mm3g1, this value reduces to
2.50 mm3(0.37 cm3)1 1000 mm3cm3 =
0.675 or about 0.7 percent. Therefore the
hydrogen content should be reported as
6.75 mm3cm3 in volume for a porosity
of 0.7 percent.

Abrasives and Finish Treatment

Surface abrading is a matter of concern in
liquid penetrant testing because grinding,
shot peening and sand blasting can close
surface breaking cracks and so keep them

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 29


1. Nondestructive Testing Handbook, 13. Swan, L.K. NDT Afloat: The

second edition: Vol. 10, Nondestructive Development of Nondestructive
Testing Overview. Columbus, OH: Testing at Newport News
American Society for Nondestructive Shipbuilding. Materials Evaluation.
Testing (1996). Vol. 44, No. 8. Columbus, OH:
2. Wenk, S.A. and R.C. McMaster. American Society for Nondestructive
Choosing NDT: Applications, Costs and Testing (July 1986): p 908-911.
Benefits of Nondestructive Testing in Your 14. Boisvert, B.W. The Fluorescent
Quality Assurance Program. Columbus, Penetrant Hydrophilic Remover
OH: American Society for Process. Report 81-463-3. Dayton,
Nondestructive Testing (1987). OH: Universal Technology
3. Nondestructive Testing Methods. Corporation (1981).
TO33B-1-1 (NAVAIR 01-1A-16) 15. MIL-I-8474, Anodizing Process for
TM43-0103. Washington, DC: Inspection of Aluminum Alloys and Parts
Department of Defense (June 1984). (18 September 1946).
4. Nondestructive Testing Handbook, 16. Skeie, K.S. Forty Years with Green
second edition: Vol. 2, Liquid Penetrant Fingernails. Manuscript (1999).
Tests. Columbus, OH: American 17. Taylor, F.J. The Coldfire Boys.
Society for Nondestructive Testing Saturday Evening Post (1 January 1949):
(1982). p 29, 44.
5. ANSI/ASNT CP-189, Standard for 18. Switzer, R.C. Flaw Detector. United
Qualification and Certification of States Patent 2 259 400 (applied for
Nondestructive Testing Personnel. August 1938; issued October 1941).
Columbus, OH: American Society for 19. Thomas, W.E. Magnaflux Corporation:
Nondestructive Testing. A History. Chicago, IL: Magnaflux
6. EN 473, Qualification and Certification Corporation (1979).
of NDT Personnel General Principles. 20. Ward, R.A. Method and Compositions for
Brussels, Belgium: European Locating Surface Discontinuities. United
Committee for Standardization. States Patent 2 405 078 (filed June
7. ISO 9712, Nondestructive Testing 1942: issued July 1946).
Qualification and Certification of 21. Hill, C. Letter to John Clarke (25 July
Personnel. Geneva, Switzerland: 1942).
International Organization for 22. Mooz, W.E. Retrospective of Loy W.
Standardization. Sockman. Materials Evaluation.
8. AIA NAS 410, Certification and Vol. 50, No. 8. Columbus, OH:
Qualification of Nondestructive Test American Society for Nondestructive
Personnel. Washington, DC: Aerospace Testing (August 1992): p 961-964.
Industries Association of America 23. Sockman, L.[W.] et al. Dye Solution
(May 1996). Flaw Inspection Method. United States
9. ASNT Recommended Practice No. Patent 2 667 070 (filed March 1949;
SNT-TC-1A. Columbus, OH: American issued January 1954).
Society for Nondestructive Testing. 24. Bloom, R. et al. Method of Detecting
10. ASNT Central Certification Program Flaws in Metal Articles. United States
(ACCP), Revision 3 (November 1997). Patent 2 420 646 (filed January 1945;
Columbus, OH: American Society for issued May 1947).
Nondestructive Testing (1998). 25. Stokely, J.M. Flaw Detection Fluid.
11. Flaherty, J.J. History of Penetrants: United States Patent 2 478 951 (filed
The First 20 Years, 1941-1961. May 1944; issued August 1949).
Materials Evaluation. Vol. 44, No. 12. 26. Interoffice memo to Robert Switzer.
Columbus, OH: American Society for Cleveland, OH: Dayglo Color
Nondestructive Testing (November Corporation (April 1965).
1986): p 1371-1374, 1376, 1378, 1380, 27. Parker, D. Laboratory notebook no. 1.
1382. Chicago, IL: Magnaflux (unpublished).
12. Betz, C.E. Principles of Penetrants. 28. DeForest, T. et al. Method of Detecting
Chicago, IL: Magnaflux Corporation Surface Discontinuities. United States
(1963): p 5-13. Patent 2 806 959 (filed February 1956;
issued September 1957).

30 Liquid Penetrant Testing

29. Parker, D. et al. Water Emulsifiable
Composition. United States Patent
2 978 418 (filed February 1956; issued
April 1961).
30. Parker, D. Chicago unpublished
laboratory report C-28. Chicago, IL:
Magnaflux (April 1952 and October
31. DeForest, T. et al. United States Patent
2 774 886, Method of Detecting Surface
Discontinuities (filed November 1952;
issued December 1956).
32. Switzer, J. et al. Fluorescent Penetrant
Inspection Materials and Methods.
United States Patent 2 920 203 (filed
September 1955; issued January 1960).
33. Military specification AN-I-30a,
Fluorescent Method of Inspection
(September 18, 1946).
34. MIL-I-6866, Penetrant Method of
Inspection (August 7, 1950).
35. MIL-I-25135, Inspection Materials:
Penetrants (August 6, 1956).
36. Thomas, W.E., An Analytic Approach
to Penetrant Performance (1963
Lester Honor Lecture). Nondestructive
Testing. Vol. 21, No. 6. Columbus, OH:
American Society for Nondestructive
Testing (November-December 1963):
p 354-368.
37. IEEE/ASTM SI 10-1997, Standard for Use
of the International System of Units (SI):
The Modernized Metric System. West
Conshohocken, PA: American Society
for Testing and Materials (1996).
38. Taylor, B.N. Guide for the Use of the
International System of Units (SI). NIST
Special Publication 811, 1995 edition.
Washington, DC: United States
Government Printing Office (1995).
39. B 74.16, Checking the Size of Diamond
and Cubic Boron Nitride Abrasive Grain.
New York, NY: American National
Standards Institute (1995).

Introduction to Liquid Penetrant Testing 31


Principles of Liquid
Penetrant Testing

Noel A. Tracy, Universal Technology Corporation,

Dayton, Ohio
James S. Borucki, Gould Bass NDT, Pomona, California
Art Cedillos, Palomar Plating Company, Escondido,
John J. Flaherty, Flare Technology, Elk Grove Village,
Bruce C. Graham, Arlington Heights, Illinois
Donald J. Hagemaier, Boeing, Long Beach, California
Robert J. Lord, Boeing, St. Louis, Missouri
Stanley Ness, Mission Viejo, California
J.T. Schmidt, J.T. Schmidt Associates, Incorporated,
Crystal Lake, Illinois
Kermit S. Skeie, Kermit Skeie Associates, San Dimas,
Amos G. Sherwin, Sherwin Incorporated, South Gate,
PART 1. Elements of Liquid Penetrant Testing

the part surface at the discontinuity

Basic Liquid Penetrant opening, can reduce or completely
destroy the effectiveness of the test.
Testing Process 2. Apply liquid penetrant to the test surfaces
The basic principles of the liquid and permit it to dwell on the part
penetrant testing process have not surface for a period of time to allow it
changed from the oil-and-whiting days. to enter and fill any discontinuities
These principles are shown in Fig. 1. As open to the surface.
the liquid penetrant testing process 3. Remove the excess liquid penetrant from
evolved, additional steps were specified. the test surfaces. Care must be exercised
Presently, the process consists of six basic to prevent removal of liquid penetrant
steps. contained in discontinuities.
4. Apply a developer, which aids in
1. Preclean and dry the test surfaces of the
drawing any trapped liquid penetrant
object to be inspected. Cleaning is a
from discontinuities and spreading
critical part of the liquid penetrant
that liquid penetrant on the test
process and is emphasized because of
surface to improve the visibility of
its effect on the test results.
indications. The developer also
Contaminants, soils or moisture,
provides a contrasting background on
either inside the discontinuity or on
a part surface, especially for
nonfluorescent indications.
5. Visually examine surfaces for liquid
FIGURE 1. Basic liquid penetrant process: (a) penetrant indications; interpret and
apply liquid penetrant; (b) remove excess; evaluate the indications.
(c) apply developer. 6. Postclean the part to remove process
residues if they will be detrimental to
(a) subsequent operations or the parts
Liquid intended function. (In some cases, a
penetrant treatment to prevent corrosion may be
These six basic steps are followed
regardless of the type of fluorescent or
visible color dye used to form the liquid
penetrant indications. The fourth step,
application of a developer, is sometimes
omitted when testing newly
manufactured parts with fluorescent
(b) liquid penetrants but at the cost of lower
test sensitivity due to reduced visibility of

Materials That Can Be

Inspected by Liquid
Penetrant Tests
(c) Indication
Liquid penetrant testing is one of the best
Developer test methods for all types of
discontinuities open to accessible surfaces
in solid nonpermeable materials.
Laminations and lack of bond between
layers of laminated materials can be
detected with liquid penetrants only if
these laminar discontinuities extend to
Liquid penetrant exposed edges or holes where the liquid
penetrant can enter and indications can
be observed. Liquid penetrant testing has

34 Liquid Penetrant Testing

been used with excellent success on discontinuities. Thus, detection of
ferrous and nonferrous metals and alloys, inconsequential discontinuities can be
fired ceramics and cermets, powdered minimized whereas larger
metal products, glass and some types of discontinuities of more concern are
plastics and synthetic organic materials. indicated.
Liquid penetrants are also used for
detection of leaks in tubing, tanks, welds
and components.
Disadvantages and
Limitations of Liquid
Reasons for Selecting Penetrant Testing
Liquid Penetrant Testing 1. Liquid penetrant testing depends on
Some of the reasons for choosing liquid the ability of liquid penetrant to enter
penetrant testing are as follows. and fill discontinuities. Penetrant
1. Liquid penetrant testing can quickly testing will only reveal discontinuities
examine all the accessible surfaces of open to the surface.
objects. Complex shapes can be 2. Surfaces of objects to be inspected
immersed or sprayed with liquid must be clean and free of organic or
penetrant to provide complete surface inorganic contaminants that will
coverage. prevent interaction of the penetrating
2. Liquid penetrant testing can detect media with a surface. Organic surface
very small surface discontinuities. It is coatings, such as paint, oil, grease or
one of the most sensitive resin, are in this category. Any coating
nondestructive test methods for that covers or blocks the discontinuity
detecting surface discontinuities. opening will prevent liquid penetrant
3. Liquid penetrant testing can be used entry. Even when the coating does not
on a wide variety of materials: ferrous cover the opening, material at the
and nonferrous metals and alloys; edge of the opening may affect entry
fired ceramics and cermets; powdered or exit of liquid penetrant and greatly
metal products; glass; and some types reduce reliability of the test. Coatings
of organic materials. Restrictions on in the vicinity of a discontinuity will
materials imposed by the nature of the also retain liquid penetrant, causing
liquid penetrant process are covered in background fluorescence. Cleaning
the discussion of limitations, below. test surfaces is discussed in more detail
MOVIE. 4. Liquid penetrant testing can be below.
Bleeding accomplished with relatively 3. It is also essential that the inside
suggests inexpensive, nonsophisticated surface of discontinuities be free of
discontinuity equipment. If the area to be inspected materials such as corrosion, fluids,
severity. is small, the test can be accomplished combustion products or other
with portable equipment. contaminants that would restrict entry
5. Liquid penetrant testing magnifies the of liquid penetrant. Because it is
apparent size of discontinuities impossible to check inside
making the indications more visible. discontinuities, one must trust that
In addition, the discontinuity processes selected to clean test surfaces
location, orientation and approximate will clean inside surfaces of
size and shape are indicated on the discontinuities also.
part, making interpretation and 4. Mechanical operations, such as shot
evaluation possible. peening, plastic media blasting (PMB),
6. Liquid penetrant testing is readily machining, honing, abrasive blasting,
adapted to volume processing, buffing, brushing, grinding or sanding
permitting 100 percent surface will smear or peen the surface of
inspection. Small parts may be placed metals. This mechanical working
in baskets for batch processing. closes or reduces the surface opening
Specialized systems may be partially or of existing discontinuities. Mechanical
fully automated to process many parts working (smearing or peening) also
per hour. occurs during service when parts are
7. The sensitivity of a liquid penetrant in contact or rub together. Penetrant
testing process may be adjusted testing will not reliably detect
through appropriate selection of liquid discontinuities when it is performed
penetrant, removal technique and after a mechanical operation or service
type of developer. This allows the use that smears or peens the surface.
liquid penetrant process to be adapted In some cases chemical removal
to characteristics (e.g., composition, (etching) of smeared metal may
surface condition) of the part restore test reliability.
requiring testing and to be tailored to 5. Unless special procedures are used,
detect specified minimum rejectable liquid penetrant testing is impractical

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 35

on porous materials, such as some provides a high contrast background for
types of anodized aluminum surfaces, the colored liquid penetrant when viewed
other protective coatings and porous under the appropriate light. Red dye is
nonmetallic parts. Penetrant rapidly most common, although some blue dye is
enters pores of the material and also used.
becomes trapped. This can result in an
overall background fluorescence or Dual Mode (Both Visible and
color that could mask any potential
discontinuity indications. In addition, Fluorescent) Liquid Penetrant
removal of the liquid penetrant may Dual mode liquid penetrants contain dyes
not be possible after the test. that are both colored under white light
6. Penetrants, emulsifiers and some types and fluorescent under ultraviolet
of developers have very good wetting radiation. However, the intensities of the
and detergent properties. They can act visible color (usually red) and the
as solvents for fats and oils. They also fluorescent color (usually orange) are less
can clean ferrous materials so than the colors produced by the single
thoroughly that rust will begin almost mode visible and fluorescent liquid
immediately if corrosion inhibitor is penetrants respectively.
not applied. If allowed to remain in
contact with human skin for extended
periods, they may cause irritation.
Classification of Liquid
Penetrants by Removal
Classification of Liquid Method
A liquid penetrant is further classified by
Penetrants by Dye Type the technique used to remove it from the
Liquid penetrants are generally classified surface of a part after it has been on the
by type according to the dye contained in part a specified amount of dwell time
the liquid penetrant. The liquid penetrant during the test process. The liquid
testing process relies on liquid penetrant penetrants are formulated and
entering a discontinuity and subsequently manufactured for specific removal
being drawn back out and made easily techniques designed to minimize removal
visible on the surface of a part. The of the liquid penetrant that has seeped
amount of liquid penetrant material into a discontinuity. Each removal
entrapped in discontinuities is usually technique has advantages and
very small. If the discontinuity is to be disadvantages, discussed below.
detected, the very small amount of liquid
penetrant must be highly visible. In the Water Washable Liquid Penetrant
oil-and-whiting days, it was found that
used or dirty oil was much more visible Most liquid penetrants contain an oil base
than clean machine oil. Today chemists insoluble in and immiscible with water.
make liquid penetrants visible by This means that the excess liquid
dissolving highly colored dyes in a penetrant on a part cannot be removed
penetrating oil or other vehicle. Based on with water. However, some liquid
the dye, liquid penetrants are classified as penetrants are carefully compounded
MOVIE. one of the three types described below. mixtures of an oil base and an emulsifier,
Fluorescent and others have water or a surfactant as a
liquid base rather than oil. Manufacturers
Fluorescent Liquid Penetrant provide these alternative formulations in
Fluorescent liquid penetrants contain ready-to-use liquid penetrants, which may
fluorescent dye that emits yellowish green be removed with water immediately after
light when exposed to near ultraviolet the liquid penetrant dwell. Depending on
radiation (with a wavelength of 320 to requirements imposed on the liquid
400 nm). This property is termed penetrant testing procedure by applicable
fluorescence. Very small quantities of process specifications, the removal may be
fluorescent liquid penetrant will emit accomplished by wiping the part surface
highly visible indications when exposed with a wet lintfree cloth (after wiping
MOVIE. to ultraviolet radiation. with a dry lintfree cloth first), by directing
Liquid a controlled spray onto the part or by
penetrant dipping and agitating the part in water.
seeps into Visible Liquid Penetrant
discontinuity. Visible dye or color contrast liquid
penetrants contain a dye that is visible Postemulsifiable Liquid Penetrant
under natural or white light. The visibility When used in the postemulsification
is further enhanced during the liquid process, liquid penetrants can be
penetrant process by the application of a formulated to optimize their penetrating
white developer. The white developer and visibility characteristics for higher

36 Liquid Penetrant Testing

sensitivity. Because postemulsifiable liquid
penetrants do not contain any
emulsifying agent, they are less likely to
Types of Emulsifiers
be removed from the discontinuity when Lipophilic emulsifiers are composed of
the surface liquid penetrant is being liquid blends that combine with oil based
removed with water. Removal from a liquid penetrants to form a mixture that
surface is accomplished by applying an can be removed with a water spray. They
emulsifier in a separate process step, are supplied in a ready-to-use form. Their
normally by dipping the part into a tank mode of action is based primarily on
of the emulsifier or spraying the diffusion and solubility into an oil base
emulsifier onto the part. Depending on liquid penetrant. Parts are generally
the type of emulsifier used, the emulsifier dipped into tanks of lipophilic emulsifier,
either converts the excess surface liquid withdrawn and placed at a drain station
penetrant into a mixture that forms an for a specified time. The diffusion rate
emulsion with the addition of water (emulsification time) will vary depending
(lipophilic) or acts directly with the liquid on the viscosity of the emulsifier and the
penetrant to form an emulsion physical action of drainoff. Therefore, it is
subsequently removed with water important to control the emulsification
(hydrophilic). time to prevent emulsification of the
A postemulsifiable liquid penetrant liquid penetrant in the discontinuity.
usually can be used with any emulsifier. Hydrophilic emulsifiers, often referred to
However, qualifying/approving agencies as removers, are composed of emulsifying
may choose to qualify a liquid agents dissolved in water and are supplied
penetrantemulsifier combination from in a concentrate form. They are diluted
the same manufacturer. The manufacturer with water at concentrations of 5 to 30
may offer the same liquid penetrant for percent and used as an immersion dip
use with different emulsifiers. A user with mild air or mechanical agitation or
could use any liquid penetrantemulsifier as a forced water spray rinse at dilution
combination that met the approval of a ratios up to a maximum of 5 percent. A
customer. prerinse with a water spray normally
precedes the application of hydrophilic
emulsifiers, so liquid penetrant
Solvent Removable Liquid contamination of the emulsifier is
Penetrant reduced. The term hydrophilic can be
The term solvent removable is often used as defined as having an affinity for water,
if it applied to a discrete class of liquid whereas lipophilic means having an
penetrants. In fact, all liquid penetrants affinity for oil.
can be removed with solvents. In most Hydrophilic emulsifiers function
applications the liquid penetrants used in through their detergent and scraping or
the solvent removable process are scrubbing (kinetic) action. Diffusion does
postemulsifiable; however, water washable not take place in this mechanism of
liquid penetrants can also be used. For action. The surface active agent in the
some applications a manufacturer may remover helps displace liquid penetrant
choose to offer a liquid penetrant from the surface and prevents
qualified for the solvent removable redeposition. Removal of excess surface
process only. liquid penetrant with hydrophilic
With this technique excess liquid emulsifiers in an immersion or dip mode
penetrant is removed from a test surface begins as the remover detaches the liquid
by first wiping the surface with a clean, penetrant from the surface. Mild agitation
dry, lintfree cloth or paper towel. After removes the displaced liquid penetrant
most of the surface liquid penetrant has from the part so that it cannot redeposit.
MOVIE. been removed, the remainder is removed When a spray is used, the impinging
Solvent with another clean cloth slightly droplets of water have the same effect as
removes excess moistened with the solvent. Because the agitation in a tank. The hydrophilic
liquid solvent removable technique is very labor emulsifier contact time is directly related
penetrant from intensive, it is normally used only when it to its concentration. This applies to both
part surface. is necessary to inspect a localized area of a immersion and spray applications. The
part or a part at its inservice site rather hydrophilic emulsification process affords
than in a production environment. When better control and, in addition, allows for
properly applied, the solvent removable an effective and practical treatment and
technique can be one of the most recycling of the liquid penetrant prerinse
sensitive liquid penetrant testing solution, thereby minimizing waste water
techniques available. pollution.

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 37

as the aqueous soluble developers.
Solvent Removers However, suspendible developers must be
constantly agitated to keep the developer
Solvent removers have traditionally been suspended. Removal of dried suspendible
petroleum base or chlorinated solvents. developers may be more difficult because
However, because the former is flammable they are not soluble in water. All aqueous
and production of the latter ceased in developers necessarily contain biocides,
December 1995, use of detergent cleaners corrosion inhibitors and wetting agents.
or water base solvents is increasing. Water Nonaqueous (solvent suspendible)
itself can be used as a solvent for water developers are supplied in the MOVIE.
washable liquid penetrants. Often an ready-to-use condition, frequently in Nonaqueous
emulsifier contains enough solvency to aerosol cans. This type of developer is the wet developer
function as a hand wipe remover also. most sensitive form because the solvent enhances
action contributes to the absorption and visible dye
adsorption mechanisms of the developer contrast.
by entering the discontinuity and
Types of Developers dissolving into the liquid penetrant. This
The developer increases the intensity action increases the volume and reduces
(brightness) of fluorescent liquid the viscosity of the liquid penetrant and
penetrant indications and the contrast of leaches it to the surface. Nonaqueous
visible dye liquid penetrant indications. developers are suitable for testing of
The developer also provides a blotting installed parts or in nonproduction
action, which serves to draw liquid situations involving few parts or small
penetrant from within the discontinuity areas. With the discontinued use of
to the part surface until the thickness of chlorinated solvents, because of
the surface film of liquid penetrant environmental concerns, flammable
exuded from the discontinuity is solvents may be the only choice.
increased to levels above the threshold of
visibility. Another developer function is to
spread the liquid penetrant on the
surface, enlarging the appearance of the Qualified/Approved Liquid
indication. Penetrant Materials
Dry powder developers are applied to
dry part surfaces by air suspension, Although a qualifying/approving agency
electrostatic spraying or part immersion. may be an independent organization
The powder is light and fluffy and clings designated and approved by a governing
to the part surfaces in a fine film. Dry body or end user, a qualifying/approving
powder developers should not be used agency is ultimately a customer that
with visible liquid penetrant because they requires liquid penetrant materials to pass
do not produce a satisfactory contrast designated tests in order to be used for
coating on the surface of the part. inspecting the products it buys. A
Electrostatic spraying is common in customer may designate specific liquid
automated systems. For reasons of human penetrant materials to be used to inspect
safety, dry powder developers should be its products or may allow organizations
handled with care. Like any other dust performing tests to make appropriate
particle, it can dry the skin and irritate selections from a list of
the lining of the breathing passages. qualified/approved liquid penetrant
Water soluble developers consist of a materials to which the customer
powder dissolved in water and applied by subscribes. All materials in a given
dipping a part in the solution, by flowing classification category on such a list are
the solution over a part or by spraying the considered equivalent in meeting generic
solution onto the part. As the part is specification requirements. Consequently,
dried, a thin layer of the powder remains any manufacturers product listed on a
on the part. Stationary test equipment qualified/approved list may be substituted
usually includes a tank module for for any other product listed under the
aqueous developer. Complete coverage is same classification. In its listings of
easily obtained by dipping parts. However, materials, a qualified/approved list may
puddling of the developer in recesses of formalize the classification of types of
complex parts must be avoided so that all liquid penetrants, techniques of removal,
water evaporates during drying and the classes of solvents and forms of developers
developer coating has a uniform with number and/or letter designations
thickness. for easy reference.
Water suspendible developers are similar A typical example of a qualified and
to the water soluble type except that the approved list is QPL-AMS-2644,1 a
powder, insoluble in water, remains in qualified products list that has been
suspension until it precipitates onto the generated by the United States Air Force
part as it is dried. Aqueous suspendible for the Department of Defense and
developers are used in the same manner replaces QPL-25135.2 This qualified
products list itemizes materials that meet

38 Liquid Penetrant Testing

or exceed the requirements of the Brightness and Sensitivity of
SAE AMS 2644 specification for liquid Fluorescent Liquid Penetrants
penetrant testing materials.3 The current
trend is to have consensus industry There is considerable difference of
specifications instead of military opinion over the synonymous use of the
specifications, so the Department of terms brightness and sensitivity to describe
Defense (the customer) has chosen the performance of liquid penetrant materials
SAE document for its liquid penetrant and techniques. The difficulty arises from
product requirements. the absence of a reliable and objective
Listing of liquid penetrant materials on scientific test for evaluating liquid
a qualified products list does not penetrant sensitivity. Sensitivity tests rely
guarantee that subsequent batches of the mostly on comparative visual observation
same formulation will be acceptable. of indications of known crack patterns on
Listing on a qualified products list merely reference blocks. Such comparisons leave
indicates that the original raw materials, considerable uncertainty in individual
formulation and compounding practice interpretation of sensitivity. In addition to
can result in an acceptable liquid individual differences in interpretation,
penetrant test product. Many factors and individual differences in processing of
conditions involved in compounding and reference blocks or test parts may have a
manufacturing liquid penetrants can decided influence on evaluation
affect their performance. Specifications for performed in this manner.
liquid penetrant testing materials may The human perception of brightness is
include an option for a procuring activity a qualitative experience influenced by the
to contractually require a manufacturer to dark adaptation of the inspector's eyes
provide quality conformance test results and the contrast of the indication
for the lot/batch to be supplied and/or a intensity against the surrounding
sample of the material for independent background intensity. Instruments can
testing. measure the luminous intensity per unit
projected area (of the light source). For
example, intensity data gathered with a
photometer has been used to assign the
Sensitivity sensitivity levels to liquid penetrant
systems during qualification testing for
When applied to liquid penetrant testing
inclusion in QPL-AMS-2644.3
processes, the term sensitivity refers to the
Luminescence measurements are made
ability to detect discontinuities. In this
of fluorescent liquid penetrant indications
context, sensitivity is a relative factor.
produced by known crack patterns in
Higher sensitivity indicates that a test
specimens processed with standardized
process can detect smaller discontinuities
procedures. The assignment of sensitivity
than less sensitive processes. Several
levels is based on the premise that more
factors influence the sensitivity of a given
sensitive liquid penetrant systems produce
liquid penetrant testing process. The
brighter crack indications. Because of
cleaning techniques, the selected liquid
variables such as surface cleanliness,
penetrant materials and the procedure by
process control and interpretation, this
which the materials are processed affect
premise is valid only in a carefully
the sensitivity of the liquid penetrant
controlled scenario such as this
testing process.
qualification application. There is no
The sensitivity of a liquid penetrant
doubt that brighter indications are easier
testing process is not to be confused with
to detect, but the sensitivity of a liquid
sensitivity level of a liquid penetrant system,
penetrant process must be determined
a term used to classify the relative
empirically for each application. To
sensitivity of liquid penetrant systems
reiterate, the sensitivity level of a liquid
that are processed according to a
penetrant system is only a reference point
standardized procedure. A liquid
from which to start the empirical process.
penetrant system is normally designated
by type of dye in the liquid penetrant and
technique of removal. A postemulsifiable
liquid penetrant system includes a liquid
penetrant and an emulsifier, normally
Major Requirements of
from the same manufacturer. The Liquid Penetrants
sensitivity level facilitates the selection of A satisfactory liquid penetrant must meet
a system to obtain the desired test process several rather exacting requirements,
sensitivity. some of which are more or less in conflict
Therefore, if all processing variables are with the others. High on the list of
equal, a penetrant system with a higher desirable characteristics is penetrating
level of sensitivity will produce a action or the ability to enter extremely
detectable indication of a very small fine surface openings in test objects.
discontinuity, whereas a system with Fortunately most oily liquids penetrate
lower sensitivity may not.

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 39

well, so this is not a restrictive Body and Volatility of Liquid
requirement. Penetrants
In other cases, the ability of a liquid
penetrant to become entrapped and held In addition to inherent penetrating ability
can become a problem. This need of the carrier liquid, numerous secondary
conflicts with the equally important qualities are necessary to permit use of its
requirement for suitable removability of penetrating power. The material should
excess liquid penetrant from the surface have sufficient body to hold the dye
of the part after discontinuities have been throughout the time necessary for
penetrated. penetration to take place. Some liquid
Another characteristic, of at least equal penetrants exhibit a certain amount of
importance to penetrating action, is volatility. It is reasoned that a small
visibility or the contrast between the amount of evaporation at the
liquid penetrant indication and the discontinuity could help to intensify dye
background against which it is viewed by brilliance and also prevent excessive
the inspector. spreading of indications. At the same
The degree to which each of the above time, a liquid that is too highly volatile is
features is present in a particular liquid undesirable. The highly volatile liquid
penetrant will depend on the application penetrants will evaporate rapidly from
for which it is intended but each property processing tanks. This evaporation can
will be found in any materials suitable for change the performance characteristics of
testing purposes. The means by which the liquid penetrant material and release
each property is obtained will also vary vapors that may be a nuisance or even a
widely among the various available liquid hazard.
Wetting Ability of Liquid
Liquid Vehicle Properties Wetting ability is another property that
does not seem to correlate directly with
and Penetrating Ability of ability to penetrate but it does have an
Liquid Penetrants important effect on overall performance.
Unfortunately, there is neither a simple A material that has good wetting
rule for formulating a highly penetrating properties will spread completely over the
liquid penetrant nor is there a fixed set of surface of the treated part in a smooth,
characteristics which, if provided, will even film despite the presence of a
ensure a final material that is completely reasonable amount of surface
satisfactory. Some properties that would contamination. On the other hand, a
seem absolutely necessary have little or no liquid of poor wetting characteristics will
effect on the ability of the liquid pull back on itself, leaving areas of the
penetrant to enter surface discontinuities, test surface completely devoid of liquid
although there may be other reasons for penetrant. When this occurs,
their control. Viscosity of liquid discontinuities that may be present in the
penetrants serves as a good illustration. It uncovered areas will not be visible, for
would seem logical to assume that a low there is no indicating material to enter
viscosity material would enter small them. This is very important when the
discontinuities more rapidly than one test surface is smooth (as with stainless
with a higher viscosity; however, many steel forgings).
highly viscous liquids are excellent liquid
penetrants because normal liquid
penetrant dwell times are long enough to
let tiny cracks be filled, regardless of
Liquid Penetrant
viscosity. The chemical composition of Requirements for Special
the liquid penetrant material also
influences the liquid penetrants ability to
seep into cracks. The aerospace and nuclear industries have
The penetrating ability of a complete imposed some special requirements on
liquid penetrant material is mainly a liquid penetrants for specific applications
function of the properties of the liquid that may or may not require specially
carrier or vehicle of the liquid penetrant formulated products. Examples of special
material. The functions of the liquid types of liquid penetrants include the
carrier or vehicle are (1) to hold the dye following.
in solution or suspension; (2) to distribute 1. Liquid penetrants used in inspection
the liquid penetrant evenly and of liquid oxygen or high pressure
completely over the surface to be gaseous oxygen systems. These must
inspected; and (3) to carry the liquid leave no contaminants or residues that
penetrant into any discontinuities present react with the oxygen.
on the test surface.

40 Liquid Penetrant Testing

2. Liquid penetrants with low content of
sulfur and/or halogen (e.g., chloride).
Sulfur or chlorine may be detrimental
to stainless steel or titanium metals or
alloy surfaces under subsequent high
temperature processing or service.
3. Liquid penetrants low in alkali metals
such as sodium and potassium and
low in low melting temperature metals
such as lead, tin and mercury.
4. Liquid penetrants for use at very low
or very high temperatures.
Whether or not these particular
requirements are imposed, the basic
procedures of liquid penetrant testing and
the mechanisms of operation of liquid
penetrant materials remain unchanged.
The difference lies only in the special
liquid penetrant products being used.

Liquid Penetrants for

Liquid or Gaseous Oxygen
System Components
Aerospace systems sometimes use liquid
oxygen or gaseous oxygen in their
propellant and life support systems.
Formulation of a liquid oxygen or gaseous
oxygen insensitive liquid penetrant
presents a formidable problem because all
organic chemicals are reactive with liquid
oxygen or gaseous oxygen to some degree.
Many of the common ingredients of
liquid penetrants are organic and are
therefore subject to liquid oxygen
reactivity. Even if organic ingredients are
present in very low concentrations, there
is always the possibility that they can
become concentrated through
evaporation or accumulation. ASTM
D 2512 covers the commonly accepted
test techniques for liquid oxygen
compatibility.4 Liquid penetrants that
meet these test requirements are available.

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 41

PART 2. Liquid Penetrant Testing Processes

Because the processes for fluorescent 4. If dry or nonaqueous developers will

liquid penetrant and visible dye liquid be used later, dry the test parts
penetrant are similar, the process flow thoroughly following removal of
charts (Figs. 2, 3 and 5) are applicable to excess surface liquid penetrant. If wet
both. Processing variables including aqueous developer was used, dry the
liquid penetrant dwell time, test parts as soon as the excess
emulsification time, rinse water developer coating has drained off the
temperature and pressure, drying test parts. Oven drying may be
temperature and time, and intensity of desirable to reduce drying time. In the
ultraviolet or visible radiation (visible drying step, it is necessary to guard
light) are established by customer against excessive exposure to high
designated processing specifications. It is temperature. Excessive oven
very important to adhere to the temperature can degrade the
established parameters to control the fluorescent dyes in the liquid
quality of the test. penetrant. This can decrease test
sensitivity by decreasing or
eliminating the brightness of a
fluorescent indication.
Water Washable Liquid 5. If aqueous developer has not
Penetrant Process previously been applied to the wet
parts, apply dry or nonaqueous
To ensure that testing is reliable and developer to the dry test parts. Liquid
reproducible and remains sufficiently penetrant is drawn out of
sensitive for the purpose intended, the discontinuity entrapments to the part
water washable liquid penetrant test surface during the so called
procedure includes the following development time or developer dwell time.
operational steps. This liquid penetrant may spread into
1. Preclean and dry the surfaces the developer coating to form
(including crack surfaces) to be enhanced indications, as sketched in
inspected. A contaminated surface will Fig. 1c.
not provide reliable liquid penetrant 6. Observe and interpret the liquid
indications. In some cases, etching penetrant indications of surface
may be necessary to open up discontinuities under suitable
entrapment areas under smeared metal
2. Apply liquid penetrant to the dry part FIGURE 2. Water washable liquid penetrant process.
surfaces and allow sufficient time
(termed dwell time) for the surface
liquid penetrant to enter the Clean
discontinuities to form liquid
penetrant entrapments (Fig. 1a). Apply liquid penetrant
Liquid penetrant should wet the entire
test surface area with a uniform liquid Dwell
film. If the liquid penetrant pulls away
leaving bare areas, the part surface is Water wash
not clean enough.
3. Following a suitable dwell time, Aqueous
remove the excess surface liquid Dry Dry
penetrant by room temperature water
rinsing with a coarse spray applied at Nonaqueous
Dry developer Dry
an angle as sketched in Fig. 1b.
Rinsing should continue until no
traces of residual liquid penetrant are Dwell
visible on test surfaces when viewed
under suitable illumination. If wet Inspect
aqueous developer is to be used, it
should be applied to the wet part Postclean
surfaces following water rinsing.

42 Liquid Penetrant Testing

illumination. Evaluate each indication liquid penetrant indications in the same prerinse.
to determine if the indications way as in other liquid penetrant processes.
constitute cause for rejection, rework,
disposal or other action. This is an
essential step in any test process.
7. Perform postcleaning and treatment of Hydrophilic
test parts to remove residue of liquid Postemulsification Liquid Dip in
penetrant processing materials and
provide protection against corrosion. Penetrant Process hydrophilic
Figure 3b is a flow chart for the emulsifier;
hydrophilic postemulsification liquid dwell.
penetrant process. The initial steps of
Lipophilic precleaning, applying liquid penetrant
and allowing for a liquid penetrant dwell
Postemulsification Liquid and drain period are identical for all the
Penetrant Process liquid penetrant testing processes. As with
Figure 3a shows the procedure steps used the lipophilic process, an
Water wash.
with the lipophilic postemulsification emulsification/removal step is required.
liquid penetrant technique. The initial However, an additional prerinse is added
steps of precleaning, drying, applying immediately following the liquid
liquid penetrant and allowing liquid penetrant dwell time. After this first wash,
penetrant to drain for an adequate dwell usually only a thin film of liquid
time are identical to those used with penetrant held by molecular attraction MOVIE.
water washable liquid penetrants. Because remains on part surfaces. Through the Developer
the liquid penetrant does not contain an mechanical action of a water spray, much application.
emulsifier, an additional step of applying of the excess surface liquid penetrant is
emulsifier (Fig. 4b) and carefully removed. Application of the
controlling emulsifier dwell time (Fig. 4c) emulsifier/remover is accomplished by
must be provided to make the excess dipping a part in a hydrophilic emulsifier
surface liquid penetrant removable by solution or spraying a much more diluted
solution onto the part for a controlled MOVIE.
water spray washing (Fig. 4d). Following Viewing of
washing to remove surface liquid amount of time. Subsequent processing
steps are identical to the water washable developed
penetrant, test parts are dried, developer is indications.
applied, aqueous developers are applied and lipophilic postemulsification process.
before drying and parts are inspected for Because the prior water rinse removes
the bulk of the surface liquid penetrant,

FIGURE 3. Postemulsifiable liquid penetrant processes: (a) lipophilic; (b) hydrophilic. Shaded areas indicate
steps that differ between lipophilic and hydrophilic techniques.
(a) (b)

Clean Apply liquid penetrant

Apply liquid penetrant Dwell

Dwell Prerinse

Lipophilic emulsifier Hydrophilic emulsifier

Dwell Dwell

Water wash Water wash

Aqueous Aqueous
Dry Dry Dry Dry
developer developer

Nonaqueous Nonaqueous
Dry developer Dry Dry developer Dry
developer developer

Dwell Dwell

Inspect Inspect

Postclean Postclean

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 43

emulsifier contamination is minimized. density is less than waters. The liquid
Emulsifier diluted with three parts of penetrant waste floats and can be
water leaves only a thin surface film so skimmed off the surface of the water,
emulsifier dragout is reduced. The which prevents discharge of oily waste
prewash hydrophilic emulsifier technique into sewers and streams. In some cases,
decreases emulsifier consumption and the liquid penetrant materials collected in
lowers emulsifier cost. The biggest this manner can be recycled and reused.
advantage of this technique may be its
improved control of pollution caused by
liquid penetrant process waste materials.
The residual liquid penetrant removed in Solvent Technique for
the first water rinse is not water soluble. It Hand Wipe Liquid
separates from the rinse water because its
Penetrant Removal
The procedures for the third technique of
FIGURE 4. Lipophilic postemulsifiable liquid penetrant removing liquid penetrant by hand
process: (a) before emulsifier application; (b) after liquid wiping or solvent removal are shown in
penetrant dwell time; (c) surface liquid penetrant being Fig. 5. Materials used to remove excess
emulsified; (d) water spray removing emulsified liquid surface liquid penetrant are referred to as
penetrant. removers or as cleaners. The term cleaning
refers to preparation of the surface before
(a) testing and not to the removal of liquid
Liquid penetrant process residues following
penetrant completion of the test process. The term
remover is more appropriate to describe
the solvents used for removal of excess
surface liquid penetrant during processing
of test parts in liquid penetrant testing.
With the solvent removal process, the
available removers are often used also for
precleaning and for postcleaning of test
objects to remove liquid penetrant
(b) processing residues. However, the primary
purpose of solvent removers is removal of
excess liquid penetrant before application
Diffusion of emulsifier of developer.
into liquid penetrant Removers are normally petroleum base
starts here solvents but may be any solvent

FIGURE 5. Solvent removable liquid

penetrant process.

Emulsified liquid penetrant

Apply liquid penetrant

Emulsifier reaction zone
movement is stopped at
part surface (before it can Initial dry wipe
Liquid penetrant enter entrapment by careful
entrapped in defect timing before rinse starts
not emulsified Solvent wipe

Room temperature water spray at 45 degrees Final dry wipe
removes emulsified surface liquid penetrant only MOVIE.
Nonaqueous developer Developer is

Nonemulsified liquid
penetrant within
entrapment is not

44 Liquid Penetrant Testing

combination. Often an emulsifier actions, diffusion characteristics and
contains enough solvency to function as a solubilities. The speed with which test
remover. Alternatively, a product may be liquids enter into surface discontinuities
formulated for the express purpose of has a direct relation to their viscosities.
functioning as either a remover or an However, viscosity does not appear to
emulsifier. Removers are subject to the have any significant effect on the ultimate
same precautions in use as those described sensitivity or capability of a liquid
for use of liquid penetrants and penetrant to enter fine discontinuities,
emulsifiers. form a stable entrapment and later MOVIE.
migrate from this entrapment to form a Visible red dye
Procedures for Hand Wipe Solvent visible liquid penetrant indication on the liquid
part surface or developer coating. Many penetrant
MOVIE. Removal of Surface Liquid fine cracks are so shallow that even bleeds out.
Wipe part. Penetrant viscous liquids penetrate them easily. The
Liquid penetrant removers are used to characteristics of liquid penetrants and
remove excess surface liquid penetrant processing materials are discussed in detail
following liquid penetrant application. elsewhere in this volume.
Because the removers function by solvent The difficulty of correlating the
action, overremoval may be a problem if physical and chemical phenomena and
remover is used to excess. The properties of liquid penetrant liquids to
recommended hand wipe removal practical liquid penetrant test sensitivity
procedure includes the following steps. has thus far prevented the development
of accurate analytical models and
1. Wipe the test object surfaces with a predictions of liquid penetrant system
dry wiping instrument such as a dry performance sensitivity. Efforts to use
rag or soft absorbent paper. synthetic voids formed by mating two
2. Remove the remaining liquid finely machined surfaces did not show the
penetrant residues by wiping with a differences in inspection liquid
wiping instrument dampened with penetration that were anticipated from
solvent. chemical and physical considerations.
3. Wipe again with a dry rag or However, useful comparisons of
absorbent paper to remove any film of performance between various liquid
solvent remaining on the surfaces. penetrant and processing materials can be
When fine, shallow discontinuities are readily made with various types of liquid
under examination on smooth surfaces penetrant comparators or reference
such as test panels with cracked chrome panels.
plating, dry wiping is sufficient. Use of Measurements of surface energies,
any remover will result in overremoval of contact angles and other physical
liquid penetrant residues and resultant properties of liquid penetrants have
loss in sensitivity. suggested an elementary theory for
Caution. The hand wipe technique is predicting ability of liquid penetrants to
difficult to use on test parts with rough enter fine surface cracks and
surfaces or on recesses such as threads discontinuities. Additional work has been
because of the difficulty of wiping to the done by many research laboratories and
bottom of small, sharp recesses or by liquid penetrant manufacturers. Liquid
cleaning deep grooves. In addition, the penetrant testing has found wide and
cleaning cloth or paper should only be useful application despite the lack of
moistened lightly with solvent for final generally accepted theories for the
removal of surface liquid penetrant phenomena involved.
residues. Never immerse the cloth in
solvent nor saturate it with sprayed on
solvent when removing excess surface
liquid penetrant from test parts. The
Examination of Liquid
excess solvent would then diffuse into Penetrant Indications
liquid penetrant entrapments within Visible dye liquid penetrant indications
discontinuities and tend to remove part or can be viewed in daylight or by artificial
all of the liquid penetrant needed to form white light from tungsten filament or
discontinuity indications. fluorescent tubular lamps. Fluorescent
liquid penetrant shows discontinuity
indications as luminous yellow-green lines
or spots that provide a brightness contrast
Operating Mechanisms of with the darkened background.
Liquid Penetrant Systems Fluorescent dye liquid penetrants require
The mechanisms of operation of liquid excitation by near ultraviolet
penetrants and processing materials (ultraviolet-A) radiation to produce visible
would appear to be related to their surface indications. These fluorescent indications
energies or activities and to their capillary must be observed under subdued ambient
(white or scattered) light or in darkened

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 45

booths. Minimum ultraviolet radiation Advantages of Visible Dye
intensities are normally required by Penetrants
applicable specifications.
Dual response liquid penetrants Through its overall performance is
produce indications visible under both considered lower and production testing
ultraviolet radiation and natural or of small parts is slower, the visible dye
artificial white light. These liquid liquid penetrant process has some
penetrants also have dual sensitivity as advantages of its own. It does not require
well. The larger discontinuities are visible a darkened area or a source of electric
under both ultraviolet radiation and power for illumination. For these reasons,
natural white light. However, extremely it is more often used as a portable testing
tight discontinuities (fine cracks) may be tool in the shop or field. Large test parts,
seen as fluorescent indications visible difficult to move to a dark booth, can be
only under near ultraviolet radiation. inspected where they are located with
Typically, with dual sensitivity liquid visible dye liquid penetrants. The visible MOVIE.
penetrants, the visible dye indication is dye liquid penetrant is widely used for Indication in
red whereas the indication under inspection of weldments both in the shop root pass of
ultraviolet radiation fluorescences as and in the field. A weld discontinuity can weld.
bronze-orange or blue-green. be clearly visible when shown to the
In each case, the test operator must be welder who can grind out the
trained to look for relevant indications. discontinuity, reweld and reinspect, all
(Indications that have no relation to under natural light in the normal work
material discontinuities are nonrelevant area.
indications and not cause for rejection of
Caution. Fluorescent liquid penetrants
should not be applied to test objects that
Selection of Liquid
retain traces of visible dye liquid Penetrant Material and
penetrants or processing materials from Process
prior testing and vice versa. Water
washable and postemulsification types of
liquid penetrant should not be used on Fluorescent Liquid Penetrant
the same object. Residues from prior The techniques capable of the greatest
liquid penetrant processing often sensitivity are often the most costly. Many
diminish the contrast and visibility of tests require the ultimate sensitivity.
indications produced in subsequent However, high sensitivity is frequently
processing with a different liquid not required and may even produce
penetrant system. misleading results.
Users are urged to consider the
Advantages of Fluorescent Liquid following important factors and to discuss
Penetrants them with suppliers of liquid penetrant
test equipment and liquid penetrant
The inspector or operator can usually see materials before deciding on the type of
fluorescent indications in a dark test liquid penetrant testing system to install
booth more readily than the inspector can and/or use:
see relatively light red marks on a white
background produced by visible dye liquid 1. composition of parts to be inspected;
penetrants under normal light conditions. 2. number of parts or test areas to be
This is especially true in the case of liquid inspected per unit of time;
penetrant indications of minute cracks or 3. size and weight of parts to be handled;
pinholes. Therefore, because the 4. location at which testing is required
fluorescent liquid penetrant indications (that is, receiving department, in
are more visible, it is generally conceded process along a production line,
that fluorescent liquid penetrant testing is during assembly, as final inspection, in
more sensitive to small discontinuities the field during erection, at
than visible dye liquid penetrant testing is. maintenance facilities or in service);
Also, because the operator can locate 5. types of discontinuities to be expected,
luminous discontinuity marks readily, the for example, porosity, cracks, seams or
fluorescent dye liquid penetrant lends laps;
itself to faster readout. Aerospace industry 6. size of discontinuities to be detected
specifications often call for fluorescent (for example, small, deep, large,
liquid penetrant testing of critical parts shallow, clustered or scattered);
under very well controlled conditions 7. surface condition of parts to be
because very small discontinuity inspected (such as as-cast, as-forged,
indications must be sought and detected machined, ground, lapped, polished,
reliably. plated, painted, corroded, oily, covered
with combustion, scratched or scaled
parts); and

46 Liquid Penetrant Testing

TABLE 1. Selection of fluorescent liquid penetrant test method as function of test object surface condition and type of
discontinuity. The type of developer affects liquid penetrant system sensitivity. Nonaqueous wet developers are the
most sensitive, followed by aqueous developer, dry developer and no developer, in that order.
Polished or smooth Normal fine, Broad, shallow High temperature
surface with tight discontinuities discontinuities Very rough titanium or other
very fine shallow on smooth or on smooth or or porous alloys sensitive to
Type Fluorescent discontinuities roughened surfaces roughened surfaces cast surfaces extraneous elements

Water Washable Liquid Penetrant

Regular or high performance A A A C, E A, F
High or very high performance A A A C, E A, F
Postemulsifiable Liquid Penetrant
Regular performance A A A C, E A, F
High or very high performance A A A C, E A, F
Solvent Removable Liquid Penetrant
Regular performance B B B D, E B, F
High performance B B B D, E B, F

A = Caution is required in rinsing to avoid overrinsing.

B = If solvent remover is used, use as little as possible. The wiping material should be barely damped to avoid overremoval of liquid
C = Liquid penetrants may leave excessive background on rough surfaces. The less sensitive types are preferred to the more sensitive types.
visible penetrant is commonly used in this situation.
D = Solvent remover is not recommended. Use only dry, clean, lint-free wiping material.
E = Also available are special low sensitivity penetrants for tests of rough castings and other objects where only gross indications are of
F = Use low sulfur chloride liquid penetrant and/or emulsifier or remover.

8. condition to which parts will be portable system using a solvent remover

subjected after testing (for example, wipe-off technique is usually the first
medical, nuclear or oxygen systems; choice. Selection of a visible dye liquid
welding, plating or finishing penetrant is largely dependent on
operations; high temperature, economic factors and the facilities
aerospace, industrial or transportation available. The visible dye liquid penetrant
uses; inaccessible locations; or class is not divided into performance
consumer products). grades as is the fluorescent liquid
The selection may be influenced by penetrant class.
such additional factors as specification The visibility or degree of contrast of
requirements, education and experience the red indications with respect to the
of personnel and the quality level of test white developer background is a key
required. The quality of the test parts to factor in successfully revealing tight
be inspected should never be allowed to discontinuities by the visible dye liquid
influence the quality level of testing. The penetrant technique. Color contrast
test quality is determined by the nature of fulfills the same role as brightness in the
test parts and the service conditions for fluorescent technique. The visibility of
which they are intended. The regular colored contrast liquid penetrants
performance water washable, fluorescent depends on the color dye concentration.
liquid penetrant is generally more Threshold (minimum perceptible)
practical for rough surface parts such as indications can be seen only by using
sand castings. The higher performance ultrahigh dye concentrations not
liquid penetrants are favored for normally encountered in the usual visible
inspecting forgings, machined surfaces dye liquid penetrants. Because visible dye
and more critical load carrying parts. liquid penetrants have not been
Table 1 may be used as a guide in categorized with respect to visibility or
selecting the grade of liquid penetrant to performance, the user should determine
be used on parts with different surface the differences in sensitivity and select
conditions. the desired liquid penetrant in accordance
with the users needs.

Visible Dye Liquid Penetrant

The selection of a visible dye liquid
penetrant is relatively uncomplicated
when compared to selection among
classes of fluorescent liquid penetrants. If
the test is to take place in the field, a

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 47

PART 3. Principles of Emulsification and
Removal of Excess Surface Liquid Penetrant

indications of significant discontinuities.

Purpose and Control of Noise refers to confusing background
layers of liquid penetrant materials that
Removal of Excess Surface reduce the contrast and visibility of
Liquid Penetrant significant indications.)
With good removal of excess surface
Liquid penetrants are designed to wet and
liquid penetrant, the discontinuity
cling to all exposed surfaces of parts so as
indications (after development) stand
to provide a nearly uniform film of the
forth clearly with high color or brightness
liquid penetrant. This surface liquid
contrast and can be seen readily. With
penetrant provides the source of liquid
inadequate removal of excess surface
penetrant to seep into surface
liquid penetrant, the background color or
discontinuities during liquid penetrant
fluorescence reduces color or brightness
application and the subsequent liquid
contrast. In this case, the observer will
penetrant dwell time. While this surface
have considerable difficulty in
film of liquid penetrant persists, it is not
discriminating significant discontinuity
necessary to have parts immersed in
indications from nonrelevant surface
liquid penetrant baths to provide the
background. In critical applications of
liquid penetrant needed to fill
liquid penetrant testing, this loss of test
entrapments within discontinuities.
reliability and sensitivity to small
Following a dwell time sufficient to
discontinuities could be intolerable. Thus,
permit the entrapment of liquid
care and control in removal of excess
penetrant, the excess surface film of liquid
surface liquid penetrant are vital to
penetrant must be removed from part
reliability assurance with liquid penetrant
surfaces. Emulsifiers act like detergent to
loosen and to suspend or dissolve liquid
penetrant. The two major classes of
emulsifiers are oil based, or lipophilic Advantages of Drain-Dwell
(Fig. 6), and water based, or hydrophilic Technique during Penetration
(Fig. 7).
Test parts can be immersed in the tank of
Ideally, during removal of surface
liquid penetrant and then removed to
liquid penetrant, all excess surface liquid
drain excess liquid penetrant off the part
penetrant should be removed from all
surface while penetration into surface
surface areas (including fillets, corners and
discontinuities continues. The penetration
recesses) without removing the liquid
time with this drain-dwell technique is
penetrant entrapments. It is these small
important in two ways. Longer
quantities of liquid penetrant trapped
penetration times mean that less liquid
within subsurface volumes of the
penetrant is still on the surface when the
discontinuities that form the visible or
liquid penetrant is washed off or when
fluorescent indications of surface
the emulsifier is applied. A thinner layer
connected discontinuities.
of liquid penetrant calls for a shorter wash
Unfortunately, with rough or porous
or emulsifier dwell time because less
surfaces on test parts or with some types
emulsifier diffusion is needed. Further,
of cracked or porous surface coatings,
with a thinner surface layer of liquid
these intentional surface irregularities
penetrant, the wash water contains less
behave like discontinuities in the
liquid penetrant and the emulsifier that
underlying base metal, in that they can
drains back carries less liquid penetrant
trap and hold minute amounts of liquid
contamination into the emulsifier
penetrant. If such nonsignificant minute
surface entrapments of the liquid
penetrant cannot be removed, they form
visible or fluorescent surface background
effects that reduce the contrast and may Water Washing of
even hide indications of significant
discontinuities. Self-Emulsifiable Liquid
An important purpose of surface liquid Penetrants
penetrant removal is to improve the
Water rinsing is the most common
signal-to-noise ratio of liquid penetrant
technique of liquid penetrant removal.
testing. (Here, signal refers to the

48 Liquid Penetrant Testing

Water washable or self-emulsifiable liquid
FIGURE 6. Mechanism of FIGURE 7. Mechanism of penetrants contain the emulsifier as an
action of lipophilic action of hydrophilic integral part of their formulation.
emulsifiers: (a) liquid emulsifiers: (a) liquid Following penetration, it is merely
penetration; (b) add penetration; (b) add necessary to rinse the excess liquid
emulsifier; (c) solution and prerinsing; (c) detergent penetrant from the surfaces of the test
diffusion begins; scrubbing begins; objects. The obvious advantage of water
(d) diffusion proceeds; (d) agitation and wash removal lies in economies when the
(e) rinsing; (f) clean surface. emulsification; (e) rinsing; separate step of applying an emulsifier is
(f) clean surface. not required. The water wash time,
pressure and temperature must be
(a) (a) precisely controlled because the liquid
penetrant trapped within the
Liquid penetrant Liquid penetrant discontinuities, as well as the excess
surface liquid penetrant, is emulsifiable.
Water washable liquid penetrants have
different degrees of water solubility. Some
wash readily from rough test object
surfaces whereas others with a lower
degree of solubility are almost impossible
to remove from such rough surfaces. The
water washable liquid penetrant that is
(b) (b) highly water soluble will be more
Emulsifier susceptible to over removal (removal of
trapped liquid penetrant as well as surface
liquid penetrant). Thus, extreme care
must be exercised in selecting a water
washable liquid penetrant that is least
susceptible to overremoval but that does
not leave an interfering background of
surface liquid penetrant on the types of
(c) (c) part surfaces being processed. Because
Emulsifier and
liquid penetrant emulsifier is already contained in
emulsion self-emulsifiable water washable liquid
penetrants, the test operator does not
have control of emulsifier dwell time. (By
contrast, with the postemulsifier and
liquid penetrant, control of contact time
between emulsifier and liquid penetrant is
essential to prevent overremoval and, at
the same time, to attain a low degree of
color or fluorescent background on part
(d) (d)

Water Rinse Removal of

Excess Surface
Self-Emulsifiable Liquid
(e) After the necessary liquid penetrant dwell
time, the surface film of liquid penetrant
remaining on the test parts is removed by
water washing (Figs. 8 and 9). Washing is
best done with a coarse pressure spray,
(rather than by a solid stream) of room
temperature water. A trial rinse is
recommended to avoid rinsing
complications. Special attention is given
(f) (f) to holes and threads to ensure that they
are washed clean. The use of a spray
nozzle is very desirable because the liquid
penetrant is more easily removed with the
physical agitating action of the water
droplets. With fluorescent liquid
penetrant, this washing operation should
be carried out under ultraviolet radiation

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 49

to permit monitoring for complete Selection of Rinse Water
cleaning of all surfaces and cavities of the Temperature
test objects.
Small test parts may be washed Rinse water temperature around 20 C
individually or by the basketful in a tank (70 F) is adequate when rinsing for
MOVIE. removal of water washable surface liquid
Water wash. suitable for containing the water spray
from either fixed or portable nozzles. penetrant. Low temperature rinse water
Small runs of parts are more easily washed (below 10 C or 50 F) may reduce the
with a hose and nozzle. However, in ease with which liquid penetrants can be
automatic production line washing units, rinsed off the test parts. Some
the design and placement of fixed spray manufacturers of liquid penetrants
nozzles can readily accomplish an recommend elevated rinse temperatures of
excellent washing job. Excessively high 30 to 45 C (or 90 to 110 F). Preferably,
water pressures greater than 275 kPa rinse water temperatures should be kept
(40 lbfin.2) or extended rinse times reasonably constant to avoid variations in
greater than 120 s (2 min) should be rinse effectiveness which can result from
avoided to guard against overrinsing, wide extremes of rinse water temperature.
particularly where surface discontinuities
may be wide and shallow. A good
indicator of overwashing is the total lack
of liquid penetrant residue on the part FIGURE 9. Optimum technique for water
surfaces. washing to remove excess liquid penetrant
avoids both underwashing that leaves liquid
penetrant background on test parts and
overwashing that can remove liquid
FIGURE 8. Techniques for water rinse penetrant from flaw entrapments, thus
removal of excess liquid penetrant: (a) weakening or preventing formation of flaw
proper use of coarse water spray at 45 indications: (a) penetrated flaw; (b) removal
degree angle to wash parts to remove water of excess liquid penetrant; (c) overwashing.
washable liquid penetrant; (b) improper
adjustment of water hose nozzle for parts (a)
washing. Liquid penetrant


Water spray

(b) liquid

Water spray

Lost liquid liquid
penetrant penetrant

50 Liquid Penetrant Testing

Controlling of Removal of Surface on the configuration of the discontinuity,
Liquid Penetrant by Water because mechanical action (scrubbing
action) of water sprays can remove even
Washing nonemulsified liquid penetrant from both
The adequacy of the water rinse is part surfaces and discontinuities. (This
normally judged through visual technique finds application in the case of
observation of test object surfaces during hydrophilic removers using agitation,
the rinse operation. With fluorescent described elsewhere in this chapter.)
liquid penetrant, rinsing is performed Because broad, shallow discontinuities do
under near ultraviolet (ultraviolet-A) not retain enough entrapped water
radiation illumination in a semidarkened washable self-emulsifiable liquid
area. The purpose is to rinse test objects penetrant to ensure visible indications,
completely enough to remove background postemulsifiable and other types of liquid
fluorescence but not so thoroughly that penetrants are preferred for detection of
relevant indications are removed. Where wide, shallow surface cracks.
smooth surfaces are involved, background
is relatively absent. However, in the case
of rough or porous surfaces, the problem
assumes a different dimension. It can Avoidance of Overremoval
readily be seen that the test operator may of Surface Liquid
be working against himself, so to speak,
because rinsing thoroughly enough to Penetrant
remove background may also remove The activity of an emulsifier determines
relevant indications. The test operator its speed of interaction with liquid
should monitor the rate of background penetrants. Emulsifier efficiency is a
removal. When the rate decreases to a principal contributor to activity. For
barely noticeable amount further washing lipophilic emulsifiers viscosity is also a
would probably be detrimental to major player; for hydrophilic emulsifiers
retaining relevant indications. Often it is concentration plays an important role.
possible to differentiate between Overremoval of surface liquid penetrant
background and relevant indications but by an emulsifier leads to removal of liquid
this is not always the case. penetrant from within discontinuity
entrapments and causes loss of liquid
penetrant test indications. Causes of
overremoval by emulsifiers include
Liquid Penetrant Removal (1) poor design such that lipophilic
by Postemulsification and emulsifier is overactive and diffuses into
the liquid penetrant too rapidly,
Water Washing (2) improper mixing of hydrophilic
The second common technique of liquid emulsifier that results in excessive
penetrant removal is by the procedure concentration and (3) excessive emulsifier
known as postemulsification. Following dwell time which results from leaving the
penetration (liquid penetrant dwell time), emulsifier in contact with the liquid
a material known as an emulsifier is penetrant for too long a period. (With
applied to the excess liquid penetrant on very active emulsifiers, control of
the test object surface. The action of the emulsifier dwell time becomes difficult
emulsifier on the liquid penetrant results because parts must be handled or rinsed
in a mixture of emulsifier and liquid after short, precisely timed intervals.) In
penetrant, and the mixture is removable either case, emulsification of entrapped
with water. Rinsing with water removes liquid penetrant occurs and subsequent
the excess liquid penetrant and emulsifier water rinsing may also remove emulsified
mixture from the surface of the parts. liquid penetrant from discontinuities. This
Care must be taken that removal of liquid can lead to failure to produce visible
penetrant from discontinuity entrapments discontinuity indications.
does not occur with postemulsification
When background fluorescence has
been removed, rinsing is discontinued. Significance of Emulsifier
With visible liquid penetrants, absence of Dwell Time with
visible color indicates that rinsing is
complete. Both high rinse water pressures Postemulsifiable Liquid
and overly long water rinse times should Penetrants
be avoided to minimize the possibility of
Careful control of emulsifier dwell time is
removing entrapped liquid penetrant
probably the most critical timing function
from discontinuities.
in liquid penetrant test processing. It is
Overrinsing alone may remove liquid
likely that liquid penetrant retained
penetrant entrapments from
within entrapments resists mixing with
discontinuities. This depends somewhat
the emulsifier only because it is

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 51

inaccessible in fine, tight surface it into the liquid penetrant layer faster
discontinuities. Time of exposure to the than diffusion alone and speeds up a
emulsifier must normally be controlled for process that otherwise would take hours.
this reason. Abnormally long duration For emulsifiers to function selectively,
emulsification times have an the diffusion must be stopped when
overemulsification effect. Abnormally enough emulsifier has diffused to the test
short emulsification times are insufficient piece surface to make all the excess
to permit the emulsifier to react surface liquid penetrant emulsifiable. The
adequately with excess surface liquid diffusion is stopped, of course, by washing
penetrant so as to ensure its removal. the emulsified liquid penetrant off the test
surface with water. At that moment, some
emulsifier has begun to diffuse into the
liquid penetrant entrapments as well. If
Action of Lipophilic diffusion is stopped at this point, there
Emulsifiers will not be enough emulsifier present to
make more than the outer edge of the
Lipophilic emulsifiers are composed of entrapment emulsifiable. If diffusion is
emulsifying agents dispersed or dissolved not stopped quickly enough, some of the
in an oil base and are used as supplied. entrapment will become emulsified and
Therefore, they are readily soluble and the liquid penetrant emulsifier system will
diffuse into oily liquid penetrants. Their be no more selective than an ordinary
mode of action is based primarily on water washable liquid penetrant system.
diffusion and solubility into the oily
liquid penetrant. This renders excess
liquid penetrant water emulsifiable. Control of Emulsifier Dwell Time
Figure 6 illustrates the basic mechanism of Timing of emulsifier dwell is crucial. Too
action. short a dwell time results in a heavy
The emulsifiers are applied to the outer background of residual liquid penetrant
surface of the liquid penetrant and on the test part surface. Too long a dwell
blending of diffusion begins there. means diminished contrast and visibility
Application by dipping is recommended of test indications. Control of the dwell
for uniform diffusion over the surface of time is improved if the diffusion is slowed
the liquid penetrant. Diffusions occurs in down (by making liquid penetrant and/or
both directions; as the emulsifier diffuses emulsifier more viscous) or by making the
into the liquid penetrant layer, liquid emulsifier less efficient in any of several
penetrant is diffusing outwardly into the ways. Then more emulsifier must diffuse
emulsifier. A gradient is set up with pure into the liquid penetrant layer to make it
emulsifier on the outside, pure liquid emulsifiable.
penetrant on the inside (or within cracks)
and a continuously varying mixture in
between. Diffusion is a dynamic Advantages of Drain-Dwell
phenomenon and concentrations keep Technique during Emulsification
changing until the total combined film of Diffusion is not the only mechanism by
emulsified liquid penetrant has the same which emulsifier combines with surface
composition everywhere and is liquid penetrant when a drain-dwell
everywhere water washable, even within technique is used during emulsification. If
cracks. it were, emulsifier dwell times would be
The diffusion rate (emulsification time) many times longer than they are because
will vary depending on the viscosity of diffusion is quite slow. The other
the lipophilic emulsifier. High viscosity mechanism is turbulence. When
emulsifiers on the order of 60 to emulsifier is applied to a test piece or
100 mm2s1 (60 to 100 cSt) are relatively surface, it drains downward and while
slow acting (2 to 4 min emulsification). doing so mixes into the liquid penetrant.
Low viscosity emulsifiers, on the order of What drains off is clearly a blend of
30 to 50 mm2s1 (30 to 50 cSt), are emulsifier and liquid penetrant that has
relatively fast acting (under 2 min been generated by disruptive flowing of
emulsification). Another factor affecting the emulsifier. Because such turbulence
the diffusion rate or emulsification rate is does not readily extend into fine cracks,
the drain-off or flow-off of emulsifier from this mechanism assists the selectivity of
the surface of the part. In other words, if a the technique besides speeding it up
part were only immersed in an emulsifier enough to make it practical.
bath and not withdrawn and drained, the
diffusion (emulsification) rate into the
liquid penetrant would be significantly
slower in comparison to the dip and drain Mechanism of Action of
procedure usually used in most liquid Hydrophilic Emulsifiers
penetrant lines. As emulsifier drains off
the part, it provides turbulence that mixes The term hydrophilic means having an
affinity for water, whereas lipophilic means

52 Liquid Penetrant Testing

having an affinity for oil. Hydrophilic
emulsifiers (sometimes referred to as
liquid penetrant removers or detergent
Reprocessing Test Parts
scrubbers), on the other hand, are after Inadequate Removal
composed of emulsifying agents (usually of Surface Liquid
nonionic surfactant concentrates)
dissolved in water and used as an
immersion dip (concentration range of An error in past practice in some facilities
5 to 30 percent with mild air or using postemulsification liquid penetrants
mechanical agitation) or as a forced water has been to return a part that does not
spray rinse at dilution ratios of five rinse clean easily to the emulsifier tank
percent maximum. Hydrophilic for reemulsification. Reemulsification of
emulsifiers function through their parts that have been in contact with rinse
detergent and scraping or scrubbing water is not an acceptable practice
(kinetic) action, as shown in Fig. 7. because it has two deleterious effects:
As a spray liquid penetrant remover, (1) reemulsification would cause loss of
the hydrophilic emulsifier concentrate is control of both the emulsification time
metered into the forceful water spray rinse and the emulsification process and
in high dilution ratios. The spray remover (2) reemulsification introduces water
serves to scrub layer after layer of excess contamination into the emulsifier tank.
surface liquid penetrant from the part, Presently accepted good practice with
always using a fresh detergent water test parts that do not rinse freely is to
solution. Diffusion does not take place in reprocess these test parts through the
this mechanism of action. The active entire liquid penetrant testing process. It
agent in the remover helps displace liquid is important to begin this reprocessing
penetrant from the surface and prevents with thorough cleaning of each test object
redeposition. Removal of excess surface to remove all residues of prior liquid
liquid penetrant with hydrophilic penetrant, emulsifier, emulsified liquid
emulsifiers in an immersion or dip mode penetrant and water. Thorough drying of
is basically a detergent action wherein the parts is essential before reprocessing. If
remover detaches the liquid penetrant these products were carried back into the
from the surface. Mild agitation removes liquid penetrant immersion tank (if used),
the displaced liquid penetrant from the liquid penetrant contamination and prior
part so that it cannot redeposit. The blockage of passageways into surface
hydrophilic emulsifier contact time is discontinuities could occur. To improve
directly related to its concentration. This the rinsability of test parts being entirely
applies to both immersion and spray reprocessed, it may be desirable to
application. This process affords better increase the emulsification time or
control and, in addition, allows for an strengthen the emulsifier bath by the
effective and practical treatment and addition of new emulsifier.
recycling of the liquid penetrant prerinse
solution, thereby minimizing waste water
Causes and Effects of
Contamination of
Test Conditions Emulsifier Tanks
Influencing Selection of It is apparent from the nature of the
postemulsification process that liquid
Emulsification Time penetrant carried into the emulsifier tank
It is advisable to select the emulsification on the test objects may gradually
time with consideration of the following contaminate the emulsifier bath. When
influential factors: (1) liquid penetrant liquid penetrant content exceeds the
and emulsifier being used, (2) type of liquid penetrant tolerance of the
surface under test, (3) performance desired emulsifier, the activity of the emulsifier is
and (4) type of rinse used. It can be seen lowered. With reduced emulsifier activity,
that compatibility of liquid penetrant and it is necessary to use longer emulsifier
emulsifier can be an important dwell times to attain results equivalent to
consideration. It is also obvious that the those obtained in uncontaminated
rinse time, pressure and temperature may emulsifier with normal emulsification
influence the process. Some suppliers dwell time. When emulsifier
advocate elevated rinse water contamination reaches excess levels, both
temperatures but the optimum emulsification and test object rinsing to
temperature depends on the chemical remove excess surface liquid penetrant are
makeup of the emulsifier and its impaired. Hydrophilic emulsifiers are
emulsifying characteristics. more susceptible to liquid penetrant
contamination because of their high
water content.

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 53

Another common contaminant found
in lipophilic emulsifier tanks is water.
Although rinsing should be conducted
under conditions that result in the least
amount of splashing or direct water access
to the emulsifier tank, this practice is not
always followed. Another source of water
contamination results from
reemulsification of test parts or the
indirect emulsification process. Excessive
water contamination can usually be seen
by test operators because it is likely to
cause thickening, a creamy appearance or
separation of the lipophilic emulsifier.
(The care and maintenance of liquid
penetrant processing materials are
discussed elsewhere in this volume.)

54 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 4. Principles of Application and Operation
of Developers

Functions of Developers in Actions of Developers

Liquid Penetrant Testing
The most important basic function of a Actions of Developers in Forming
developer in liquid penetrant testing is to Liquid Penetrant Indications
extract liquid penetrant from an
entrapment within a discontinuity or Developer action appears to be a
surface discontinuity below the test part combination of solvency effect,
surface and to transfer at least some of adsorption and absorption. (Adsorption
this liquid penetrant to the surface to implies collection by adhesion to a
form a liquid penetrant indication that surface. Absorption refers to assimilation
can be seen by the inspector. The of liquid into the bulk of an absorbent
developer may also provide a mechanism material.) The developer powder exerts a
whereby the effective thickness of the combination of adsorptive and absorptive
surface film of liquid penetrant exuded effects on liquid penetrant residues,
from the liquid penetrant entrapment is drawing entrapped liquid penetrant to the
increased to levels above the threshold of test part surface. As the liquid penetrant
visibility. disperses in the developer powder, it
Another developer function is to forms test indications that can be readily
spread or disperse the liquid penetrant observed by the inspector. In the case of
over the part surface, thus increasing the the nonaqueous wet and special film type
apparent size (mainly width) of the developers, solvent action has been
indication exposed to the eye. The shown to play a part in promoting the
developer also provides a contrast increase withdrawal action and enhancing the
that enhances detection of an indication. liquid penetrant test indications.
Under near ultraviolet (ultraviolet-A)
radiation, the developer appears Undesirable Actions of Improperly
blue-black whereas the entrapped liquid Applied Developers
penetrant fluoresces yellowish green.
Visible dye developers provide a white Care is required to ensure that excess
background for the red or orange liquid surface liquid penetrant has been removed
penetrant indication. They also reduce from test object surfaces and that thin,
light reflection from shiny surfaces of test uniform developer coatings provide
parts so that eye fatigue is reduced. complete coverage of the entire test
surface. Application of developer coatings
of excessive thickness can cover, obscure
or extinguish the fluorescent or visible
Types of Developers color discontinuity indications by the
thick overlying layer of porous powder
There are several types of developers in developer. A normal effect of developer
common use in liquid penetrant testing: layers of appropriate thickness is the
(1) dry powder, (2) water soluble, lateral diffusion or bleeding of liquid
(3) water suspendible and (4) nonaqueous penetrant from discontinuity
(solvent suspendible). entrapments. This lateral migration of
The basic component of all developers liquid penetrant through the developer
is manufactured as a powder and performs coating may cause small adjacent
its basic function as a powder on the discontinuity indications to eventually
surface of a part being inspected. The become lost within the spreading
developers are distinguished by the listed indications from large discontinuity
types according to the condition of the entrapments. For this reason, it is often
developer at the time of application to a desirable for test operators to examine the
part during the liquid penetrant testing test parts soon after developer application
process. The second and third listed types and periodically thereafter throughout the
are often referred to as aqueous wet or recommended development time, to
simply aqueous and the fourth as observe the initial appearance and growth
nonaqueous wet because they are wet when of discontinuity indications.

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 55

Disadvantages of Using Dry
Dry Developer Developers
An obvious disadvantage of dry
Techniques for Applying Dry developers is their extreme dustiness,
which requires air cleaning equipment
Developer and/or the use of respirators. Because dry
The dry developer is readily developers leave a nearly invisible film, it
distinguishable from the powder used in is often difficult to determine if a test
MOVIE. water for wet type developers by the very surface has been adequately covered.
Developer fluffy nature and low bulk density of dry A subtle but extremely important
application. developer. In normal use, the dry disadvantage of dry powder developers
developer is blown onto the surfaces of stems from the fact that the test surface
test parts from which excess liquid must be dried before developer
penetrant has been removed and surfaces application. Excessive drying at test piece
have been completely dried. A flock type temperatures over 60 C (140 F) for more
spray gun or an electrostatic spray gun than 10 min can decrease the intensity of
can be used to apply this dry powder. the fluorescent dye in liquid penetrants,
Alternatively, fluidized bed systems create especially the top layer. When the
clouds of dry powder, effective in coating developer is subsequently applied, the top
dry test parts with a thin film of layer of liquid penetrant that comes in
developer. The powder cloud can be contact with the developer will form an
created when a small amount of dry indication of diminished fluorescent
developer power is agitated by means of intensity. Solvent developers avoid this
an air blast from the bottom of the dry failure to form indications because the
developer tank. solvent reaches the deeper levels of
In other cases, test operators dip dry entrapped liquid penetrant and leaches it
test parts into a tank of fluffy dry to the surface. Aqueous developers do not
developer powder. With each application encounter this problem to the same
system and especially when dipping parts degree because the heating does not take
into dry powder, excess developer is place until the developer is already in
removed either by blowing it off with position and aqueous developers seem to
light puffs of air or by shaking the test insulate fluorescent indications against
objects. The fine adhering dry developer rapid thermal degradation.
particles tend to absorb residual entrapped
liquid penetrant and draw it from
discontinuities. Liquid penetrant
indications usually appear within a few Aqueous Developers
minutes after developer application as
entrapped liquid penetrant bleeds back
into the thin developer coating. A typical Types of Aqueous Developers
developing period is about half of liquid Two types of aqueous developer are in
penetrant dwell time. Often it is common use in liquid penetrant testing.
advantageous to examine parts for The first consists of insoluble developer
developing indications during particles suspendible in water, whereas the
development period to resolve fine second contains a powder that is actually
indications before they are lost in dissolved in water. The suspended
adjacent bleedouts. aqueous developer is mixed into water in
Caution. Dry powder developer beds can a concentration recommended by its
become contaminated with excess liquid manufacturer. Frequent stirring or
penetrant left on test parts. Visual agitation is needed to prevent the
examination of the developer powder developer powder from settling out of its
under near ultraviolet (ultraviolet-A) water suspension.
radiation will show fluorescent The soluble or aqueous developers are
indications of this contamination. This prepared merely by diluting them with
simple check should be made periodically water in the proportions recommended by
and contaminated developer replaced their manufacturers. These developers are
with fresh clean developer when needed. applied to test parts in the same manner
as the wet aqueous suspension developers
just described. With soluble developers,
Advantages of Dry Developers agitation is not required to maintain
The major advantage of using dry uniform consistency after the developer
developer is the simplicity of handling it. has been initially mixed with water.
It is easy to apply (even though Aqueous wet developers usually
monitoring coverage is difficult). Dry contain wetting agents and corrosion
powder developer is in no way corrosive inhibitors to minimize attack on test
and gives off no hazardous vapors. It objects and liquid penetrant processing
leaves no film behind to hinder equipment. When applied by dipping or
subsequent processing or operations. flowing, the thickness of the dried

56 Liquid Penetrant Testing

developer coating on test objects after Advantages of Using Aqueous
evaporation of the water vehicle is Developers
determined by the concentration of
developer in the water. With spray Aqueous developers give off no noxious
application of aqueous developer, coating and/or flammable vapors and no
thickness must be carefully controlled. If a annoying or hazardous dusts and thus
heavy film is applied, an excess of require no use of elaborate safety
developer powder remains after drying. equipment. Compared to solvent
Excess developer coating thickness tends developers, harmless and inexpensive
to obscure or hide liquid penetrant test water is being driven off, not costly and
indications and so reduces the reliability hazardous solvents. Whereas dry
of liquid penetrant testing. developers do not produce visible
coatings, aqueous developers have the
advantage of making the extent of
Techniques for Applying Aqueous developer coverage visible. If there is a
Wet Developer void in coverage, it is obvious.
Wet aqueous powder developer can be
applied to test part surfaces that have Disadvantages of Using Wet
previously been processed by liquid Aqueous Developers
penetrant application followed by dwell
time and removal of excess surface liquid The wetting agent functions as a liquid
penetrant by water washing. The preferred penetrant remover when aqueous
techniques of application of wet developer developer is applied by dipping or flowing
are gentle spraying, dipping or flowing onto test parts. As a result, wet developers
onto test parts. Caution must be used must be applied with some care to
when spraying, dipping or flowing prevent developer loss and liquid
aqueous developers because they contain penetrant loss from discontinuities.
wetting agents and function much as do For most applications, aqueous
very dilute hydrophilic removers. Not only developers are not recommended for use
does an additional and unwanted removal with water washable liquid penetrants.
occur but the developer can become Such usage may cause blurring or loss of
contaminated with liquid penetrant. discontinuity indications because liquid
Because the developer is in water penetrant entrapments are subject to
suspension or solution, it is possible to detergent action and removal by wetting
apply it to test objects whose surface agents in the developer system. If
liquid penetrant has been removed by specifications allow, developer choice
water spraying without requiring should be based on application specific
intermediate drying of the test parts. evaluations
Following the application of aqueous Spraying can lead to a nonuniform
developer, test parts are normally dried in coating of developer, leaving some areas
ovens operating at temperatures adequate devoid and others with excessive coating,
to evaporate the water from the surface, which can hide indications. Being liquid,
to leave a uniform coating of dried aqueous developers flow (like solvent
developer. Care is required to ensure that developers) before being fixed by drying
an excessive amount of wet developer is and may fill up recesses with gross
not applied because a high buildup of excesses of developer. Avoidance of this
developer coating will obscure or hide requires care in application and in
discontinuity indications. positioning test pieces.
Compared with solvent based
developers, aqueous developers suffer a
Techniques for Drying of Wet disadvantage (shared with dry developers)
Aqueous Developer Coatings in that there is no solvent action to assist
To promote drying into uniform coatings, in forming indications, only capillary
it is preferable to heat the test part surface action. This makes aqueous (and dry)
after the application of wet aqueous developers noticeably less sensitive than
developers. Many users prefer to apply the some solvent developers. Also, because
wet developer suspension by spraying it they contain wetting agents, aqueous
onto the wet test part surface resulting developers tend to cause foaming if
from the postemulsification or water handled too forcefully
washable removal process. Following Aqueous developer powders are prone
developer application, the surface is oven to deterioration in storage, a result of the
dried to promote evaporation of water corrosion inhibitor reacting with other
from the developer coating. As with essential ingredients of the developer.
drying operations before using other Also, while in the developer tank, soluble
developers, test piece temperature should developers are susceptible to attack by
not exceed 60 C (140 F). Indication bacteria and fungi. To guard against this
dimming by heat is minimal and the test problem, the developer contains biocides.
pieces can be handled less cautiously. If a developer tank does become infected,

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 57

it is necessary to dispose of the developer, required. However, the test part surface
to sanitize the developer tank if it must be completely dry before applying
becomes infected and then to change the the nonaqueous developer.
solution. The problem can be identified A thin film of the nonaqueous wet
immediately because clumps or colonies developer is desirable to give the ultimate
of the attacking microorganisms will be in sensitivity. Electrostatic spray guns or a
visible in the solution and may stink. fine atomizing spray from a paint spray
These colonies can interfere with the test gun or aerosol spray can will provide this
process by absorbing liquid penetrant and fine developer coverage. As with the
then appearing as a false indication. suspension type aqueous developer, it is
necessary to agitate the nonaqueous wet
Advantages of Water Soluble Wet developer before use to ensure that
developer particles are fully suspended. MOVIE.
Developer Agitation before application is also Shake the
Developer solubility eliminates the essential with nonaqueous wet developers spray can.
necessity of agitating the developer to packaged in spray cans. The use of
keep undissolved solids in suspension nonaqueous developer results in
while retaining the other advantages of indications with high visibility and
the wet developer. Drying results in a enables reliable detection of smaller
uniform film that performs the developer discontinuities.
function. In addition, because the dried
developer coating is water soluble, it is
much easier to remove the developer
coating during postcleaning than it is to Film Type Developer
remove the insoluble water suspended The film type developer, as the name
developer coatings. implies, forms a plastic film over the
liquid penetrant area as it dries. This
Disadvantages of Water Soluble developer is used infrequently, in special
Wet Developer applications. It is normally spray applied,
as with the nonaqueous wet type, and the
The water soluble wet developer also solvent carrier acts to draw liquid
retains some of the disadvantage of the penetrant into the developer film. As the
suspension type powder developer. It does film dries, the exposed liquid penetrant
not have much solvent action. Dip indications set in a pattern indicative of
application may result in local the discontinuities in the surface being
accumulations or a nonuniform developer inspected. This film provides a permanent
film, thus impairing liquid penetrant test record of the discontinuity pattern and
sensitivity. can be peeled from the surface and
Another disadvantage of soluble retained for reference. Resolution of the
developers is that they are difficult to film type developer is of a high order but
monitor for the correct solution its use is somewhat restricted to special
concentration and are difficult to correct applications because of the labor involved
if necessary. The proper concentration is in stripping the film from test parts. This
important because the sensitivity of the is more difficult than the ordinary tank
developer is a function of concentration type removal techniques used for other
and because deviations from it will affect types of developer.
the sensitivity of the test. Monitoring the Nonstrippable film developer may be
concentration requires that both the the most efficacious developer. However,
temperature and the specific gravity be its use would be limited to special
measured simultaneously because one applications where the film remaining on
varies with the other. Correcting the a surface would not be detrimental.
solution concentration requires involved
calculations that ought to be performed
by laboratory personnel.

Nonaqueous Wet
wet developer Developer
enhances Another common developer type is the so
visible dye called nonaqueous wet developer whose
contrast. developer solids come premixed and
suspended in a volatile solvent. The
volatile solvent tends to pull liquid
penetrant from indications by solvent
action. It also accelerates drying so that a
supplementary drying operation is not

58 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 5. Inspection and Interpretation of Liquid
Penetrant Indications

Visibility of Liquid Formation and Bleeding of

Penetrant Test Indications Liquid Penetrant
Probably the one factor most responsible Indications
for the effectiveness of a liquid penetrant Liquid penetrant indications tend to bleed
is its visibility, often referred to as across the developer coating as time
brightness, contrast or brilliance. progresses after their formation. Thus, as
Carefully conducted experiments with the developer action progresses from the
glass plates clamped together and viewed time of its application, discontinuity
(through the mating surfaces) under indications appear gradually and then
monochromatic light have shown that reach their optimum visibility and clarity.
liquid penetrant materials of only Thereafter, as bleeding of liquid penetrant
medium or low performance can enter indications continues, the liquid
openings that are smaller in width than a penetrant spreads laterally into the
half wavelength of sodium light. Liquid developer coating. This gradually reduces
penetrant was determined to have entered the definition and intensity of the
to a plate gap of only 130 nm (about indications. The optimum indications are
5 106 in.). Taking into consideration typically reached with developing times
the extremely small amount of liquid in the range from 2 to 10 min (Fig. 10).
penetrant contained in a discontinuity of Excessive bleedout of entrapped liquid
this size and the fact that only a small penetrant may take 30 min or longer
portion of this liquid penetrant can be (Fig. 11).
bled back to the surface to become visible,
it is obvious that everything that will
enhance visibility should be used if
maximum liquid penetrant test Contrast of Visible Dye
performance is to be obtained.
Liquid Penetrant Test
Visual Examination of In the case of visible liquid penetrants,
increasing indication visibility means
Fluorescent Liquid incorporating the largest possible
Penetrant Test Indications quantities of dye in the liquid penetrant
vehicle and choosing the most intense
The inspector views the processed test dye colors with the highest contrast with
surfaces under ultraviolet radiation in a respect to the background against which
darkened test area when fluorescent liquid they will be viewed. In nearly all cases, MOVIE.
penetrant systems are used. Indications of this contrast is heightened by using the Nonaqueous
discontinuities fluoresce with an developer in such a manner that wet developer
intensity that provides contrast in developer (1) serves to bring liquid enhances
proportion to the ambient darkness, penetrant out of the discontinuity and visible dye
literally drawing the eye of the inspector (2) also covers the surface with a smooth, contrast.
to them. The darker the inspection area white coating against which the
and the more nearly dark adapted the indication stands out sharply.
eyes of the inspector, the more reliable All of the visible dye liquid penetrants
the inspection will be. If outdoor presently in use make themselves
fluorescent liquid penetrant testing is perceptible to the eye in one of two ways
necessary, it is often done at night or the either by reflecting a considerably
area of interest is shielded as much as smaller amount of light than the
possible from visible radiation (white background or by reflecting light of a
light). different color (usually red) than the
background (color contrast). The incident
light is not all absorbed by the liquid
penetrant, nor does the background
reflect all the light that strikes it. The
actual contrast ratios are extremely
difficult to measure but have been

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 59

FIGURE 10. Fluorescent liquid penetrant FIGURE 11. Examples of fluorescent liquid
indications of optimum resolution and penetrant indications with excessive
clarity, obtained without bleedout or bleedout or spreading of liquid penetrant
excessive spreading of liquid penetrant across developer film: (a) turbine blade;
across developer film: (a) gears; (b and c) structural parts; (d) casting.
(b) sprocket; (c) spindle; (d) links.
(a) (a)

(b) (b)


(d) (d)

60 Liquid Penetrant Testing

estimated at from 10:1 to 20:1, the surface liquid penetrant and intensity of
maximum contrast theoretically fluorescence is necessary to reduce the
obtainable. background fluorescence to a practical

Contrast of Fluorescent
Liquid Penetrant Test Placement of Light Sources
Indications in Liquid Penetrant Testing
In the case of fluorescent liquid penetrant Booth
discontinuity indications, visual Consideration should be given to the
perceptibility is enhanced by light disposition of lights within an inspection
emission mechanisms within the liquid booth and to the effect on an operator of
penetrant indications and conditions of placement of light sources. Although
viewing are quite different. Using ultraviolet-A radiation will not damage
brightness contrast, the bright the eye permanently, some of the layers of
yellow-green indication is seen against a the eyeball exhibit strong tendencies to
nearly black or at least a very dark fluoresce. If the inspection light is placed
background. The indication itself is so that its rays fall directly or are reflected
actually a source of light which, even into the eyes of operators, this eyeball
though small, is quite intense. Contrast fluorescence can become extremely
can be exceptionally high. Some estimates annoying and will impair inspector
give it a value as high as 100 to 1 or even effectiveness to a very marked degree.
much greater, because it is the presence of Use of special filtering eyeglasses will
light compared to absence of light. increase operator perception and reduce
With fluorescent liquid penetrants, the fatigue. Yellow tinted eyeglasses filter out
most effective way to increase visibility the ultraviolet radiation before it reaches
(and improve resolution of fine the eye, yet they do not reduce the
discontinuities) is to increase the visibility of fluorescent indications.
fluorescent brilliance of the liquid
penetrant material. The fluorescent
indications are generally viewed in the
substantial absence of visible light, so that Interpretation of Liquid
the background remains unseen. Penetrant Indications
The interpretation of liquid penetrant
Visibility of Fluorescent Liquid indications is normally a matter of
Penetrant Indications considerable judgment. It might be said
From the point of view of color contrast, that it involves three phases:
most fluorescent liquid penetrants provide (1) observation of indications,
yellow or yellow-green indications against (2) verification of indication cause and
a black background. This has been proven significance and (3) disposition of test
by research into visibility of such objects objects in accordance with applicable
as highway signs to be one of the most criteria for acceptance and rejection.
seeable combinations possible. The The first step is that of visually
normal human eye has its highest observing the indication and verifying
sensitivity in the yellow or yellow green that it is relevant, i.e., that it is indicating
wavelength range. In fluorescent testing, a discontinuity rather than a material
the eye looks at a fine source of light of characteristic that is a normal condition
high brightness. Under this condition, of the surface under investigation.
probably because of halation, the source Figures 12 and 13 show some typical
size appears to be greatly exaggerated liquid penetrant indications.
whereas the dark background tends to be The American Society for Testing and
minimized. Materials (ASTM) has issued ASTM E 433,
Standard Reference Photographs for Liquid
Penetrant Inspection.5 This publication
Background Fluorescence Caused contains reference photographs to be used
by Rough or Porous Surfaces as a means of establishing and classifying
In some practical applications where the type and characteristics of surface
test object surface is porous or rough, discontinuities detectable by liquid
fluorescent liquid penetrant tends to be penetrant test techniques. They may be
retained on the surface as well as in used as a reference for acceptance
discontinuities. This condition reduces standards, specifications and drawings.
contrast between the background and However, no attempt has been made to
indications and may impair establish limits of acceptability or the
discrimination. For this reason, a extent of the metallurgical discontinuity.
compromise between the removability of

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 61

FIGURE 12. Fluorescent liquid penetrant test indications under ultraviolet radiation:
(a) aluminum spar cap; (b) fatigue crack in bearing shell.

(a) (b)

FIGURE 13. Blow holes in casting shown by fluorescent liquid penetrant testing.

62 Liquid Penetrant Testing

In the event of questions of 1. What metal or alloy is involved in test
interpretation, supplemental means of objects?
observation may be necessary such as 2. If the test objects have a nonmetallic
viewing liquid penetrant indications surface, what is its composition?
under magnification or preparing 3. Where are the indications? Are they in
metallographs of cross sections of critical radii, on edges that will be
discontinuities encountered in production ground off, in parts designed for high
testing. strength applications or in thick
When it has been determined that an sections that may allow for removal of
indication is relevant, a further judgment surface discontinuities without
must be made as to the disposition of the sacrifice of function?
test objects to answer questions such as 4. Are the surface or surfaces repairable
the following. by welding or other means?
1. Should supplemental nondestructive 5. What is the cost of the part? It may be
tests such as ultrasonic or radiographic that the cost of a new part is so low
testing be used to attempt more that the expense of repair or rework of
complete definition of the an anomalous part is not warranted.
discontinuity causing the liquid Conversely, of course, one would not
penetrant indication? want to discard an expensive piece of
2. Can the surface be accepted as is or be hardware that could be reworked at a
reworked to eliminate the indicating considerable savings over the cost of a
discontinuity? new part.
3. Should the surface or part be
discarded as unserviceable?
Interpretation of indications is discussed Specifications Covering
in detail elsewhere in this volume.
Evaluation of Liquid
Penetrant Indications
Establishing Criteria for Some industries have prepared standards
for evaluation and acceptance/rejection of
Acceptance or Rejection hardware on the basis of liquid penetrant
Specifications or drawings for the parts or indications. These standards vary from
surface under examination should specify quite general to very detailed. Liquid
the nondestructive test method or penetrant users may find some of these
methods required for part acceptance. helpful or may prefer to prepare their
Moreover, drawings should specify the own. If they are working under a contract,
acceptance or rejection criteria or refer the it is mandatory that they determine the
inspector to supplemental documents specifications to which the contracting
such as applicable acceptance/rejection agency intends to hold them and
specifications. If liquid penetrant tests are conform thereto. Commonly, a general
being made on critical parts such as statement covering inspection policy may
nuclear hardware or a jet engine be encountered, such as, the inspection
component, an expert in evaluation of department shall pass only those parts
indications in the specific industry may that have no relevant liquid penetrant
have to be called on for a judgment. indications. Parts showing liquid
To establish acceptance/rejection penetrant indications should be referred
criteria, it may be necessary to conduct an to the metallurgy or design departments
extensive correlation study between for disposition. The metallurgy or design
nondestructive test indications and department shall decide which parts shall
destructive test results. This is the be accepted, reworked or rejected.
ultimate procedure but even it may leave There are many specifications covering
some doubt because discontinuities or the liquid penetrant products, liquid
indications do not always occur in exactly penetrant processing procedures and
the same place, with the same frequency certification of liquid penetrant test
or to the same extent. personnel. Some specifications have been
prepared by government agencies and
others by technical societies such as the
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Factors Influencing (ASME), the American Society for Testing
Judgment of Test Object and Materials (ASTM) and SAE
International (formerly the Society of
Serviceability Automotive Engineers, or SAE). Numerous
It should be obvious that a number of specifications have been developed by
factors enter into the final judgment. companies using liquid penetrant testing.
Some of these are as follows. Because of frequent changes in
requirements, test personnel and facilities
should always check to verify that they

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 63

are using the revision or amendment of
the applicable test specifications called
out under contract.

Criteria for Critical Parts
Test acceptance/rejection criteria for parts
or surfaces would normally be referenced
by an applicable specification, standard
for a particular part or some other
governing document that would outline
what type of discontinuity would be cause
for rejection. An extreme example of this
would be the approach taken by
companies that are working with fracture
mechanics, whereby a particular structure
or part is analyzed for specific types of
discontinuities that may or may not
constitute a rejectable discontinuity.
Standards are then drawn up for the items
for nondestructive test criteria, which may
include liquid penetrant testing. These
would include minimum acceptable
indication size and strict uniform liquid
penetrant processing.
The importance of carefully controlled
liquid penetrant testing and the necessity
to record the exact techniques used to
process the parts on the technique card or
other applicable document cannot be over
emphasized. In a number of
specifications, porosity bleedout diameters
are specified as accept/reject criteria. The
maximum acceptable size limits for liquid
penetrant indications apply to the
bleedout indication immediately after
wiping the indication one time with a
swab or brush dipped in solvent.
Bleedback refers to the recurrence of the
liquid penetrant indication after once
wiping away the original indication.

64 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 6. Field Techniques for Liquid Penetrant

3. Note that pressurized cans and sprays

Field Techniques for Liquid atomize solvent materials, making
them more prone to combustion.
Penetrant Testing
It is often necessary to carry out liquid
penetrant testing in the field where little
or no equipment is available. Precleaning Field Preparation of Parts
before liquid penetrant testing can be
accomplished using a solvent cleaner. The
for Liquid Penetrant
liquid penetrant is applied to the part or Testing
the area being inspected by means of a The same general preparations used for
clean brush or swab, with a liquid field inspection with fluorescent liquid
penetrant spray can or with a spray gun. penetrants apply to visible liquid
Liquid penetrant should remain on the penetrants. The parts must be cleaned and
part for the length of time suggested with the rejectable discontinuities should not
water washable and postemulsifiable be contaminated with any materials that
liquid penetrants. may interfere with the ability of the liquid
As in all liquid penetrant techniques, penetrant to enter the rejectable
the length of time that the liquid discontinuity. For field application, a
penetrant must be on the part to enter prepared solvent cleaner may be used to
rejectable discontinuities depends to some remove oils, grease and other materials
extent on the type of materials, on that may confuse inspection or
temperature and on weather conditions. A contaminate rejectable discontinuities and
nominal visible dye liquid penetrant prevent the liquid penetrant from
dwell time of 5 to 10 min is adequate but entering. Loose scale, paint, carbon, engine
longer penetration times are in no way varnish, and other materials should be
detrimental, providing the surface is removed. After cleaning, the test surface
occasionally rewetted with liquid should be wiped dry with clean lint-free
penetrant, especially in a hot paper toweling or rags. If the towels or
environment. rags pick up dirt, the cleaning process
should be repeated. The solvent remover
used for liquid penetrant removal is a
convenient solvent precleaner.
Field Precautions for
Liquid Penetrant Testing
The following precautions should be
observed throughout the liquid penetrant
Field Application of Liquid
testing process. Penetrant
1. Particular care should be taken in The liquid penetrant is applied to the
handling liquid penetrant so as not to cleaned area with a brush (Fig. 14), spray
get it on clothing, bench tops, chairs, gun or from a pressure spray can. Visible
floors or parts not being tested. It may or fluorescent liquid penetrant can be
be extremely difficult to remove. used as appropriate. Either water washable
2. If liquid penetrant materials are used or postemulsifiable liquid penetrant is
from pressurized spray cans in a cold suitable. The entire surface to be inspected
environment, the temperature of the should be wet with the liquid penetrant.
cans should be no lower than 16 C If the liquid penetrant is allowed to
(60 F). To maintain this temperature, remain on the part too long, it may be
cans may be kept in insulated difficult to remove liquid penetrant from
enclosures until just before use. the test surface. Should this happen, the
Pressurized spray cans do not function inspector should apply more liquid
properly below this temperature. If the penetrant on the area and then proceed
materials are applied by brushing, it is with the cleaning. The reapplication of
possible to inspect at temperatures liquid penetrant will make the surface
near the freezing point of the liquid easy to clean. Reapplication should not be
penetrant. necessary unless unusually long liquid
penetrant dwell times are used.

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 65

only enough solvent to obtain a reasonably
FIGURE 14. Fluorescent liquid penetrant test clean surface free from excessive
of landing gear forging on aircraft during background. It is best to dampen a cloth
maintenance operation: (a) application of slightly with solvent and use it to wipe the
liquid penetrant by brush to precleaned test part. If water washable liquid penetrant is
area; (b) wipe removal of excess surface used, dampen the cloth with water.
liquid penetrant from test area.

Field Application of
Nonaqueous Developers
A convenient developer for use under
field conditions is nonaqueous developer
applied from an aerosol container.
Before applying the developer, the
container should be shaken vigorously to
make certain the materials are well mixed
and all solids are brought into suspension.
The developer should be used sparingly.
Just enough developer is applied with a
spray can to cover the part thinly and
evenly. The proper developer thickness
will dry to a thin, translucent layer. Too
much developer may mask indications.
Care should be taken to use a short
distance of up to 0.3 m (12 in.) between
spray nozzles and test parts to ensure
application of a wet developer coat.
(b) Excessive spraying distances result in
solvent flashoff so that the benefits of a
nonaqueous developer that aids liquid
penetrant from entrapments to reach the
test surface will be lost. The user should
exercise caution because some developers
sprayed from aerosol cans are flammable.

Viewing of Fluorescent
Liquid Penetrant
For field inspection under ultraviolet
radiation, curtains or other means of
shutting out the natural light are
recommended. The darker the inspection
area, the more reliable the inspection will
be. Outdoor testing is often done at night.
Inspectors should accommodate their eyes
to darkness before inspection.

Solvent Wipe Removal of Advantages of Solvent

Excess Liquid Penetrant in Removable Liquid
Field Penetrant Process in Field
After sufficient penetration time has
elapsed, the excess liquid penetrant is In the field, it is common practice to use
removed from the surface of the test part. the solvent removable visible dye liquid
Most of the liquid penetrant can usually be penetrant process for liquid penetrant
removed by wiping with rags or paper testing in the following circumstances:
toweling (Fig. 14b). Solvent should never (1) if there is not a convenient water
be applied directly to test parts during supply, (2) if it is not permissible or
removal of excess surface liquid penetrant. practical to perform a rinsing operation or
If excessive amounts of solvent are used, (3) if the area to be inspected is only a
some liquid penetrant may be removed small part of a large assembly or part. The
from discontinuities. It is preferable to use chief advantage of the solvent removable
liquid penetrant testing technique is its

66 Liquid Penetrant Testing

portability. It is easy to carry the materials dye liquid penetrant indications of fatigue
needed for testing limited areas. The cracking in service. Discontinuities will be
solvent removal technique is also used for marked by brightly colored indications. If
inspecting local areas of large surfaces. the discontinuity is wide and deep, the
Precleaning of test objects is also generally indication will grow and spread. Porosity,
done with solvent, so that water is not shrinkage, lack of bond and leaks appear
required for this operation. as local dots or areas of color. These too
may grow and spread if the rejectable
discontinuity is large, covers an extensive
area or is quite deep.
Field Techniques for Visible
Dye Liquid Penetrant
Most of the techniques and precautions Leak Testing with Liquid
necessary to the proper use of fluorescent
liquid penetrants apply equally well when Penetrants
use is made of visible dye materials. Some Testing of materials for discontinuities
basic differences, however, should be that extend completely through the
taken into consideration. There are some section is termed leak testing. The
test problems and situations in which the technique of using liquid penetrants for
fluorescent liquid penetrant techniques leak testing is not usually limited to any
may be very inconvenient or impossible great degree by the geometry of parts to
to use. This is particularly true when there be inspected. An application especially
is no electric current available for an well suited to this technique is the
ultraviolet lamp or when electricity may inspection of items designed to contain
present a hazard, such as around aircraft liquid or gas. This is particularly true in
fuel tanks. If a darkened inspection area is cases where such containers (pipes, tubes,
not available or is not convenient to ducts, vessels etc.) have limited access to
simulate, fluorescent liquid penetrant their internal surface, thereby precluding
testing would be impractical. visual examination or the execution of
other test techniques. It also has the
advantage that it can be used on
subassemblies before the completion of
Viewing of Visible Dye the finished container. Leak testing by
Liquid Penetrant liquid penetrant is equally well suited to
ferrous, nonferrous or nonmetallic
Indications materials, with the precaution that the
Under proper conditions, large cracks will latter are not adversely affected by the
show up immediately as red lines on the liquid penetrant. Although there exist
part. Finer rejectable discontinuities numerous variations of the liquid
require a lighter, thinner film of developer penetrant leak test, the procedure
and it may take several seconds or described here shall be considered as basic
minutes before the red dye of the liquid for this technique.
penetrant appears through the thin Leak testing indicates only
developer film. Figure 15 shows visible discontinuities that extend completely
through the material. Therefore, the
absence of discontinuity indications does
not preclude the presence of extensive
FIGURE 15. Visible dye liquid penetrant indications of fatigue
discontinuities that are not, however,
cracking in fillet area of crankshaft.
completely through the material. Leak
testing by the liquid penetrant technique
cannot be substituted for pressure tests
directly where the applied stress and the
associated proof test factors are significant
in the test procedure.

Liquid Penetrant Application for

Leak Testing
Any liquid penetrant may be used
although the highest sensitivity
fluorescent liquid penetrant will reveal
the smallest leaks and do so more quickly.
For test purposes, no distinction need be
made regarding self-emulsification or
postemulsification or water soluble or
solvent soluble liquid penetrants, except
that consideration to final cleaning

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 67

convenience should be given. Apply the
liquid penetrant by a means that will
ensure complete coverage of one surface
being tested without allowing the liquid
penetrant to reach the opposite surface.
Exercise care to prevent the liquid
penetrant from passing around edges or
ends or through designed holes or
passages to the opposite surface. Apply
sufficient liquid penetrant during the
period of test to prevent drying of liquid
penetrant on the surface during leak

Developing of Leak Testing

Immediately following liquid penetrant
application, a developer is applied to the
surface opposite that on which the liquid
penetrant was placed. Nonaqueous
developer is usually most suitable.
Exercise care to prevent the developer
from contacting the liquid penetrant at
edges, ends or through designed holes or
passages and thereby destroying, through
absorption of liquid penetrant, the test
results over portions of the material being

Penetration Time for Leak Testing

with Liquid Penetrants
Penetration time shall be considered as
the period of time allowed for passage of
the liquid penetrant through any
discontinuities to the surface on which
the developer was placed. This time
period shall begin immediately on liquid
penetrant application. The extent of the
time period shall be determined by trial.
However, the initial trial period in all
cases shall be no less than three times
greater than the time normally used for
surface inspection of cracks. Generally,
the penetration time varies with the
thickness of the section being tested.

Viewing Leak Testing Results

Test results shall be considered conclusive
only after the lapse of the established
development time. The requirements for
illumination shall be either visible
radiation (white light) or near ultraviolet
radiation, whichever is applicable.

Interpretation of Leak Testing

When using the liquid penetrant testing
technique for leak testing, the
interpretation shall be restricted to citing
the presence or absence of leak
discontinuities and, when present, their
general nature (hole, crack etc.), their
magnitude and their location.

68 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 7. Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test

Manufacturers generally supply

Reasons for Maintenance information with such equipment,
outlining complete lubrication procedures
of Liquid Penetrant Testing and specifying the various types of oils or
Equipment grease that should be used for best results.
As in any manufacturing installation, a
liquid penetrant nondestructive testing Electrical Maintenance of Liquid
system requires a certain amount of Penetrant Processing Equipment
maintenance to ensure continuous
Electrical equipment, particularly in the
reliable test service and to make certain
more complicated machines, should be
that the results of the tests are consistent.
inspected regularly. Because many of the
Compared with other shop installations,
liquids used in liquid penetrant
service requirements are not extensive or
processing are electrically conductive,
difficult. However, a small amount of time
they can contribute to electrolytic
spent in making certain that equipment
corrosion between dissimilar metals. Such
and materials are in proper condition will
corrosion may occur even on a single
pay dividends in reliable inspection and
metal when the liquid gets onto it,
absence of downtime. It can also result in
particularly where the metal carries
large monetary savings by either
current and the liquid happens to be
(1) preventing the scrapping of good parts
where current can flow through it to the
or (2) preventing use of anomalous parts
metal. Conductive liquids can at times
in service.
cause trouble in program control circuits
by causing partial short circuits. These
may damage electrical equipment or cause
Types of Maintenance faulty operation of sensitive control
relays. It is a good policy to look over all
Required for Liquid electrical circuitry at each maintenance
Penetrant Testing Systems inspection and to remove all evidence of
liquids that may have splashed or
Maintenance is ordinarily of two different
otherwise gotten onto wiring or electrical
types. The first applies to the
maintenance of mechanical and electrical
The most important point for electrical
equipment and of any associated types of
maintenance of liquid penetrant test
accessories. The second has to do with the
equipment is the dryer. Failure of a dryer
maintenance of proper characteristics of
fan or thermostat could cause loss of
expendable materials such as the liquid
control of drying operations. Overheating
penetrants, emulsifiers, developers and
of aluminum alloy parts in the dryer
cleaners used to accomplish the tests. The
could cause overaging of these production
second type is covered elsewhere in this
parts. Automatic rinse stations should also
be watched for conditions of excessive
pressure or overly long rinse cycles. The
Mechanical Maintenance of Liquid rinse water temperature must also be
Penetrant Test Equipment controlled properly when working with
some types of liquid penetrants.
It is not feasible here to give specific
instructions applicable to all test
equipment that might be encountered.
There are some basic service precautions Maintenance of Plant
that should be observed, however. One of
the most important items is, of course, Safety Equipment in Liquid
lubrication of moving parts of liquid Penetrant Test Areas
penetrant test equipment. Even in the
Fire extinguishers, fire alarms and other
smaller units there may be fans, pumps
equipment used to prevent fire or
and the like that should be inspected for
explosion must be maintained in
lubrication regularly. In large production
accordance with fire prevention codes and
type liquid penetrant test equipment,
insurance requirements. Conformance
there will undoubtedly be conveyor
with all local, state or federal codes,
mechanisms of fairly complicated nature.

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 69

including Occupational Safety and Health in the center of the ultraviolet light beam.
Administration regulations, is essential. Various specifications call for minimum
Large dividends in personnel safety and ultraviolet radiation intensities of 8.6 to
continuity of operations can be realized 10.2 Wm2 (865 to 1020 Wcm2).
through proper observance of fire and Higher minimum intensities need to be
safety regulations. Training of personnel established for each case, to permit
in proper procedures to report and to detection of discontinuities with sizes
control or extinguish fires is a normal approaching the visibility threshold.
precaution to aid in limiting injury or
damage to facilities.

Maintaining Cleanliness in
Control of Atmospheric Liquid Penetrant
Pollution from Liquid Processing and Test Areas
Good housekeeping in and around liquid
Penetrant Testing Systems penetrant test units should be observed at
Air sampling to ensure that the area all times. A clean piece of equipment not
surrounding the liquid penetrant only looks better but also provides a
processing is being maintained at safe much better inspection. Accumulations of
health levels is an advisable precaution, expendable test materials on equipment
particularly if toxic solvents are known to should be avoided. Liquid penetrant,
be involved. The Environmental either visible or fluorescent, can be
Protection Agency (EPA) has placed especially bad if allowed to collect on
restrictions on the concentrations of work surfaces. It can be picked up by parts
certain volatile solvents in the and may lead to false indications or, at
atmosphere,6 and the Occupational Safety least, confusion to the inspector.
and Health Administration administers Collection of quantities of fluorescent
regulations that limit the accumulated liquid penetrant on interior surfaces of
exposures of personnel to toxic gases or the ultraviolet radiation inspection booth
vapors.7 Continued monitoring of the can be particularly bad. Under the
atmosphere in work areas and of influence of the ultraviolet radiation
emissions from exhaust systems into the always present in the inspection booth,
environmental atmosphere may be masses of fluorescent material can easily
necessary to ensure compliance with these emit enough visible light to affect the
requirements. Some liquid penetrant inspectors darkness adaptation, thereby
processing materials have been specifically lowering the overall sensitivity of the
formulated to abide by air pollution entire liquid penetrant testing process.
restrictions such as those in Los Angeles Precautions must also be taken to
and San Francisco. Because of the rapid ensure that developer powder is free from
changes in environmental and health liquid penetrant contamination.
regulations, users of liquid penetrants and Fluorescent or color dyes in the developer
solvent materials should check their may be carried onto part surfaces with the
compliance with federal, state and developer to produce false indications.
municipal or other applicable codes and Bright fluorescent spots in tank developers
regulations on a continual basis. may also emit light that may interfere
with the inspectors dark adaptation.
Another common source of trouble is the
accumulation of dust behind the filter of
Ultraviolet Lamp the ultraviolet lamp. The filter should be
Maintenance removed and the back of the filter and the
face of the ultraviolet lamp bulb should
An integral part of the fluorescent liquid both be wiped clean whenever dust
penetrant system is the ultraviolet accumulates.
radiation source (ultraviolet lamp), the
intensity of which is vital to a reliable
result. It is recommended that this
intensity be checked weekly or more often
if the light is being operated at an
intensity level close to the minimum.
Ultraviolet radiation intensity should be
measured with a meter calibrated to
requirements of the National Institute of
Standards and Technology. On a
commercially available ultraviolet
radiation meter, measurements are taken
at distances of 380 mm (15 in.) from the
face of the filter on the ultraviolet lamp,

70 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 8. Health and Safety Precautions

A number of governmental organizations to constant alertness to breakdown of the

around the world are involved with system and/or increased sensitivity of
promoting and enforcing safety and personnel.
health in the work place. Others aim at Many objects and materials fluoresce
protecting the environment from under ultraviolet radiation. The teeth and
contamination by industrial materials. In fingernails fluoresce with a bluish white
the United States two such organizations light. Dyes in clothing may fluoresce
are the Occupational Health and Safety brightly and not always the same color as
Administration (OSHA)7 and the that observed under white light.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).6 Laundering agents, starches and softeners
These and similar agencies are continually may fluoresce brightly. These conditions
examining industrial practices and add to eye fatigue and may reduce the
materials to eliminate hazards to reliability of the test. Eye fatigue because
personnel and the environment. For of extraneous light sources may be
example, certain ingredients used reduced by proper design of the work
formerly in liquid penetrants and station and by clothing selected to
emulsifiers have been required to be provide minimum background
replaced. One of the most notable has fluorescence.
been the elimination of halogenated General personnel restrictions
solvents. This chapter will cover personnel regarding cleanliness of the work area,
safety and health. Because most filtered wearing of safety shoes or limiting of
particle test fluids consist of particles loads to be lifted manually are applicable
suspended in light petroleum distillates, to liquid penetrant testing personnel and
the discussion below regarding liquid affect the ability of the operator to
penetrant fluid materials applies to the perform.
filtered particle fluids as well.
Environmental concerns with respect to
liquid penetrant test effluents are
discussed elsewhere in this volume. Potential Material Hazards
In the course of a test process liquid
penetrant materials can have direct,
unsafe effects on human operators, for
Maintaining Good Health example, topical exposure to chemical
of Penetrant Inspectors solvents. The expendable materials used
The physical health of liquid penetrant in liquid penetrant tests include organic
testing personnel should not be altered by pigments, petroleum distillates, wetting
performance of liquid penetrant testing agents, corrosion inhibitors, powders and
operations. To ensure health and freedom a variety of cleaning compounds and
from accidents or injury, test personnel solvents. As a group, they are not highly
should be aware of job related hazards dangerous chemicals but they must be
and safety precautions. Particular care is used with care.
required when handling unhealthy or
flammable liquids and vapors. Good Topical Exposure to Liquid
ventilation must be provided and care Penetrant Materials
should be taken to avoid exposure to hard
(short wavelength) ultraviolet radiation. Liquid penetrant test materials are
Safety requires good lighting and good carefully screened for potential health
housekeeping in work areas. Maintaining hazards and are qualified as safe for use by
good vision and appropriate ambient humans in an industrial operation. When
lighting is essential for reliable visual used in accordance with the
observation of penetrant test indications. manufacturers instructions, no general
Prolonged breathing of penetrant health hazard should be encountered.
vapors, emulsifier vapors or solvent Humans vary from person to person and
remover vapors may cause headaches, may react differently to liquid penetrant
nausea or tightness or pain in the chest. materials, usually in the form of allergic
To avoid this problem, forced air reactions. Allergies usually manifest
ventilation exhausting to the outside of themselves as a form of dermatitis on the
the building may be required in addition hands or arms. Other forms of allergic
reaction are more subtle and need to be

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 71

evaluated by competent medical skin to crack, these cracks may permit
personnel. If allergies persist, the operator infections to develop from any sources in
may be unable to perform liquid the environment. Skin damage or
penetrant testing routinely. dermatosis, could result from neglect of
Practically all liquid materials used in the precautions listed.
liquid penetrant testing, including
penetrant, cleaner and developers, have Flammability of Liquid Penetrant
very good wetting and detergent
properties. Most of them exhibit excellent Process Materials
solvent power for fats and oils. If these Flash point is the temperature to which a
materials are allowed to remain in contact material must be raised to create vapors of
with body surfaces for extended periods, a type and quantity that produce a
the natural oils will be dissolved from the combustible or explosive mixture with the
skin, causing it to become rough and red air immediately above the surface of the
and eventually to crack. In this condition, liquid. Several systems of measurement of
secondary infection can take place, flash points are in use. In general, the
causing severe irritation or dermatitis. technique of measurement involves
raising the temperature of the liquid in
Protection of Skin from accordance with a predetermined schedule
and periodically introducing a flame or
Dermatosis Caused by Contact other ignition means in the atmosphere
with Liquid Penetrant Process immediately above the liquid surface. The
Materials temperature at which the vapor-air
Preventive measures to lessen the mixture first ignites is the flash point.11
likelihood of skin infection should be Just what constitutes a safe flash point
used to protect personnel who handle depends on the conditions under which a
liquid penetrant processing materials and material is used and how it is to be
test parts that carry these materials on shipped. In the United States, rapidly
their surfaces. In many instances, changing regulations of the Occupational
synthetic rubber or other impervious Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)7
gloves are essential for handling baskets and other federal or state and local
and test parts during liquid penetrant regulations may dictate minimum
processing. In recent years the Federal allowable flash points that can be used.
Occupational Safety and Health Act has Requirements of the most recent
imposed restrictions on manufacturers regulations should be determined and
and users of liquid penetrant processing followed in choice of liquid penetrant
materials.7 These and state and local processing materials and work locations.
government restrictions must be observed If materials are used in very small
in all manufacturing processes, including quantities where ventilation is good,
testing of parts or products. (See Registry of extremely high flash points may not be
Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances,8 TLVs necessary. This is generally true in the
and Other Occupational Exposure Values9 case of portable kit-type liquid penetrant
and Occupational Diseases A Guide to test materials, where application is made
Their Recognition.10 by brushing or spraying. In this case,
The operators hands or any skin materials are kept in small containers that
surfaces contacted by liquid penetrants or are partially or completely closed. These
processing materials should be washed materials are brought into the open in
thoroughly with soap and water at least such small quantities that normal air
twice during each 8 h shift or working circulation should dilute their vapors to
period and before eating. This washing less dangerous concentrations.
(together with impervious gloves where Caution. Smoking while spraying or using
required) is usually sufficient protection if highly flammable materials must be
contact with liquid penetrant processing prohibited.
materials is only occasional. Some of the materials intended for use
Where continued or prolonged contact in small portable kits may have
with processing materials is necessary, a considerably lower flash points, possibly
protective cream resistant to the test as low as 5 C (40 F). When used with
materials being used should be applied to the precautions and in the manner
the skin and renewed, after thorough prescribed by their manufacturers and in
washing of hands, arms or portions of the work areas with ensured good ventilation,
body exposed to processing materials, as these materials can be used safely.
often as this cream wears off. If the skin However, it should always be borne in
reddens, the inflammation can often be mind that spray application of flammable
relieved by the use of cream or lotion liquids reduces the product to the form of
such as lanolin that contains animal fat. a fine mist composed of minute droplets.
Lanolin cannot restore the oil lost from In this form, atmospheric contamination
the skin but it can serve as a substitute for becomes more acute and the flammability
the lost skin oil. If loss of oil causes dry hazard is increased.

72 Liquid Penetrant Testing

Where materials are used in large open take place inside tanks or other closed
tanks with extensive exposed surface area, areas, inspectors should work with a
the problem is entirely different. The large companion. Within closed tanks, all
surface area fosters rapid liberation of personnel should be provided with
vapors. The dipping of test parts or adequate ventilation or with equipment
baskets into the liquid increases this to supply breathing air.
tendency toward evaporation. In addition,
the sides of the tank extending above the Safety Considerations for
liquid level act as a barrier that retains the
vapors and permits a high vapor Developers
concentration to accumulate. In this case, All of the developers procured as dry
materials that have flash points as high as powders offer, to some extent, the
practical should be used to keep the possibility of personnel inhalation of
hazard to a minimum. developer dust. The extremely fine
In the United States, Occupational particle size of the dry developer makes it
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the most likely to be airborne in
regulations established the minimum reasonably high concentrations.
flash point at 93 C (200 F) for Preferably, this product should be applied
flammable liquids in large open tanks, in a well ventilated area or within a hood
used without special precautions. The equipped with an exhaust system to
Pensky-Martens closed cup technique11 is reduce inhalation hazard. Nonaqueous
the only technique for determining flash wet developer also involves some hazard
point permitted by the Occupational because of inhalation of the solvent
Safety and Health Administration for carriers in which the developer particles
these applications. It has also been are suspended. The solvent carriers are
required that specified automatic fire normally either relatively flammable,
protection apparatus must be installed relatively toxic or both. Precautions for
and maintained in operating condition use of flammable or toxic solvents should
when liquids with flash points below be observed when using nonaqueous
93 C are used in open tanks with liquid developers.
surface areas larger than 1 m2 (10 ft2).
Many plants have their own
regulations as to permissible flash points
for solvents and similar materials used in Material Safety Data
open tanks. In cases where such rulings Sheets
do not exist, the choice is the
responsibility of the facility management, In the past, it was often difficult to know
under applicable state and federal the hazards involved in the use of a
regulations. As a rough guide, a flash chemical product. If the product was
point of 93 C (200 F) should be highly flammable or toxic, a label was
considered as the minimum allowable for required to carry certain warnings.
liquid penetrant processing materials used However, as product liability cases began
in open tanks, unless required special to award large settlements to users injured
safety precautions can be enforced and by products carrying insufficient
suitable safety equipment is made apart of warnings, some suppliers began to provide
the installation. In the United States, relatively detailed hazard information
compliance with all applicable about their products.
Occupational Safety and Health It is standard industrial practice to
Administration or other federal, state and assess the hazards of chemical products
local regulations is essential. such as liquid penetrant testing materials
and to determine their safest use. A ruling
by the Occupational Safety and Health
Field Precautions for Solvent Administration, OSHA Hazard
Removers Communication Rule (29 CFR 1910.1200),12
Test operators and their management has mandated the use of a material safety
should be aware that most solvent data sheet (MSDS)13 (Fig. 16) for any
removers present fire and health hazards chemical that is hazardous or contains
in use. Do not use flammable solvents hazardous ingredients. The material safety
near ignition sources. Use volatile solvents data sheet must be supplied to a customer
only with ventilation adequate to carry with the initial shipment of any
solvent vapors away from closed areas. applicable chemical and must be updated
Before repair by welding after solvent whenever significant new information is
applications, use care to make certain that discovered. Material safety data sheets
all volatile material has evaporated from must be available to the user of the
test parts. product in the work area.
Sometimes it is not possible to use The format for the material safety data
solvent cleaners and developers only in sheet may be taken from the United States
open, ventilated areas. When testing must Department of Labors nonmandatory
form or it may be a suppliers

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 73

individualized form (alternate versions responsible party able to provide
must meet Occupational Safety and additional information about the
Health Administration requirements and product).
must present all the required Section I shows the date of the forms
information). The nonmandatory form preparation or its latest revision, to
shown in Fig. 16 is described in the text indicate the timeliness of its information.
below. Section I optionally identifies the
individual who completed the material
Product and Form Identification safety data sheet and could serve as a
source for further information.
Section I of the form identifies the party
responsible for the product. This section
includes the product name as found on Materials Listings
the container label and the name, address Section II lists all the hazardous materials
and telephone number of the in the product as well as an indication of
manufacturer, importer or distributor (a their breathing hazards. The permissible

FIGURE 16. Material safety data sheet.13

74 Liquid Penetrant Testing

exposure limit (PEL) mandated by the little of it can evaporate and enter the
Occupational Safety and Health atmosphere. Such materials often have a
Administration is the maximum boiling point over 200 C (400 F) or
concentration that an inspector is vapor pressure under 70 Pa (0.5 mm Hg).
permitted to breathe during 8 h in 24 h. The vapor density of a liquid is another
The American Conference of important characteristic noted in
Governmental Industrial Hygienists Section III. Vapors with high density tend
(ACGIH) is an advisory group that to sink, accumulate and spread. Inspectors
recommends the threshold limit value standing in the testing area may be
(TLV).9 This is the concentration of a unaware that a hazardous concentration
material that an individual can be of vapor exists at floor level. Most solvent
exposed to without harm, 8 h per day, vapors are denser than air and tend to
indefinitely. These concentrations are settle. Chlorinated solvent vapors are
usually expressed as parts per million much denser than air and their tendency
(LL1) in the air, by weight or as to settle is pronounced.
milligrams per cubic meter of air. Flammability is a physical property
Exposure limits for dusts are reported in that should be considered along with
millions of particles per cubic meter. By density and solubility characteristics.
way of comparison, ethyl alcohol, a Liquids that are insoluble in water and
typical health hazard, has a threshold less dense than water will float. If such
limit value of 1000 LL1 (about 1140 mg liquids are also flammable, water cannot
per 1 m3 of breathing air). extinguish their fire. If ignited, such
In many cases, neither the liquids can float on a water surface, spread
Occupational Safety and Health or travel with the water host. More
Administration nor the American detailed fire and explosion hazards can be
Conference of Governmental and listed in Section IV of the material safety
Industrial Hygienists has assigned an data sheet.
exposure limit to certain materials.
Industrial chemical substances are so Fire and Explosion Hazards
numerous that many have not yet been
evaluated. Under these circumstances, the Flash point is the accepted means for
manufacturer may recommend an measuring the fire hazard of liquid test
exposure limit, based on special tests or a materials. Flash point is a characteristic
close similarity to substances that have only of liquids and is defined as the
already been rated. A material or product lowest temperature at which the liquid
may be included in the Section II list gives off gases sufficient to form an
because it is a fire hazard, not a health ignitible vapor at the liquids surface.
hazard, or because it is hazardous to skin As long as the bulk liquid is kept below
or eyes. For these substances, breathing this temperature, not enough of it will
exposure limits may not have been vaporize to make the surrounding
established. When no actual or atmosphere explosive. The safest oil
recommended limit exists, that fact must vehicles have flash points over 90 C
be noted on the material safety data sheet. (200 F). The lower explosive limit (LEL)
The Section II list need not be a and upper explosive limit (UEL) indicate
complete listing of all the products the concentrations of vapor in air that are
ingredients. It is a mandatory listing of ignitible and potentially explosive.
hazardous ingredients of types and Concentrations below the lower explosive
concentrations specified elsewhere. limit are too lean to be fire hazards.
Above the upper explosive limit, the
concentrations are too rich to burn. A
Physical Properties typical lower explosive limit of one
Section III lists relevant physical percent is equivalent to 10 mLL1
properties of the product. These are (10 000 parts per million). A
important because they can aggravate or concentration this high is a serious health
sometimes diminish the effects of the hazard as well as a fire hazard.
hazards listed in Section II. Section IV of the material safety data
For instance, a volatile solvent (one sheet must list recommended
having a low boiling point, high vapor extinguishing media and special fire
pressure or high evaporation rate) is fighting procedures for hazardous or
doubly hazardous because much of it will explosive materials.
enter the breathing air during use. This
may then require special ventilation or Reactive Materials
respiratory protection for inspectors. Any
solvent with a boiling point lower than Section V lists materials that may be
water at 100 C (212 F) can be considered dangerously reactive. The intent of this
a low boiling point solvent. listing is to provide warnings about
By comparison, a moderately toxic air material compatibilities, as a guide for
pollutant may have such a high boiling storage or use of the substances in mutual
point and low evaporation rate that very contact.

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 75

Health Hazards most difficult section of the material
safety data sheet to prepare because the
Section VI specifies the types of exposure
supplier usually is not familiar with the
to guard against (route of entry) and the
testing environment or the level of
acute and chronic health conditions that
exposure at each testing site. The
can accompany overexposure to
organization that buys the material and
hazardous materials.
receives the material safety data sheet
A number of organizations are involved
must add its own knowledge of in-house
in testing chemical substances for
procedures to provide successful safety
carcinogenicity and chief among these
control measures.
organizations are the National Toxicology
Consider for example a slightly dusty
Program (NTP)14 and the International
product or a liquid that gives off some
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an
vapors. Such a material may be nearly
affiliate of the World Health Organization.
hazard free in an open and well ventilated
The Occupational Safety and Health
area, requiring minimum protection and
Administration also publishes a list of
no special ventilation. The same product
carcinogens.9,12 If any of these groups
used in a more confined and poorly
consider a product or its ingredients
ventilated space (a small testing booth, for
carcinogenic, that fact must be noted on
example) may require approved
the material safety data sheet.
respiratory protection or specially
A few chemical substances may
designed exhaust systems. Used inside a
aggravate existing medical conditions.
liquid storage tank or any enclosed
Where this relationship is known, it must
compartment, the products safe handling
be mentioned on the material safety data
could mandate a full mask with an
sheet. Regional poison control centers
independent air supply. Entry safety
may be contacted for advice in cases of
programs must be used when entering
confined spaces such as tanks.
The signs or symptoms of overexposure
The amount of the material being used
are provided on the form as an aid to
is a critical safety parameter. Ventilation
early treatment in the event of
and personal protection requirements are
vastly different when a product is used
Spillage of a chemical substance may
occasionally or sparingly rather than
cause a hazardous condition for personnel
continually or in large volumes.
in the vicinity. It may also merely be a
Liquid penetrant materials must by law
nuisance, depending on the substance. In
be well described in a material safety data
either case, techniques of dealing with a
sheet form. However, the ultimate
spill must be detailed in the material
responsibility for a safe workplace rests
safety data sheet. Waste disposal is an
with the organization that purchases the
important consideration for protection of
product and exposes its employees to it.
the environment.
Purchasers may expect material safety
data sheet compliance from their
Handling and Storage suppliers but it is the purchasers
Considerations responsibility to use the information
properly, to fully understand and alleviate
Earlier sections of the material safety data
the hazards involved. This is mandated
sheet point out safety hazards and discuss
under the Hazard Awareness
how to deal with them when they arise.
Communications Program administered
Sections VII and VIII discuss preventive
by the United States Department of Labor.
measures the means of avoiding
hazards in the first place.
Handling and storage precautions are
generally based on simple good Precautions with
housekeeping. Flammable, combustible or
pressurized products should not be stored Ultraviolet Radiation
near heat sources. Sources15
Chemical substances that are usually
hard to ignite can burn vigorously if
exposed to high temperatures such as Ultraviolet Radiation Source
those in a hot fire. Careless exposures The ultraviolet radiation used in
should be avoided breathing dusts, fluorescent liquid penetrant testing is
vapors or spray mists, leaving them on obtained by filtering hard ultraviolet
the skin or using the products around radiation out of radiation produced by a
open flames are all basic but vitally high intensity discharge (HID) lamp.
important considerations. Ultraviolet radiation sources are small
Section VIII on control measures electrical components that heat up during
provides detailed instructions on avoiding use and emit ultraviolet radiation.
hazards during the normal use of the Accordingly, these devices present a
specific chemical substance. This is the number of potential health and safety

76 Liquid Penetrant Testing

hazards. They can produce a severe visible light and infrared radiation. The
electrical shock. Many models become sun is the primary source of ultraviolet
extremely hot and can cause serious heat energy and its effects are well known. In
and radiation burns. In the presence of industry, artificial sources produce
flammable vapors, heat from such an ultraviolet radiation for germicidal
ultraviolet source can be sufficient for applications, carbon arcs,
ignition of the gas. High intensity photolithography, food irradiation,
discharge (HID) lamps operate at pressures vitamin D synthesis, curing certain
above atmospheric pressure and with plastics or paints, welding and cutting
impact can produce high velocity heated torches, as well as fluorescent magnetic
glass shards. particle testing and liquid penetrant
Despite these electrical and mechanical testing.
factors, the most serious safety concern is Ultraviolet radiation occupies the
the more subtle and less understood portion of the electromagnetic spectrum
hazard of ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet between X-rays and visible light. The
radiation has long been known to International Committee on Illumination
produce physical, chemical and divides ultraviolet radiation into the three
physiological effects, so some discussion following ranges.
of these effects is in order. Ultraviolet Wavelengths from 320 to 400 nm (the
radiation can produce a variety of edge of the visible spectrum) are referred
physiological effects, depending strongly to as near ultraviolet (ultraviolet-A) or
on wavelength. long wave ultraviolet. (The paradoxical
Of interest to hygiene directors and term black light has become disfavored as
safety engineers are the effects of a term for ultraviolet radiation because
ultraviolet radiation on the operator. It the word light denotes radiation that is
has been rather conclusively visible.) The ultraviolet-A wavelengths are
demonstrated that ultraviolet radiation in those used for fluorescent liquid penetrant
the wavelength range normally used for tests, display illumination and for curing
test purposes can cause no permanent polymers sensitive to ultraviolet radiation.
damage to persons exposed, as long as The wavelengths from 280 to 320 nm
recommended filters are used on the are known as ultraviolet-B, midwave or
ultraviolet lamps. The 365 nm erythemal ultraviolet, so named for its
near ultraviolet (ultraviolet-A) wavelength reddening effect on the skin. The
is well out of the range where ultraviolet-B wavelengths can cause
physiological effects take place. Such sunburn and snow blindness. Such
effects as damage to the eye, sunburn and sources are not to be used for liquid
destruction of tissue do not come into penetrant applications.
evidence until wavelengths are reduced to Wavelengths from 100 to 280 nm are
the neighborhood of 320 nm. Here they known as ultraviolet-C, actinic, germicidal
become definitely injurious. or short wave ultraviolet. The
Proper operation of the ultraviolet ultraviolet-C wavelengths are used for
lamp used in fluorescent liquid penetrant germicidal purposes, sterilization, in
testing is essential to good testing and to bacteriology, vitamin D production and
operator comfort and efficiency. If an for erasing information in
ultraviolet lamp becomes damaged, ultraviolet-erasable, programmable
radiation with ultraviolet wavelengths memory and programmable logic
shorter than 310 nm may escape its semiconductor chips. The ultraviolet-C
protective enclosures or filters. Operator radiation can cause severe burns and eye
exposure to this short wavelength damage and, in the presence of oxygen,
radiation may cause a condition known as such short wavelengths can also generate
photokeratitis followed by conjunctivitis, ozone, toxic if inhaled.
similar to snowblindness. Symptoms may Do not use shorter wavelength
progress from a feeling of sand in the ultraviolet radiation sources for
eyes, allergy to light, tear formation and nondestructive testing applications. The
temporary blindness. These symptoms ultraviolet-B and ultraviolet-C ultraviolet
usually begin 6 to 12 h after exposure and radiation they emit is very hazardous and
last for 6 to 24 h, with all symptoms causes severe skin and eye damage after
disappearing in 48 h. There is no known very short exposure.
cumulative effect. It is essential that the
ultraviolet lamp not be used unless the Measuring Ultraviolet Energy
proper filter is in place and is undamaged.
The segmentation of ultraviolet
wavelengths into ultraviolet-A,
Characteristics of Ultraviolet ultraviolet-B and ultraviolet-C is
Energy analogous to the segmentation of visible
Ultraviolet radiation is an invisible radiant light into the wavelengths that produce
energy produced by natural and artificial the colors. Blue light, for example,
sources and is often accompanied by generally has wavelengths between 455 to

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 77

492 nm. Yellow light is between 577 and Near Ultraviolet Radiation
597 nm. Exposure Limits
This analogy might also be helpful to
those first learning to measure ultraviolet Ultraviolet radiation with wavelengths of
radiation. A certain intensity of yellow 320 to 400 nm is commonly called
light will produce a certain illuminance near ultraviolet, or ultraviolet-A. One
on a surface and this illuminance is study17 indicates that, at these
commonly measured in lux or footcandle. wavelengths, the indirect exposure of an
In the same way, a certain amount of inspectors face and eyes at a viewing
ultraviolet radiation will produce an distance of 750 mm (30 in.) is no greater
irradiance on a test object surface. than 6.5 Wcm2. This is for a standard
Irradiance is a time dependent measure of lamp fixture, a 100 W bulb and an
the amount of energy falling on a ultraviolet filter at 280 mm (11 in.) from a
prescribed surface area. Because ultraviolet pitted steel sample plate.
radiation is invisible (not the same The exposure value represents about
wavelengths as visible light), photometric 1/150 of the maximum continuous
measurement units such as the exposure level recommended by the
footcandle, lumen and lux do not apply. American Conference of Governmental
Ultraviolet radiation is commonly and Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and
measured in microwatt per square the National Institute for Occupational
centimeter (Wcm2), the power Safety and Health (NIOSH). Both NIOSH
(microwatt) falling on one square (in Criterion for a Recommended
centimeter (0.155 in.2) of surface area. At Standard Occupational Exposure to
higher irradiance levels, the watt per Ultraviolet Radiation)18 and the American
square meter (Wm2) is used Conference of Governmental and
(100 Wcm2 = 1 Wm2). Visible light is Industrial Hygienists have recommended
sometimes expressed in these units but the following limits for incoherent
ultraviolet radiation should never be radiation (not including lasers).
expressed in footcandle, lux or any other 1. For the ultraviolet spectral region of
photometric unit. 315 to 400 nm, total irradiance
incident on unprotected skin or eyes
Erythemal Ultraviolet Radiation shall not exceed 1.0 mWcm2 for
periods greater than 1000 s.
Hazards 2. For exposure times of 1000 s (about
Erythemal ultraviolet or ultraviolet-B 17 min) or less, the total radiant
radiation typically ranges in wavelength energy density shall not exceed
from 280 to 320 nm. It has been shown 1000 mWscm2 or 1 106 Wscm2
that ultraviolet-B radiation can damage (1.0 Jcm2). For the purposes of
human tissue. The ultraviolet sources used continuous tests, the total irradiance
for liquid penetrant tests are filtered to energy should not exceed
minimize the output of this midrange 1000 mWcm2.
ultraviolet but not all such radiation is
It has been noted that, over decades of
kept out of the testing environment.
application, there is no evidence of skin
There has been research into the
discoloration resulting from fluorescent
amount of 315 nm radiation transmitted
nondestructive testing procedures.19 In
by a 125 W bulb. One manufacturers
addition, the International Labour Office
source produces 2.9 percent as much
in Geneva, Switzerland has reported that
radiation in the 315 range as it does in
no cases of industrially induced skin
the 365 nm range. Another
cancer have been attributable to
manufacturers 100 W lamp, used with a
ultraviolet radiation from a lamp. It is
standard filter, produces about 1.5 percent
believed that indirect exposure to
as much 315 nm radiation as it does
ultraviolet-A radiation, either dermally or
365 nm radiation. The same lamp with a
ocularly, does not present a threat to the
different filter produces five percent
health and safety of liquid penetrant
hazardous ultraviolet-B wavelengths.
testing personnel.
Research contracted by the United
The major safety precautions for
States Food and Drug Administration
ultraviolet radiation sources then are as
included studies of three BLB tubes.16 The
data indicate that the ultraviolet-B
content of the sample bulbs ranged from 1. Eliminate the direct irradiation of the
0.73 percent to 6.2 percent of the unprotected hand when manipulating
radiation (320 to 400 nm) content. The small test objects. If an inspectors
ultraviolet-A content of BLB tubes is much hands are subject to 5000 Wcm2,
lower than that of 100 W bulbs. then the recommended daily
ultraviolet-A exposure can be exceeded
in 200 s.
2. Eliminate accidental direct viewing of,
and dermal exposure to, lamps used in

78 Liquid Penetrant Testing

other testing stations, lamps object and the source increases exposure
permanently mounted in the same to the worker. Table 3 shows the
booth and those being used by other irradiance for three different test objects
inspectors in the same area. exposed at 45 degree angles and 280 mm
Lamps using a 100 W bulb have an (11 in.) distances.
increased potential for unintentional The study also shows that the angle
hand irradiation because of the larger spot between the object and the ultraviolet
area. source affects the exposure to the
Unintentional viewing can occur easily inspector. The closer the source is to
as inspectors move around within the perpendicular, the greater the personnel
testing area. Varying or multiple source exposure (see Table 4).
heights increase the possibility of direct
exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The use
of suitable gloves, protective ultraviolet TABLE 3. Reflected radiation from
absorbing eyewear and opaque or closely ultraviolet source at 45 degrees and
woven clothing to cover potentially 280 mm (11 in.) from plates of various
exposed dermal areas are and should be materials.17
recommended to personnel operating in
such situations. Plate Reflected Ultraviolet Radiation
There is now good evidence indicating Materials (Wcm2)
that near ultraviolet radiation can be
Pitted steel 3.6 to 3.8
hazardous if allowed to fall on the eyes or
skin without limit. These effects vary in Galvanized steel 3.8 to 4.0
severity, depending on the extent of the Aluminum 3.0
exposure over time. In the past,
ultraviolet radiation damage was
popularly associated with irradiation of
the body at wavelengths shorter than
320 nm. Although the erythemological
efficiency may be 200 to 2000 times TABLE 4. Reflected radiation from
higher at the shorter wavelengths, animal ultraviolet source 280 mm (11 in.) from a
studies show that damaging effects also steel plate at varying angles.17
can occur from long exposures at Source-to-Object Reflected Ultraviolet
ultraviolet-A wavelengths. Angle Radiation
The following text details a study of (angular degrees) (Wcm2)
the irradiances experienced in a typical
work environment by the unprotected 5 1.2
face and hands. Measurements were made 25 1.7
with a simple radiometer and radiometers 30 2.1
equipped with photodetectors (a vacuum 45 2.6
photodiode or a broadband silicon
60 3.2
detector). At a distance of 1 m (3 ft), the
photodiode detected 1500 Wcm2 from 80 3.6
one ultraviolet source and 380 Wcm2
from a smaller model. The silicon detector
registered 1200 and 270 Wcm2 from
the same two sources.
For quantitative indirect exposure of Ocular Fluorescence from Long
inspectors, several tests were performed Wavelength Ultraviolet Radiation
using the low irradiance source tested As indicated above, long wavelength
above. The ultraviolet lamp was placed at ultraviolet radiation is a natural
varying distances from and varying angles component of the environment Earths
to a pitted steel plate. As shown in atmosphere does not completely filter out
Table 2, decreasing distance between the the ultraviolet radiation emitted by the
sun. Regardless of the source, natural or
artificial, ultraviolet radiation can cause
human eye media to fluoresce. This in
TABLE 2. Reflected radiation from turn produces uncomfortable sensations,
ultraviolet source at 45 degrees from irritation or pressure, especially in low
pitted steel plate.17 visible light levels. Ocular fluorescence is
Reflected Ultraviolet Distance between temporary but can be eliminated entirely
Radiation Source and Plate by using ultraviolet absorbing eyewear. In
(Wcm2) mm (in.) some cases, such eyewear can actually
increase the contrast (reduce ambient
4.3 180 (7) background levels) and thereby improve
3.8 280 (11) the sensitivity of fluorescent liquid
3.2 460 (18) penetrant tests because the ocular

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 79

fluorescence will reduce the vision acuity
of the inspector.
Long wavelength ultraviolet radiation
is considered relatively harmless when
compared to other parts of the ultraviolet
spectrum. However, in a few cases,
permanent histological changes have been
reported. Note also that abnormally high
sensitivities can be produced by certain
drugs and chemicals. People exposed to
these sensitizing agents or individuals
who are particularly photosensitive
should expect adverse reactions to long
wavelength ultraviolet radiation.
However, it is unusual for the symptoms
of photosensitization to be elicited solely
by the limited emission spectrum of the
lamps used in fluorescent liquid penetrant

Summary of Ultraviolet
Radiation Safety
With appropriate precautions, fluorescent
penetrant testing can be performed in a
safe and effective manner.
The general rules of ultraviolet safety
are designed to protect the people who
may be exposed to such radiation, directly
or accidentally.
The first level of protection includes
posting areas where ultraviolet radiation
exists in excess of safe limits. Legal
signage must display standard caution
ultraviolet radiation warnings and may
contain additional health protection
information. The color and size of such
signs should meet Federal and state
requirements (see 29 CFR 1910.115).7
Control of the environment is another
critical safety measure.
Equipment that produces ultraviolet
radiation should be enclosed by
partitions, screens or walls painted with
nonreflective paint. Paint containing
metallic particles should not be used. In
addition, this equipment must be labeled
to inform individuals of its potential
health and safety hazards.
Contact the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA), the
American National Standards Institute
(ANSI), the American Conference of
Governmental Industrial Hygienists
(ACGIH) and the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
before performing any fluorescent liquid
penetrant test procedure.

80 Liquid Penetrant Testing


1. QPL-AMS-2644, Qualified Products List Health, Education, and Welfare

of Products Qualified under SAE [DHEW]; Superintendent of
Aerospace Materials Specification Documents, United States
AMS 2644: Inspection Material, Government Printing Office (1977).
Penetrant. Philadelphia, PA: Naval 11. ASTM D 93, Standard Test Methods for
Publications and Forms (1998). Flash Point by Pensky-Martens Closed
2. QPL-25135-17, Inspection Materials, Cup Tester. West Conshohocken, PA:
Penetrants. Washington, DC: American Society for Testing and
Department of Defense, United States Materials (1997).
Air Force. 12. 29 CFR 1910.1200, OSHA Hazard
3. SAE AMS 2644, Inspection Material, Communication Standard. [Code of
Penetrant. Warrendale, PA: SAE Federal Regulations: Title 29, Labor.]
[Society of Automotive Engineers] Washington, DC: United States
International (1996). Department of Labor, Occupational
4. ASTM D 2512, Standard Test Method for Safety and Health Administration;
Compatibility of Materials with Liquid United States Government Printing
Oxygen (Impact Sensitivity Threshold and Office (1998).
Pass-Fail Techniques). West 13. OSHA 174, Material Safety Data Sheet.
Conshohocken, PA: American Society USGPO 1986-491-529/45775.
for Testing and Materials (1995). Washington, DC: United States
5. ASTM E 433, Standard Reference Department of Labor, Occupational
Photographs for Liquid Penetrant Safety and Health Administration;
Inspection. West Conshohocken, PA: Government Printing Office (1986).
American Society for Testing and 14. Eighth Report on Carcinogens.
Materials (1993). Washington, DC: National Toxicology
6. 40 CFR 63, National Emission Studies for Program, United States Department of
Hazardous Air Pollutants for Source Health and Human Services (1998).
Categories. [Code of Federal Regulations: 15. Nondestructive Testing Handbook,
Title 40, Protection of Environment.] second edition: Vol. 6, Magnetic Particle
Washington, DC: United States Testing. Columbus, OH: American
Environmental Protection Agency; Society for Nondestructive Testing
Government Printing Office (July (1989).
1998). 16. Mohan, K. et al. Optical Radiation from
7. 29 CFR 1910, Occupational Safety and Selected Sources: Part 1, Quartz Halogen
Health Standards. [Code of Federal and Fluorescent Lamps. BRH Publication
Regulations: Title 29, Labor.] FDA 81-8136. Washington, DC: United
Washington, DC: United States States Food and Drug Administration
Department of Labor, Occupational (1981).
Safety and Health Administration; 17. Rhoads, J.L. Investigation of the
Government Printing Office (July Workplace Conditions Associated with
1998). Fluorescent Dye Penetrant Inspection.
8. NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Master of Science Thesis. Cincinnati,
Chemical Substances. HEW Publication OH: University of Cincinnati (1984).
NIOSH 78-104A. Washington, DC: 18. Criterion for a Recommended Standard:
United States Department of Health, Occupational Exposure to Ultraviolet
Education and Welfare (1978). Radiation. HEW Publication
9. America Conference of Governmental HSM-049-71-36. Washington, DC:
Industrial Hygienists. TLVs and Other National Institute for Occupational
Occupational Exposure Values. CD-ROM. Safety and Health (1971).
Cincinnati, OH: American Conference 19. Sturges, D. and R. Wagner. Factors
of Governmental Industrial Hygienists Affecting Intensity of Black Lights
(1998). Used in FPI and MPI. Paper
10. Key, M.M. et al. Occupational Diseases Summaries: National Fall Conference
A Guide to Their Recognition. DHEW [Houston, TX]. Columbus, OH:
publication NIOSH 77-181. American Society for Nondestructive
Washington, DC: National Institute Testing (October 1980): p 153-154.
for Occupational Safety and Health
[NIOSH], United States Department of

Principles of Liquid Penetrant Testing 81


Characteristics of Liquid
Penetrant and Processing

Vilma G. Holmgren, Magnaflux Division of Illinois Tool

Works, Glenview, Illinois
Bruce C. Graham, Arlington Heights, Illinois
Amos G. Sherwin, Sherwin Incorporated, South Gate,
PART 1. Liquid Properties of Liquid Penetrant

Penetrants and their ancillaries must have toward the liquids interior, and the
physical properties that fall within fairly surface acts like a skin. It acts to minimize
narrow ranges. None are difficult to attain the surface area of the liquid and it
but properties cannot stray very far from requires effort (the surface tension) to
optimum. The coverage of these topics is stretch this skin.
essentially practical. Some physical Contact angle is the measured angle
chemistry is included, particularly relating that a drop of liquid makes with a solid
to capillarity, light absorption and surface. If contact angle is zero, cos = 1
scattering but not enough to require that and the liquid will wet and spread. If the
the reader be a professional physical contact angle is 90 degrees or more, cos
chemist. Discussions are limited to = 0 and the liquid will not wet but will
descriptions of usable processes and how remain as a rounded drop. Intermediate
they work. No effort is made to discuss contact angles indicate intermediate
unproved processes or theories. degrees of wetting. Contact angles can be
For readers who have interests in other measured on special sample surfaces with
theories behind the mechanisms of special equipment.
penetration, surface wetting, adsorption Energy of adhesion is a measure of the
and development and other fundamental strength of attraction of a liquid to a solid
physical chemistries of liquid penetrant surface and is of more theoretical than
testing, additional readings1-7 are practical value.
suggested. Penetration of a discontinuity is
primarily a capillary effect. The forces
involved are those associated with
capillary action and are called capillary
Penetration pressure or excess surface pressure. This
The very name penetrant suggests that the pressure is given by Eq. 1:
ability to penetrate into voids is the major
feature of a penetrant. This is no doubt 2
(1) P =
true but it is not a critical feature. Very R
nearly any liquid will wet a solid surface
and penetrate into voids. In fact, it is not where is the surface tension of the liquid
easy to find a liquid that will not and R is the radius of curvature of the
penetrate. If it wets, it will penetrate; if liquid surface. The effect of this capillary
not, it will not. pressure can best be shown by examining
Wetting of smooth, chemically clean the two systems depicted in Figs. 1a
surfaces has been studied extensively with and 1b.
relationships worked out between surface In Fig. 1a the liquid wets the capillary
tension, interfacial tension, wetting and the pressure P1 is up. In Fig. 1b the
contact angle, energy of adhesion. None liquid does not wet the capillary and the
are very appropriate because many of pressure P2 is down. The ability to wet or
these quantities are not measurable on the not wet determines in which direction the
kinds of surfaces that are tested with surface will curve, whereas the degree of
liquid penetrant. Even a cleaned surface wetting determines to what extent the
can pick up a molecular monolayer of oil surface will curve. Therefore, the first
or oxide in a very short time. The requirement for penetration is its ability
slightest taint of oil on a surface can to wet the surface of the discontinuity.
change a surface and cause a penetrant The dimensions of the capillary are
film to become less wet and to pull up also important and the radius of the
into droplets. As a practical matter, this is capillary can be related to the capillary
not too serious. Reapplication of pressure by examining Fig. 1c. It is found
penetrant will usually dissolve this film that R = r/cos , i.e., cos = r/R, where r is
and allow testing to proceed. the radius of the tube and is the angle
Surface tension can be defined as the of contact of the liquid and the tube.
force needed to expand (or pull apart) the Equation 1 becomes:
surface of a liquid. It results from the
2 cos
attraction of all the molecules within the (2) P =
liquid for each other. At the surface, with r
no more liquid outside, the net force is

84 Liquid Penetrant Testing

FIGURE 1. Liquid in capillary: (a) wet capillary, pressure up; (b) dry capillary, pressure down; (c) relationship of
capillary radius to capillary pressure.

(a) (b) (c)

R1 P1


R2 P2

P = pressure
R = radius of liquid surface curvature
r = tube radius
= angle of contact between liquid and tube

Using this equation and assuming = 8VL

0 degrees, the capillary pressure for tubes (4) T =
of various radii with liquids that have r 4 P
surface tensions of 0.025 and 0.035 Nm1
(1.7 103 and 2.4 103 lbfin.1) can be and because the tube is just being filled:
calculated. The latter two values are taken
because they span the range of most (5) V = r 2L
penetrants. Table 1 presents these data. then:
The capillary pressure increases directly
with the surface tension of a penetrant 8L2
and inversely with the radius of the (6) T =
capillary. But unless is less than 90 r 2P
degrees (cos > 0), P will be zero and Because the pressure P is given by Eq. 2,
there will be no wetting and no then:
The rate at which a liquid will fill a 4 L2
(7) T =
capillary is determined primarily by its r cos
viscosity. The coefficients of viscosity
are given by: Because L for most open voids is usually
very small, T is usually very small too (a
r 4 T P few seconds at most), unless the
(3) =
8V L viscosity is really huge. High viscosities
lead to too much dragout and wastage of
where T is the time for the volume V of penetrant, besides slow penetration.
liquid to flow through a tube of radius r Penetrants generally do not fill a void
and length L under the influence of a from the top down, compressing the air
pressure P. within it. It is often possible to observe
Solving for T, Eq. 3 becomes: bubbles leaving a submerged crack, as the

TABLE 1. Capillary pressure P versus surface tension.

Capillary Radius
1.0 mm 0.1 mm 0.01 mm 1.0 m 0.5 m
(4 102 in.) (4 103 in.) (4 104 in.) (4 105 in.) (2 105 in.)

Surface Tension Capillary Pressure P

Nm1 (lbfin.1) 2
Pa (lbfin. ) 2
Pa (lbfin. ) Pa (lbfin.2) Pa (lbfin.2) Pa (lbfin.2)

0.025 (1.7 103) 50 (7) 500 (70) 5000 (700) 50 000 (7000) 100 000 (200 000)
0.035 (2.4 103) 70 (10) 700 (100) 7000 (1000) 70 000 (10 000) 140 000 (20 000)

Characteristics of Liquid Penetrant and Processing Materials 85

liquid penetrant fills it. Capillary pressure surfaces. Aside from the constant S,
is highest where the crack is narrowest; dragout is proportional to the square root
this is where the liquid penetrant of the liquid penetrants viscosity and
enters. The bubbles exit at the widest part. inversely to the square root of the drain
time. When penetrants are volatile, this
relationship breaks down, as evaporation
losses add to drainage losses and increase
Volatility of Liquid the measured value of D.
Penetrants Equation 8 is a basis for comparing the
economy of usage of low volatility liquid
Low volatility is a practical requirement of penetrants. On smooth surfaces, S is small
liquid penetrant; it plays only a small part and consumption of a liquid penetrant
in sensitivity. Low volatility has four will vary as the square root of its
advantages: (1) low economic loss because viscosity. For example, if liquid penetrant
of evaporation, (2) low fire hazard because X has a viscosity of 4 mm2s1 = 4 106
few flammable vapors form above the m2s1 (0.04 St) and liquid penetrant Y has
liquid, (3) low toxicity because of low a viscosity of 9 mm2s1 = 9 106 m2s1
hazardous vapor concentrations in the (0.09 St) then on the same smooth surface
test area and (4) uniform removal and and at the same drain time, 50 percent
fluorescent properties. The liquid more of liquid penetrant Y will be dragged
penetrant film during the liquid penetrant out or used: (9/4) = 3/2. If drain times
dwell time changes very little in were adjusted to equalize consumption,
composition, so that removal and liquid penetrant Y would have to drain 50
fluorescent properties do not vary over percent longer than liquid penetrant X.
the surface, where penetrant may be
present in both thick (slow drying) and
thin (fast drying) layers.
Volatility does not have to be as close
to zero as possible. A good level is that
which provides a flash point of slightly
over 93.3 C (200 F) in a closed cup
test. This puts it in the OSHA Class IIIB
fire hazard range8 yet does not force the
liquid penetrant to be uneconomically
viscous. Within most series of chemical
solvents, viscosity increases linearly as the
flash point rises. As a result, insisting on
higher flash points than optimum will
merely drive viscosity higher, along with
its increase in dragout losses.

Liquid penetrants drain off surfaces at a
rate that depends on their viscosities and
to an extent that depends on drainage
time and surface roughness. Studies in the
laboratory with nonvolatile liquids
draining from calibrated, vertical surfaces
led to Eq. 8:

(8) D = S + 7.86 10 3

where D is dragout (volume of liquid

penetrant in liter per 24.5 m2 of surface
(gallon per 1000 ft2 of surface), S is surface
volume (same units as for dragout), is
kinematic viscosity (in stokes [where 1 St
= 0.0001 m2s1]) and T is time (minute).
Surface volume S expresses the amount
of penetrant left behind after an
unlimited drain time and is a measure of
surface roughness. It is small for a mirror
smooth surface, around 0.004 Lm2 =
4 106 m3m2 (1 104 galft2 = 0.1 gal
per 1000 ft2), and much larger on rough

86 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 2. Liquid Penetrant Removal

Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Solvent Rinse as well as the Department of
Transportation (DOT). Spot dry time is an
Solvent rinse or vapor degreasing have old fashioned, rough-and-ready test for
been tried in a few cases where it was very speed of drying. A droplet of solvent is
difficult to clean surfaces before applying placed on a filter paper circle and its
developer and inspecting. They quickly disappearance is timed to the minute and
and thoroughly remove liquid penetrant second. The data are scattered but it is
from all but the deepest of voids while obvious that dry time rises exponentially
leaving surfaces attractively clean. They with flash point.
are not recommended for liquid penetrant Ordinary varnish makers and painters
removal where sensitivity is important. (VM&P) naphtha flashes at around
12.8 C (55 F) and dries in about 85 s. A
safety solvent flashing at 37.8 C (100 F)
will take about 5 min to dry and one that
Solvent Wipeoff flashes at 48.9 C (120 F) will take nearly
Removing excess liquid penetrant by 10 min. Low volatility (high flash point)
wiping the surface with a solvent solvents can be used without slowing
dampened rag is the technique normally down the test time if they are applied
used with aerosol liquid penetrants and with dampened rags and are promptly
developers. It requires skill on the part of and completely removed with a clean, dry
the inspector but has worked well for over rag so as not to dilute indications and
40 years. stain the developer films. Drying time is
The solvent must dry quickly and not important if there is nothing left to
thoroughly so as not to dilute liquid be dried.
penetrant entrapments and dim their
fluorescence. Desirable properties are low
toxicity, solvency for liquid penetrants
and some compromise between maximum Water Wash
drying speed and minimum fire The earliest commercial fluorescent liquid
hazard. This is difficult because solvent penetrants, dating back to the 1940s, were
dry times increase rapidly at higher flash water washable. That is, they contained
points. Figure 2 plots data for a broad chemical emulsifying agents that forced
range of volatile chemical solvents. Flash the liquid penetrant to disperse
point is a familiar indicator of fire hazard spontaneously into a spray of rinse water
with limits proposed by the Occupational or into the water in an immersion wash
Water washable liquid penetrants are
FIGURE 2. Spot dry time versus flash point of volatile still widely used because of their
solvents. simplicity: simply rinse with water and
dry. Early water washable liquid
1000 penetrants contained sulfur bearing
emulsifying agents that washed more
quickly in hotter water. Modern water
washable liquid penetrants, formulated to
avoid the presence of sulfur, use agents
Spot dry time (s)

that act in a slower and more controllable

manner. It is a lot harder to overwash
However, if the test surface is hard to
rinse clean, the inspectors tendency is to
use a long and vigorous wash that can
still remove liquid penetrant from
entrapments and dim subsequent
10 indications. Solving this drawback led to
30 20 10 0 10 20 30 40 50
(22) (4) (14) (32) (50) (68) (86) (104) (122)
the development of postemulsifiable
liquid penetrants.
Flash point, C (F)

Characteristics of Liquid Penetrant and Processing Materials 87

Lipophilic Emulsifier Hydrophilic Emulsifier
The lipophilic liquid penetrant system Hydrophilic emulsifiers are basically
uses two materials, a liquid penetrant and dispersant/detergent concentrates that are
a separate emulsifier. The liquid penetrant dissolved into water. They remove excess
is not emulsifiable and cannot be easily surface liquid penetrant by
removed by rinsing with water. The (1) preferentially wetting the test surface
emulsifier is applied at the end of the and literally peeling the liquid penetrant
desired liquid penetrant dwell time by away and (2) by dispersing or dissolving
dipping a part into the emulsifier droplets so that they do not redeposit on
reservoir. The lipophilic emulsifier is a the surface. This action occurs during
viscous liquid that slides off the test final rinse as well as during immersion,
surface and drains back into the reservoir, whether assisted by gentle agitation or
taking much of the surface excess of not.
liquid penetrant with it. The emulsifier Hydrophilic emulsifiers yield brighter
remaining on the part then slowly indications because they do not dissolve
diffuses into the surface liquid penetrant into and contaminate entrapped liquid
layer, making it emulsifiable and penetrant. Their propensity for removal of
removable with water. If the emulsifier entrapped liquid penetrant is minimal.
dwell is timed correctly, it does not diffuse For this reason, the hydrophilic emulsifier
much into liquid penetrant entrapments, liquid penetrant processing technique is
which remain inert to water rinsing. most often recommended for critical
The improved sensitivity allowed by hardware, e.g., rotating turbine engines.
this system made it the standard for high Dragout is low, as hydrophilic
sensitivity testing for many years. Its emulsifier solutions are nearly as thin as
disadvantages have become more obvious water. They yield brighter indications,
over the last few years and it is rapidly because they do not dissolve into liquid
becoming obsolete. penetrants and contaminate
The first disadvantage is the high rate them. Because of their high water
of consumption of the emulsifier. It has to content, however, they cannot tolerate as
be viscous or it removes liquid penetrant much liquid penetrant contamination as
too rapidly to control. But it drains from the lipophilic emulsifiers. A hydrophilic
surfaces very slowly, causing a high emulsifier solutions tolerance for liquid
dragout loss. This effect is aggravated on penetrant contamination depends on its
complex geometry parts, resulting in individual formula and also on the
nonuniform removal. Lipophilic contaminating liquid penetrants formula.
emulsifiers have a large liquid penetrant Tolerance for a liquid penetrant with a
tolerance and rarely need to be discarded high percentage of petroleum distillate is
because of excessive liquid penetrant lower than for one with less petroleum oil
contamination. However, the activity or or distillate. A generalization would be
diffusion rate of the emulsifier decreases that a 10 percent solution will tolerate
with increasing amounts of liquid two percent liquid penetrant
penetrant contamination. Their loss contamination before becoming spent; a
through dragout is so high that users 20 percent solution, four percent
must constantly replenish the reservoir contamination; and a 30 percent solution,
with fresh emulsifier that holds the six percent. A tank of spent hydrophilic
contamination at a low level. emulsifier solution must be emptied and
The excess emulsifier that does not recharged.
drain off ends up, of course, in the rinse Hydrophilic emulsifiers can be applied
water where it becomes a heavy dose of by spray or immersion and, in rare
water pollution a second major instances, as foam. Maximum
disadvantage. concentration for spray application is five
A third disadvantage became apparent percent and usually is applied in a much
when the hydrophilic emulsifier removal lower concentration, one or two percent.
technique was being developed in the Metering pumps are available that can
laboratory. At the end of the lipophilic meter such amounts directly into a water
emulsifier dwell time, emulsifier was stream. Sprayed hydrophilic emulsifiers
actually beginning to diffuse into liquid are not collected for reuse.
penetrant filled cracks. There was not For dip applications, concentrations
enough to make the entrapments emulsify range from five percent up to
but enough to contaminate them and dim 33 percent. Specific concentrations are
indication fluorescence. often mandated by specifications but also
can be worked out by experiment for each
The hydrophilic emulsifier is a
combination of solvents and dispersants
(wetting or surfactant agents). The

88 Liquid Penetrant Testing

solvents remove surface liquid penetrant
by dissolving action and the surface active
or dispersant agent by emulsifying action,
suspending and preventing the redeposit
of removed surface liquid penetrants.
Hydrophilic emulsifier formulations differ
between manufacturers. Some are more
solvent action dependent; others, more
surfactant dependent.
Typically, specifications for liquid
penetrant materials require an emulsifier
(hydrophilic or lipophilic) and a liquid
penetrant from the same manufacturer to
be used together according to specific
processing parameters. Otherwise, a liquid
penetrant test may become desensitized.
Water pollution can be minimized by
prerinsing the test piece with a plain
water spray before applying the
hydrophilic emulsifier. This removes the
loose surface excess of liquid penetrant by
mechanically emulsifying it. If the liquid
penetrant is completely water repellent,
entrapments within voids are not
touched. If the prerinse drainage is
contained, an oily liquid penetrant layer
quickly migrates to the top of the of fairly
clean rinse water, because the emulsion is
not chemically stabilized. Further, the
final removal step generates less water
pollution because up to 90 percent of the
oily liquid penetrant can be separated
from the prerinse drainage before it
becomes waste.
A prerinse decreases the necessary
exposure time to the emulsifier solution
very slightly. However, the prerinse
greatly extends the life of solutions used
in dip applications by eliminating about
90 percent of the contamination.
Experimentation has shown that the
final rinseoff of the emulsifier solution
can be overdone. Up to 2 min spraying on
a nickel chrome test panel can noticeably
dim indications. The best overall rule for
liquid penetrant removal is to do just
enough to clean excess fluorescence off
the surface. Doing the job more
thoroughly will not help but can surely

Characteristics of Liquid Penetrant and Processing Materials 89

PART 3. Color of Liquid Penetrants

film. The Beer-Lambert law expresses this

MOVIE. Nonfluorescent Liquid relationship as:
Visible red dye
Penetrants (10) IT = I 0 10 ect
penetrant Indications from nonfluorescent (visible)
bleeds out. liquid penetrants cannot be seen unless Combining Eqs. 9 and 10, the amount
they contrast strongly with the test of light absorbed by a film of liquid
surface. The strongest contrast is dark on penetrant is:
white, typically dark red indications on a
snow white background. Thus, visible
liquid penetrants must be used with a
(11) IA = (
I 0 1 10 ect )
white developer and must be deeply where t is thickness (millimeter), the
colored. product (ec) is a constant for a particular
The relative sensitivity of visible liquid liquid penetrant and IA is a fraction of
penetrants can be displayed with I0. The relationship is presented
nickel-chrome test panels, chrome plated graphically in Fig. 3.
panels with cracks having depths equal to A good visible liquid penetrant is
the thickness of the plating. A panel with opaque in films thicker than 0.1 mm,
nickel-chrome plate of thickness of 50 m nearly opaque at 0.01 mm but falling off
(2.0 103 in.) contains cracks that have a to nearly transparent (and invisible) in
volume of about 2.5 103 mm3 per thinner layers. Smaller cracks yield smaller
1 mm of length (3.9 106 in.3 per seepages that approach invisibility at the
1 in. of length). Only this much liquid smallest sizes.
penetrant can be crammed into Finding the tiniest discontinuities
them. With a good liquid penetrant and requires sensitive fluorescent liquid
developer, the indications are fairly dark, penetrants.
continuous and easy to see. The cracks in
the 30 m (1.2 103 in.) panels have a
volume of only 9 104 mm3 per 1 mm
(1.4 106 in.3 per 1 in.), about a third as Fluorescent Liquid
much. Indications are spotty, a pale pink
and require a careful procedure, good Penetrants
lighting and a sharp eyed inspector to Before a fluorescent liquid penetrant can
find. Cracks in nickel-chrome test panels fluoresce, it must absorb near ultraviolet
with 20 and 10 m (8 107 and radiation (UV-A). The Beer-Lambert law
4 107 in.) deep cracks are generally (Eq. 11) applies, just as with
impossible to find with visible liquid nonfluorescent liquid penetrant
penetrants. Crack volumes are indications. The dye in fluorescent liquid
4 104 mm3 and 1 104 mm3 per 1 mm penetrants converts the absorbed near
of length (6.2 and 1.6 in.3 per 1 in. of ultraviolet radiation into visible light. The
length). resulting fluorescent brightness F is given
Deeply colored visible liquid penetrants by Eq. 12:
absorb light even in microscopically thin
layers. When a film of colored liquid (or (12) F = Q IA
visible liquid penetrant) is exposed to a
beam of light (of intensity I0), some of the where Q is the quantum efficiency of the
light IT is transmitted through the film dye. Q can be defined as the ratio of
and some light IA is absorbed within it. photons emitted as fluorescence to the
photons of near ultraviolet radiation
(9) I0 = IT + IA absorbed. Values of Q for liquid
penetrants seem to be below 0.1.
The small amount of light that is reflected Substituting IA from Eq. 11 gives:
from the surface is ignored.
The amount of light absorbed depends (13) F = Q I 0 (1 10 ect )
on the light absorption coefficient e of the
dye in the liquid penetrant, the With the variables Q, e and c constant for
concentration c of the dye and the a given liquid penetrant, the brightness
thickness t of the liquid penetrant curve is the same shape as in Fig. 3 but

90 Liquid Penetrant Testing

FIGURE 3. Typical light absorption characteristics of liquid penetrant films.


Relative amount absorbed (IA/I0)






10 1 0.1 0.01 0.001 0.0001 0.00001
(400) (40) (4) (0.4) (0.04) (0.004) (0.0004)

Thickness, mm (103 in.)

extends into much thinner layers to the

Fluorescent liquid penetrants function
in very thin layers for three
reasons. (1) The absorption coefficient e is
about three times larger for fluorescent
dyes than for visible ones. (2) Visual
contrast is light-on-dark, much more
favorable than the dark-on-light contrast
of visible liquid penetrant. (3) Most
importantly, the light scattering that takes
place between developers and fluorescent
liquid penetrants increases indication
brightness by nearly an order of
magnitude. The effect of this light
scattering is covered below.

Characteristics of Liquid Penetrant and Processing Materials 91

PART 4. Action of Developers

because they were too heavy to stick to

Developer Options seepage and build an indication.
Dry developer is nearly invisible on a
test surface and hence offers no contrast
No Developer to visible liquid penetrants. Therefore,
even though indications develop, they are
Liquid penetrant seeps into voids without
invisible. Dry developers are not approved
help. After excess surface liquid penetrant
for use with color contrast (visible) liquid
is removed, it can seep back out onto the

Dry Developers Aqueous Particulate Developers

These were first formulated in the
Fluffy dry developers contain particles
1940s. Basically they are powder
ranging from 0.1 m (4 106 in.) to
compositions that can be dispersed into
about 15 m (6 104 in.) in diameter
water, containing wetting agents and
and provide a superior capillary path to
corrosion inhibitors, to form a sort of
suck liquid penetrants out of voids and
spread them at up to 100 times the width
of the void. Figures 4 to 6 demonstrate
the simple magnifying effect of
developers. The developed indication is FIGURE 5. Photograph of fluorescent liquid
very much wider than the crack itself. penetrant indication of crack shown in Fig. 4
Note the increase in the area of the without developer.
indication in Fig. 6 compared with
Fig. 5. Like many other developers, dry
developers scatter light in a way that
greatly increases fluorescent output.
The trace seepage of liquid penetrants
is what allows fluffy dry developers to
work. Because the developer particles are
very small (less than 1 m in diameter)
they easily stick to the invisibly thin
liquid penetrant seepage at voids and
build up in a mound of particles that
pulls up most of the entrapped liquid
penetrant. Before 1950, dry developers
were coarse (greater than 10 m in
diameter) and showed poor sensitivity

FIGURE 6. Photograph of fluorescent liquid

FIGURE 4. Photograph of crack under white penetrant indication of crack shown in Fig. 4
light. with developer.

92 Liquid Penetrant Testing

whitewash. They are commonly referred but nonfluorescent green liquid
to as water suspendible developers. They beneath. All the near ultraviolet radiation
should be oven dried. They yield a white is absorbed in this thin top layer. No
film that is good for both visible and fluorescence is possible below this layer
fluorescent liquid penetrants. They are because no ultraviolet radiation is
easy to apply in high volume testing, emit left. Finally drop a pinch of fluffy dry
no hazardous dust or fumes and scatter developer onto the liquid surface. When
light. viewed from above, the developer glows
as brightly as the edge fluorescence. You
Solvent Based Particulate are seeing the effects of internal reflection
and of light scattering (Fig. 6).
Developers The fluorescent light that is emitted
Solvent based developers are the most from each tiny region of a liquid
sensitive. The thin, volatile solvents penetrant film radiates in all
speedily diffuse into liquid penetrant directions (see Fig. 7). It cannot escape
entrapments, dissolve them and quickly from the liquid surface to be seen unless it
drag them to the surface, after which they impinges on the surface at an angle less
evaporate away. The particles then spread than about 45 degrees from
the indications. They provide contrast for perpendicular. The exact angle at which
visible liquid penetrants and scatter light total internal reflection occurs depends on
for fluorescent ones. the liquid penetrants index of refraction:
The evaporating solvents pose both a
health hazard and a fire hazard. This 1
limits their use to locations where it is not (14) sin =
possible to use water and drying ovens in
fixed installations. They are the where n is the liquid penetrants index of
developers of choice for portable liquid refraction and is the angle at which
penetrant kits. total internal reflection begins. Most
penetrants have an index of refraction of
Water Soluble Developers about 1.4; consequently is near 45
degrees. Roughly 12.5 percent of the
Water soluble developers are designed to generated fluorescence reaches the surface
provide an aqueous developer that does within this 90 degree cone. The other
not need to be stirred up constantly and 87.5 percent is caught in this light
that rinses off easily. The sort of trap. With a highly reflective test surface
crystalline substances that dissolve readily more fluorescence may be reflected up,
into water usually dry to give a coarse but not reliably. The fluorescence that
grained film with marginal light scattering reaches the edge of the liquid penetrant
and capillarity. Like dry powder seepage may be bright but will remain
developers, they do not offer good unseen unless the inspector can bring
contrast for visible liquid penetrant eyes within a few micrometers of the test
indications. surface.
Developers break up this light trap by
Unusual Developers scattering the fluorescent light
(Fig. 8). Because of multiple reflections
Solvent based lacquer developers have had from particles, nearly all the fluorescent
a limited use, as they can (with some light escapes to be seen. This amounts to
difficulty) be peeled off a surface and an eight fold increase in fluorescent
mounted in a logbook for future brightness.
reference. Photography can provide a
better record of both fluorescent and
visible indications.
FIGURE 7. Fluorescent liquid penetrant light

Importance of Light
Scattering for Fluorescent
Liquid Penetrant Testing

Partially fill a clear glass container, beaker
or cylinder with fluorescent liquid
penetrant, place it under a near ultraviolet Penetrant layer
lamp and look at it from above. What you
see is a dim greenish fluorescent liquid
surface. Next squat down and view the Part surface
liquid penetrant surface from the
edge. What you now see is a thin bright Legend
yellow layer at the surface with nothing = Angle at which total internal reflection begins

Characteristics of Liquid Penetrant and Processing Materials 93

test surface is not reflective, the light only
FIGURE 8. Breaking of light trap. passes through once.
Fine developer particles embedded in
the liquid penetrant seepage scatter the
ultraviolet radiation throughout the layer,
ensuring that it all gets absorbed by the
Layer of liquid liquid penetrant (see Fig. 10). Remember,
penetrant and it is not how much ultraviolet radiation is
developer present that matters; it is how much gets
absorbed. In effect, scattering the incident
ultraviolet radiation makes t very large,
maximizing visible light F of the
Part surface indication.

FIGURE 9. Ultraviolet radiation passing

through thin layer of fluorescent liquid
penetrant on a test surface.

I0 It

Penetrant layer

Part surface

FIGURE 10. Multiple scattering of ultraviolet radiation among

developer particles.


Layer of developer
and liquid penetrant

Part surface

Light scattering plays one more role in

enhancing light intensity and
sensitivity. As stated by Eq. 15, the
fluorescent brightness of a liquid
penetrant seepage is given by:

(15) F = Q I 0 (1 10 ect )

With tiny seepages, t is microscopically

small, which diminishes the value of
fluorescent brightness F. Figure 9 shows
that little of the exciting ultraviolet light
is absorbed as it passes through the thin
layer of liquid penetrant, is reflected by
the test surface and passes through the
layer for the second and last time. If the

94 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 5. Viewing Indications

This is where operator skill is

Visible Indications important. A good inspector does not
splatter a heavy coat of developer in one
Visible liquid penetrants are sometimes or two quick, sloppy passes. Instead, he or
called color contrast liquid penetrants she applies a series of thin, fast drying
not a very accurate description. The layers; never allowing the surface to
contrast of dark indications against a become wet enough to get runny. Finally,
white background is far more striking the inspector stops spraying before the
than the contrast of, say, a green liquid film becomes thick enough to be dead
penetrant against a red or purple white and opaque. Fine liquid penetrant
background. Visible liquid penetrants are entrapments simply lack sufficient liquid
red because formulators can achieve much penetrant to soak through a thick
darker indications than with brighter developer coat in quantities capable of
colors such as green, yellow or orange. being detected. A good rule of thumb is to
Red indications appear black if viewed stop spraying a developer just before the
under green light or under white light test surface texture and color become
while the inspector wears green glasses. In totally hidden. This requires skill and
some test applications, this expedient practice. At this point the indication is
might usefully increase the contrast of the fully and visibly developed against a near
indication on the background and may be optimum white background.
worth trying. Lighting intensity for viewing is often
Developers that form an even, white specified. In general, lighting should be
film are required for use with visible about the same as is required for reading
liquid penetrants. Most test surfaces are fine print on white paper.
much too dark to provide contrast. Dry
powder developers leave transparent films
in normal thicknesses. If applied by
electrostatic spraying or fluid bed Fluorescent Indications
techniques, dry developers can be built up
When viewed under 10 Wm2
to thick white coatings that can slide off
(1000 Wcm2) of 365 nm ultraviolet
the test surface and take indications with
radiation, most indications fluoresce in a
them. Thin developer layers are not likely
range of intensities centered around 54 to
to fall off.
108 lx (5 to 10 ftc). If visible light
White developers deposited from liquid
intensity in the test area exceeds this
suspensions have superior cohesion and
level, there is a loss in contrast of the
adhesion; they cannot be jarred
indication to its background. Now the
loose. Water based developers are best
inspector is looking for bluish to greenish
applied by dipping, followed by draining
indications on a typically blue or white
and oven drying. Spraying is possible but
background. No brightness contrast, just
their necessary wetting agent content
color contrast. To avoid this predicament,
generates copious amounts of foam,
the test area must be kept dark. It should
which can obliterate indications. They
not be greater than 10.8 to 21.6 lx (1 to
can be air dried, if time is not important
2 ftc) because this much visible purple
but then indications tend to be faint and
(violet and red) radiation is emitted from
fuzzy. The wetting agent content of
the ultraviolet lamp. Actually, this
aqueous developers spreads indications
amount of purplish light is necessary;
too much during the extended air dry
without it the inspector would literally be
blind, stumbling around in total
Solvent based developers, on the other
darkness. What is not necessary is stray
hand, must be applied by
light from adjacent areas, leaky ultraviolet
spraying. Brushing or dipping dissolves
lamp housings, fluorescent clutter from
and brings far too much liquid penetrant
spilled liquid penetrant and optically
from the cracks on the test surface. This
bleached white clothing from within the
tends to deplete liquid penetrant
entrapments and smear them all over the
Preliminary laboratory work has shown
surface before drying is complete. Of
an approximate relationship between the
course, it is possible to spray on too much
intensity of visible light in an test area
solvent based developer, with the same
and the level of near ultraviolet radiation
unwanted results.

Characteristics of Liquid Penetrant and Processing Materials 95

required to intensify indications enough
to offset the ambient light. As can be seen FIGURE 11. Intensity of near ultraviolet radiation required in
from Fig. 11, near ultraviolet intensity liquid penetrant test viewing area versus ambient visible light
requirements get absurdly high in well in area.
lighted surroundings.

intensity, Wm2 (Wcm2)

100 (10 000)
Table 2 shows representative visible

Required ultraviolet
light intensities measured in various
lighting environments. 10 (1000)
Eyesight is very important to any
inspector and much has been written
about the need for vision acuity and dark 1 (100)
adaptation. Other factors exist. Cataracts
can affect the ability of an inspector to see 0.1 (10)
fluorescent indications. First there is a 10.76 107.60 1076.00
defocusing that can be partially corrected (1) (10) (100)
with glasses. Second, the eyes lenses
become yellow and absorb the violet Ambient visible light intensity, Ix (ftc)
(405 nm) emission peak from the visible
fluorescent radiation, making it appear
red. Thus acuity decreases, but because
less violet radiation is seen the field of
view darkens and contrast
increases. Replacing cataracts with clear
plastic lenses allows the 405 nm radiation
to be seen. Ultraviolet lamps then seem to
emit an intense violet light that washes
out faint indications.
Assessing vision acuity can become
very complex, as there are a wide range of
eye conditions that may affect an
inspectors ability to see and evaluate
indications. Color blindness and ordinary
ability to resolve tiny lines and spots are
only the most well known
conditions. None of this has much to do
with liquid penetrant materials
themselves but as long as human eyes are
part of the liquid penetrant testing
process, their performance must be
anticipated in planning tests and
considered in evaluating test results.

TABLE 2. Representative ambient visible

light intensities. 10.8 lux (lx) =
1 footcandle (ftc).
Light conditions lx (ftc)

General plant 108 to 324 (10 to 30)

General office 270 to 324 (25 to 30)
Laboratory 324 to 432 (30 to 40)
Bright interior 1080 (100)
Storage area 54 to 75.6 (5 to 7)
inspection booth 10.8 to21.6 (1 to 2)

96 Liquid Penetrant Testing


1. Section 7, Dynamic Characteristics of 8. 29 CFR 1910.106, Flammable and

Liquid Penetrants and Processing Combustible Liquids. [Code of Federal
Materials. Nondestructive Testing Regulations: Title 29, Labor.]
Handbook, second edition: Vol. 2, Washington, DC: United States
Liquid Penetrant Tests. Columbus, OH: Department of Labor, Occupational
American Society for Nondestructive Safety and Health Administration;
Testing (1982): p 273-319. United States Government Printing
2. Prokhorenko, P.P. and Office (1998).
N.P. Migun. Introduction to the Theory
of Capillary Testing. Minsk, Russia:
Nauka I Tekhnika (1988).
3. Prokhorenko, P., N. Migun and
A. Kornev. Influence of Gas
Dissolution and Diffusion in Defects
for Sensitivity of Penetrant Testing.
6th European Conference on
Non-Destructive Testing. [Nice, France,
24-28 October 1994]. Vol. 1. European
Council for Nondestructive Testing
(1994): p 479-480.
4. Prokhorenko, P., N. Migun and
N. Dezhkunov. Development of
Penetrant Test Theory Based on New
Physical Effects. Non-Destructive
Testing 92: Proceedings of the 13th World
Conference on Non-Destructive Testing
[Sao Paulo, Brazil, October
1992]. Vol. 1. C. Hallai and P. Kulcsar,
eds. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier
(1992): p 538-542.
5. Prokhorenko, P.P. and
N.P. Migun. Kinetics of Absorption of
Penetrant by Sorption Developer from
Defects of Porous Objects. Soviet
Journal of Nondestructive
Testing. Vol. 26, No. 1. New York, NY:
Plenum Consultants Bureau
(September 1990): p 53-59.
6. Dezhjunov, N.V. and
P.P. Prokhorenko. Interaction of Two
Liquids in a Capillary and Its Role in
the Technology of Liquid-Penetrant
Testing. Proceedings of the 12th World
Conference on Non-Destructive Testing
[Amsterdam, Netherlands, April
1989]. J. Boogaard and G.M. Van Dijk,
eds. Vol. 1. Amsterdam, Netherlands:
Elsevier Science Publishers (1989):
p 413-416.
7. Prokhorenko, P.P., N.P. Migun and
M. Adler. Sensitivity of Penetrant
Inspection in the Absorption of the
Penetrant by a Sorption Detector from
Plane Parallel Cracks. Soviet Journal of
Nondestructive Testing. Vol. 21,
No. 7. New York, NY: Plenum
Consultants Bureau (July 1985):
p 502-513.

Characteristics of Liquid Penetrant and Processing Materials 97

4H A P T E R

Care and Maintenance of

Liquid Penetrant Test

William E. Mooz, Met-L-Chek, Santa Monica, California

James S. Borucki, Gould Bass NDT, Pomona, California
Donald J. Hagemaier, Boeing Company, Long Beach,
J. Thomas Schmidt, J.T. Schmidt Associates,
Incorporated, Crystal Lake, Illinois
Amos G. Sherwin, Sherwin Incorporated, South Gate,
PART 1. Importance of Maintenance of
Liquid Penetrant Materials

The quality of an inspection made with review and the latest changes are often
liquid penetrants can be no better than important improvements over previous
the quality of the liquid penetrant test issues. Using the version specified by
materials used for the inspection. contract is essential if the liquid penetrant
Recognizing this basic fact requires that test system is subject to audit, because the
liquid penetrant materials meet certain auditor will immediately check to see that
industry standards before they are the correct issues are being followed.
purchased for use. It also requires that
these materials and the liquid penetrant
systems in which they are used be
monitored and tested on a periodic and
regular basis. To ensure the materials
purchased are of desired quality and that
the proper tests are made at the proper
intervals during their use, a variety of
specifications have been developed. A list
of some of the better known
nondestructive testing specifications
appears in the references.1-19
These specifications can be broadly
classified as to their origin, typically the
United States military, various United
States technical societies or corporate
users. Many of the specifications
describing the materials have common
threads running through them whereas
some have been specifically tailored to the
specialized use of a particular industry or
customer. For example, although virtually
every liquid penetrant in use has had to
meet the requirements of MIL-I-251351
(or its commercial replacement,
AMS-26442), liquid penetrants used in the
nuclear industry must additionally have
particularly low contents of certain low
melting metals, as well as sulfur and
halogens. Aircraft turbine engine
manufacturers require products with low
fluoride, sodium, chloride and sulfur
content. Specifications detailing the
testing of materials in use have revolved
mainly around the military specification
MIL-STD-68663 (or its commercial
replacement, ASTM E 14174) but other
corporate specifications may also exist.
These specifications, in turn, often refer to
tests which are called out in other
specifications. For example,
MIL-STD-68663 refers to tests which are
outlined and described in MIL-I-251351 or
AMS 2644,2 and NAVSHIPS 250-1500-120
refers to tests documented by the
American Society for Testing and
Materials (ASTM).
When using any specification, it is
important to find out whether the latest
version of the specification is used.
Specifications are usually under constant

100 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 2. Care and Maintenance of Liquid
Penetrant Testing Materials in Storage

The following admonitions apply to the temperatures should never exceed 55 C

storage of all liquid penetrant materials, (130 F).
that is, of liquid penetrants, of emulsifiers Aerosols do not have infinite shelf life,
or removers and of developers. Materials because there is always some slight
in storage can suffer either deterioration leakage of propellant through the valve.
or contamination if they are not properly This leakage usually does not cause a
cared for. significant change in performance until a
couple of years have passed. Aerosol
containers can eventually become
depressurized after storage for three to five
Deterioration years, although there are many instances
where aerosol containers spray well after
as long as 20 years.
New Liquid Penetrant Test
Deterioration is largely the result of time
and storage conditions. Most liquid Deterioration is unlikely in storage but
penetrant materials are not greatly contamination is always a possibility if
affected by time as long as they are kept care is not taken. For example, if drums
in closed storage containers. Liquid containing liquid are stored outside, they
penetrants stored in open or loosely can have water cover the top if it rains.
covered tanks or in improperly sealed Then, if the openings are not sealed
containers are subject to evaporation tightly, this water can be sucked into the
losses. drum as the temperature changes. If
Hot and cold storage conditions can containers are stored after they have been
affect liquid penetrants adversely. Cold opened and they are not properly
storage will cause freezing of many liquid resealed, dust, dirt or other foreign
penetrant materials. Freezing will not materials can possibly get into the
usually prevent the liquid penetrant test containers. Depending on what type of
material from performing properly after contamination enters the container, the
warming to the temperature of use, but in material can suffer a loss in performance
a few cases, freezing of liquid penetrant or even fail completely when it is used.
test materials has caused irreversible For developer powders, it is especially
separation of constituents and important to use proper storage. Dry
performance failure. This separation is developer powders can become damp and
rare with modern liquid penetrants and then clump, rendering them less sensitive
MIL-I-25135E contains liquid penetrant when used. Foreign material getting into
qualification tests designed to detect this dry developer could react with the liquid
irreversible separation.1 Hot storage up to penetrant and cause it to lose some of its
65 C (150 F) for limited periods of time brightness. If the contamination in the
usually has little effect. However, hot dry developer is fluorescent, it can cause
storage for long periods of time (months false calls.
or years) could cause internal reaction Soluble and suspendible developer
between some components and powders contain surfactants that are
degradation of fluorescent dyes, with hygroscopic. If their containers are not
subsequent loss of performance. tightly sealed, they can pick up moisture.
This can cause them to become difficult
to use and can also make them subject to
Aerosol Containers biological decay. Microorganisms find the
Materials packaged in aerosol spray surfactants very tasty. They can live in the
containers are also not affected by normal developer and eat all of the surfactant.
storage conditions. Cold storage reduces When this happens, the developer will no
the internal pressure so the can must be longer wet the surface of the parts and the
warmed to nearly room temperature to inspection will fail.
spray properly. Conversely, high storage
temperatures raise the pressure and General Rules
extremely high pressures can cause
bursting of the can. Therefore, aerosol can Many tests can be performed to ensure
that stored materials are still good but

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 101

common sense is one of the best things to
use. First, make sure that liquid penetrant
products are stored properly. This means
indoors and at temperatures which are
not either extremely hot or extremely
cold. Second, make sure that the
containers are well sealed. Third, make
sure that the containers are clearly
labeled. When removing something from
storage, first inspect the container. Look
for evidence of incorrectly sealed
containers. Look for evidence of water
that has been on the top of the container.
Look for evidence that someone has
opened the container, removed some of
the contents and then not resealed the
container properly. If everything looks
good, the contents are probably good.
Nevertheless, when taking material from
the container, look at it critically. If it is a
liquid, it should be clear in color, without
evidence of any foreign material. It should
have no milky streaks in it if it is a water
washable liquid penetrant or a lipophilic
emulsifier. There should be no particulate
matter evident. The liquid at the bottom
of the container should appear no
different than that that at the top.
If the container has developer in it, see
that it has no clumps that are damp. Look
for evidence of fungus or algae dark
spots which indicate that a colony of bugs
is there, eating the developer ingredients.
If all appears clean, dry and relatively free
flowing, the developer is probably in
excellent condition.
Finding any of the indications listed
above should make one suspect that the
material may not be in condition to use.
In that case, tests should be made as
outlined below for in-process materials.

102 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 3. Care and Maintenance of Liquid
Penetrants in Use

liquid penetrant eventually separates into

Liquid Penetrants in Open two distinct phases. The liquid may form
a gel.
Proper maintenance is more difficult with Effects of Water Contamination in
liquid penetrants used in open tanks
where parts are dipped into them than
Postemulsifiable Liquid Penetrants
when sprayed from storage cans. When Water contamination of postemulsifiable
expended as used, particularly in the types of liquid penetrant is seldom a
small portable test kits, liquid penetrants serious problem, because these materials
are subject to very little contamination or are not usually compatible with water.
degradation. This is particularly true of With no emulsifier present, water in the
liquid penetrants that are packaged in liquid penetrant dip tank will settle to the
aerosol spray cans. When used in dip bottom and may cause undetected
tanks or open containers, contaminating corrosion at the bottom of the tank.
materials can get into liquid penetrants Violent agitation may bring some water
quite easily. into suspension in the oil, causing slight
Some materials such as certain cleaners liquid penetrant turbidity, but when the
and solvents commonly used in agitation ceases, the liquid will clear quite
manufacturing plants can affect the rapidly as the water settles out. Because
wetting ability of liquid penetrants when water will not stay suspended in
present in sufficient quantity. In addition, postemulsifiable liquid penetrants, it is
the greater liquid surface areas exposed seldom necessary to conduct a water test.
with dip tanks make evaporation and loss However, if test parts are dipped to the
of light volatile constituents of liquid bottom of the tank, the accumulated
penetrants more likely. The large liquid water can be a problem during operations.
surface can absorb or condense moisture Water is frequently introduced into
from the atmosphere. This water can have liquid penetrants and processing materials
a deleterious effect on liquid penetrant from wet parts, through careless overspray
performance, as can water carried into from a wash station or from leaking pipes
liquid penetrant tanks on test objects. or roofs. Water can also enter a liquid
penetrant from the air, if the air is very
humid and the liquid penetrant
temperature is below the dew point.
In-Use Contamination Condensation of water from ambient air
can happen during a humid morning
following a night that was cold enough to
Effects of Water Contamination in chill the liquid penetrant in the
Water Washable Liquid Penetrants immersion or storage tank.
Presence of moisture in a liquid penetrant
is probably the most common cause of Effects of Contaminants (Other
failure in liquid penetrant testing. This is than Water) in Liquid Penetrants
particularly true of water washable liquid
penetrants, which contain emulsifiers so There are other contaminants that can
they can be readily removed by water affect the performance of fluorescent
washing. Water washable liquid liquid penetrants. Overall tests to disclose
penetrants have a definite water tolerance their presence are not very practical. Such
limit beyond which they do not function tests would involve complicated
properly. Added water reduces their laboratory analysis and each test would
fluorescence and penetrating ability and have to be directed specifically to a
also adversely affects their washability. particular contaminant. Fortunately, most
Water contamination in liquid of these contaminant materials have to be
penetrants may be first seen as a slight present in fairly large quantities before
cloudiness. This increases with rising they can seriously affect liquid penetrant
water content and is usually accompanied performance and their presence will be
by an increase in liquid penetrant made evident by a change in behavior of
viscosity. With more added water, the the process material. Foreign materials
liquid becomes somewhat striated and the such as cleaning solvents, heavy oils,

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 103

acids or chromates in liquid penetrants fluids can result in corrosion conditions.
will make their presence known by Residues from deburring, tumble
changes in liquid penetrant performance polishing or burnishing operations may
such as in wetting ability, drying fall in this third category.
characteristics or loss of fluorescent
brightness. Effects of Contamination of Liquid
Changes in wetting ability and drying
characteristics of liquid penetrants can Penetrants by Acids, Caustics and
generally be seen by operators. Changes Chromates
in fluorescent brightness can be detected Acids and caustics have an additional
during operations by placing a single drop adverse effect on any type of liquid
of used liquid penetrant on a filter paper penetrant in which they can be dissolved.
alongside a drop of new liquid penetrant These active chemical contaminants cause
and viewing the two under an ultraviolet loss of fluorescence in fluorescent liquid
lamp. This permits a very rough penetrant dyes. They have an adverse
comparison but is adequate in most cases. effect on nonwater washable
More accurate tests can be made by use of (postemulsifiable) liquid penetrants in
photometers, or fluorometers described which they are not soluble. Sometimes,
elsewhere in this volume. chromate residues from etching
operations may become trapped in
Effects of Organic Contamination discontinuities and subsequently destroy
of Test Objects on Liquid the fluorescent response of a liquid
penetrant entrapment. This effect is due
Penetrants mainly to the powerful ultraviolet
Another source of contamination of liquid absorbency of the chromate ion.
penetrants and processing materials is
formation of organic coatings on surfaces
of test objects. These organic
contaminants include grease, oil, In-Use Deterioration
preservative, paint and residues from
previous processing. These contaminants
cause serious problems when not removed Effects of Evaporation of Liquid
from the surface of test parts because they Penetrant Test Materials
may fill cracks and prevent the entrance One source of deterioration of materials is
of liquid penetrant. The organic evaporation. The liquid penetrants and
contaminants are usually soluble in liquid some of the emulsifiers often contain
penetrant and slowly increase in light oil fractions that evaporate at
concentration in the liquid penetrant. various rates, leaving an unbalanced
Undesired effects of organic contaminants liquid penetrant formula. Wet developers
in liquid penetrants include the following: and water base penetrants contain water
(1) diluting the dye in the liquid or organic solvent that will evaporate if
penetrant; (2) absorbing ultraviolet exposed for long periods. Some
radiation before it reaches the dye in the evaporation is unavoidable but the rate of
liquid penetrant indications; (3) changing evaporation is increased by higher
liquid penetrant viscosity; (4) unbalancing temperatures and large exposed surface
emulsifier systems; and (5) deterioration areas.
of liquid penetrants and process materials. The effects of evaporation of volatile
Most of these contaminants never get constituents of liquid penetrant
beyond the liquid penetrant tank or drain processing materials include increased
stations and do not affect the emulsifier viscosity, higher developer concentration,
or developer. changes in fluorescence, changes in water
tolerance and increased dragout.
Effects of Organic Solvent Also, evaporation will either speed or
Contamination of Liquid slow washing characteristics, depending
on the type of liquid penetrant material.
Penetrant Test Materials Therefore, evaporation of liquid penetrant
Still another type of contaminant often materials cannot be ignored. Evaporation
encountered is the organic solvent, such of liquid materials in tanks occurs
as degreaser fluid, gasoline or kerosene whether the material is used or not and at
carried on test object surfaces. These a rate so gradual that it is often
contaminants usually originate in a overlooked. Periodic checks are therefore
previous cleaning operation. Small required to ensure that excessive
amounts of these organic solvent evaporation has not occurred.
contaminants are not serious but large
amounts affect liquid penetrant
fluorescence and ease of washing to
remove excess surface liquid penetrant.
Carryover of some solvent degreasing

104 Liquid Penetrant Testing

Effects of Heat on Liquid
Penetrant Test Materials
Heat can be a cause of serious
deterioration of liquid penetrant
materials. A little heat continuously
applied increases the rate of liquid
penetrant evaporation. As the lighter
constituents evaporate, liquid penetrant
viscosity increases. This may actually
upgrade the liquid penetrant material
because, when lighter fractions evaporate,
dyestuff becomes more concentrated in
the less volatile oil that remains. However,
an increase in liquid penetrant viscosity
increases dragout on test parts, slows
penetration into discontinuities and
changes the wash characteristics. Liquid
penetrants that include coupling agents
that are more volatile than other
constituents may separate or gel as the
coupling agent evaporates. Such coupling
agents are used to prevent separation of
liquid penetrant constituents or to control
liquid penetrant tolerance for water.
High temperatures cause all of the
preceding effects and, in addition, can kill
fluorescence of dyes in liquid penetrants
or leak tracers. Therefore, heating of
liquid penetrant materials much above
room temperature, either locally or
completely, should be avoided if at all

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 105

PART 4. Care and Maintenance of Liquid
Penetrant Emulsifiers and Removers in Use

fairly well drained off the parts before

In-Use Contamination they enter the emulsifier. Particular
attention should be paid to reservoirs
(openings in test objects) or recessed areas
Deterioration of Emulsifiers by that hold more than a thin surface layer
Contamination with Water or of liquid penetrant. This may mean that
the parts must be turned over during the
Liquid Penetrant drain period but the extra effort will be
Whenever the washing of surface liquid justified by the reduced material loss and
penetrant from test parts becomes contamination.
noticeably difficult, the emulsifier
(whether lipophilic or hydrophilic) should
be checked immediately. The most
Sources of Water Contamination
probable cause of deterioration of in Emulsifiers
lipophilic emulsifiers is contamination of Any liquid penetrant testing system that
the oil base emulsifier with water. All uses emulsifiers also uses water to wash
lipophilic emulsifiers have a definite water the parts after they have been emulsified.
tolerance that may vary from five percent The close proximity of water to the
to practically unlimited amounts of water. emulsifier makes it relatively easy to
When water concentrations exceed the contaminate the emulsifier with water. In
water tolerance limit, the lipophilic any case where it has been found that
emulsifier is no longer effective as a liquid water contamination has taken place, the
penetrant remover. This loss in first thing to suspect is that water from
effectiveness is generally accompanied by the wash operation has gotten into the
changes in emulsifier appearance or emulsifier tank. In virtually every case,
physical properties. The low tolerance careful attention to procedures will reveal
emulsifiers usually become viscous or gel how contamination is happening. In one
completely, whereas the high tolerance instance, the operators were steadfast in
emulsifiers become cloudy or show a maintaining that it was not possible for
tendency to thicken. water to get in the tank but when the
Another important source of operation was observed, the situation was
contamination of emulsifier baths is very clear. The operators were holding the
liquid penetrant carried into emulsifiers parts by hand and spraying them with
during processing. If excessive liquid water. They held the parts in such a
penetrant contamination builds up, the position that the overspray was going
effectiveness of the emulsifier will directly into the emulsifier tank. It was
decrease noticeably. like rain.
Other sources of water are rare and not
Sources of Liquid Penetrant as obvious. In one case, a night janitor
found that, if he wanted to really clean
Contamination in Emulsifiers his mop, all that he needed to do was to
The most common source of liquid dip it into the emulsifier tank and then
penetrant contamination in emulsifiers is wash it with water. He repeated this many
that carried into emulsifiers by dragout on times each night and each time that the
test parts processed through a dip mop went into the tank, it put some
operation. This liquid penetrant reduces water into it. In just a few days, the
the emulsifying ability of the emulsifier, emulsifier was ruined. In another case, a
making it less effective. If the liquid new maintenance man had been hired
penetrant contamination reaches a high and he was anxious to show that he did
enough level, it destroys the emulsifier. In good work. The emulsifier tank was empty
many operations, the liquid penetrant and he cleaned it with water, doing a very
content reaches an equilibrium because good job. However, the tank had piping
emulsifier is carried out on the parts and connected to it and he left these pipes full
the necessary makeup emulsifier dilutes of water. When the tank was refilled with
the carried-in liquid penetrant. If the emulsifier, it was almost instantly
liquid penetrant content does reach contaminated.
excessive levels, the reason is often poor
test procedure. Liquid penetrant should be

106 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 5. Care and Maintenance of Developers
in Use

There are four types of developer in formulations also include biocides to

common use. These are dry powder counteract this undesirable occurrence but
developer, water soluble developer, water they do not last indefinitely. The best
suspendible developer and nonaqueous practice to avoid infections is to keep the
developer. Each of these has distinctly tank covered when not in use. If an
different characteristics and different infection occurs, the cure is to drain the
susceptibilities to deterioration and tank, sterilize it and then refill it with
contamination. fresh developer solution. The developer
manufacturer has complete instructions
for this procedure.
Soluble developers can also become
Dry Powder Developer contaminated in various ways. The
Dry powder developer is not prone to concentration can go up or down
deteriorate. It is composed of chemically depending on evaporation of water from
stable absorbent powders that are unlikely the tank or the addition of water from
to decompose or otherwise change their wet parts being immersed. Fluorescent
composition in a way that would affect liquid penetrant can get into the
their performance. However, dry powder developer bath from the parts being
developers are prone to contamination of inspected. Also, it is possible to
various types. The most obvious of these contaminate the developer solution
is contamination by fluorescent liquid through electrolytic action. The developer
penetrant. When parts have been dipped is a solution of chemicals that ionize in
into the dry developer, the developer solution, creating an electrolyte. If a
adheres to the wet opening of basket of dissimilar metals is placed into
discontinuities because there is liquid the solution, electrolysis can occur in
penetrant there. The liquid penetrant which metal is dissolved from one of the
then is wicked into the developer and the dissimilar metals. The result can be cloudy
liquid penetrant makes the dry powder or murky solution that reduces the
wet and fluorescent. If particles of this developing ability of the solution.
wet, fluorescent powder fall free from the
part, they mix with the rest of the dry
powder, creating spots of fluorescence
that can later adhere to another part and Water Suspendible
cause a false indication. Developer
Dry powder developer can also become Water suspendible developers are prone to
damp or wet, causing it to clump. When some of the same contaminants that
this happens, it does not form a smooth soluble developers are, because they also
even coat on the parts being inspected contain surfactants and because they also
and it also may not stick to the wet have ionized components. This means
openings of the discontinuities, thereby that it is possible to have an infected
missing indications. Wetness can result developer bath and that it is possible to
from parts that are not completely dry have electrolytic effects. It is also possible
before being put into the developer and it to contaminate the suspension with liquid
can occur because of excessively high penetrant from the parts being inspected
humidity. and it is possible that the concentration
of the suspension will change as a result
of evaporation of water from the tank or
Water Soluble Developer the addition of water from the parts.

Water soluble developer may deteriorate

in use as a result of infections of bacteria,
algae or fungus, commonly termed bugs. Nonaqueous Wet
In order for the soluble developer to form Developer
a smooth coat on the parts, a surfactant is
included in the formulation. Surfactants Nonaqueous wet developers are usually
are a favorite food for bacteria, algae and used in aerosol form. Properly used, the
fungi and airborne bugs can land in the developer is not prone to either
solution and infect it. Soluble developer deterioration or contamination. If the

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 107

cans are not agitated before use, the
developer powder will not be properly
dispersed and this improper dispersion
will cause the developer coating to be
either too thick or too thin. The only
other failure that can occur is the loss of
pressure in the can, in which case the
developer may be good but cannot be
expelled from the can.
Nonaqueous developers used in bulk
form are prone to concentration changes
because of solvent evaporation and
should be kept in tightly closed
containers. If applied with a spray gun,
agitation must be used to keep the
developer particles in suspension.

108 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 6. Quality Control Tests for Liquid
Penetrant Materials

The following information applies tension) upsets the liquid penetrant

generally to the testing of liquid formulas balance between adhesion and
penetrant materials to determine whether cohesion. This modifies the characteristics
they are still suitable for use after having of a liquid penetrant, even though the
been used for some period of time. Most penetrant-and-water mix remains clear.
liquid penetrant processes are run Also, chemicals with substantial water
according to certain specifications or contents and without inhibitors will
standards, such as MIL-STD-68663 or its contribute to rusting of test parts as well
replacement, ASTM E 1417.4 These as liquid penetrant processing equipment.
standards or specifications contain the A liquid penetrant with a high water
exact requirements for testing and content could be a source of corrosion.
reference the exact test techniques to be Enough added water eventually causes
used. Liquid penetrant users may refer to many liquid penetrant test materials to
the following discussion for general separate into two layers. Generally, but
information but should carefully follow not necessarily, the first sign of such
the requirements of the standard or separation is a cloudiness of the fluid.
specification under which they are Sometimes, this cloudiness is localized in
working. If no standard or specification is a small area of a tank, and stirring to
called out, it is wise to use ASTM E 14174 dilute the local high water content will
to ensure that the test process is in good clear the fluid. Therefore, care must be
condition. taken to ensure that a representative
sample is used. If the whole tank is
cloudy, the layers will often separate by
gravity. Even if they do not, the
Water Tolerance of Water effectiveness of the liquid penetrant test
Washable Liquid material is gone. The material must then
be replaced.
Penetrants and Lipophilic
A useful property test that may be Visible Determination of
performed on liquid penetrants is the
water tolerance test. This test is applicable Water Tolerance Limits
only to water washable liquid penetrants A simple test for water tolerance is to add
and to lipophilic emulsifiers used with known amounts of water to a known
postemulsifiable liquid penetrants because amount of material with mixing. When
these are the only materials affected by permanent cloudiness or gelling occurs,
small amounts of water contamination. the water tolerance limit has been
The water tolerance test is not usually determined. The amount of water used to
prescribed for postemulsifiable liquid produce cloudiness or gelling is a direct
penetrants themselves as they are not indication of how much more water the
water miscible in their original form. material will accept before breaking down.
Typically, water will sink to the bottom of It is wise to know the water tolerance
the postemulsifiable liquid penetrant tank of new liquid penetrant test materials.
and form a separate layer. This gives a base point that allows one to
When water is introduced into water determine if a large variation from the
washable liquid penetrants, it will mix, up base value has occurred in the test
to a point, causing some characteristic material. If such a large variation does
changes. First, it will usually result in occur, not only should one be prepared to
increased viscosity, thereby causing some replace the material but the probable
of the same changes as evaporation. The cause of the contamination should be
peak viscosity is often reached with a determined and, if possible, eliminated.
relatively small amount of added water. Regardless of the water tolerance of the
More water then reduces viscosity, in liquid penetrant, it must be checked
some cases to a value lower than normal. periodically in accordance with
In addition to the viscosity changes, water MIL-STD-68663 or ASTM E 14174 to
reduces the dye concentration, thereby determine that the maximum allowable
decreasing the performance of water water concentration has not been
washable liquid penetrants. Further, exceeded.
addition of water (with its high surface

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 109

Quantitative Water Selecting Standard
Content Measurements Materials for Evaluation of
A water content measurement may be Liquid Penetrant
desired instead of a water tolerance test Deterioration
and is necessary if one must know the
actual water content. This is usually done Most test procedures usable for the
by the ASTM D 9521 technique where a determination of liquid penetrant
known amount of material is refluxed material conditions do not give absolute
with the specific solvent xylene and the results but rather are comparisons to some
condensed vapors are caught in a water standard. Therefore, the choice and care
trap. Water and xylene boil at similar of standard samples of liquid penetrants
temperatures and so leave the mixture and processing materials for each liquid
together. The condensed liquids are not penetrant test system in use is very
mutually soluble, so they separate in the important. A good standard is new
condensation trap. The water is heavier so material saved from the original container
it settles to the bottom of the trap for at the time the material is put into use.
measurement. Most of the xylene is This type of standard eliminates any
returned to the original mixture. effects of batch-to-batch material
It is essential to use the specific solvent variation and previous storage. The new
known as xylene for these water content material standards should, of course, be
measurements. Many liquid penetrants stored in such a way that they will not
contain water soluble glycols or glycol deteriorate. Therefore, standards should
ethers which, though much less volatile be kept in tightly closed glass or metal
than water, are still distilled out to a small containers (not plastic containers) and
extent. They collect with the water and stored in a cool, dry place. Even with such
act to increase its volume. Solvents with a proper storage, these liquid penetrant and
higher boiling point than xylene extract processing material standard samples
more of these glycols or glycol ethers and should be checked against brand new
so yield higher apparent water contents. materials of the same types every two or
Solvents that are more volatile than three years to ensure that no deterioration
xylene extract less water. Use of xylene has occurred.
only, in water content tests, permits
equivalent results to be obtained in
different facilities. One way to avoid the
errors that glycols or glycol ethers can Procedures for Comparing
cause is to use a Karl Fischer analysis, a Standard Materials with
chemical titration technique for precise In-Use Liquid Penetrant
measurement of moisture.
It is possible to use very sophisticated
instrument analyses to check liquid
Precautions in Selecting penetrant materials during their use but
Samples of Liquid such sophistication is rarely justified. All
Penetrant Materials that is really necessary at the field level is
to know whether the material is
When liquid penetrant materials are to be performing as required and, if not, where
tested for contamination or deterioration, and how bad are its shortcomings. These
the first consideration is to ensure that a can be determined with a series of
truly representative sample is taken. The relatively simple, inexpensive test
product must be well mixed so that any procedures requiring a relatively small
sludge or separation layers are included in investment in test equipment.
the sample. The container used to store The most important test is the system
liquid penetrant samples must be clean performance test in which the in-use
and made of material that is not attacked materials are tested against standard
by and is not permeable to the liquid liquid penetrant test materials of the same
penetrant material. type on actual cracked reference test
objects. The specimens may be parts of
the type being tested and containing
known, naturally occurring
discontinuities or they may be test panels
with synthetic discontinuities. In any
case, the test parts must be clean and dry
before the test. With some test specimens,
half of the specimen can be treated with
in-use material and the other half with
standard material. With other specimens,

110 Liquid Penetrant Testing

it will be necessary to have two similar will show whether there is a noticeable
test pieces, one for in-use material and difference between them. If there is no
one for new. difference, the used material can be
assumed to be acceptable and further tests
are not necessary (but may be performed
if a numerical status rating is desired). If a
Processing Reference difference is noted, a decision must be
Specimens with Standard made as to whether this difference (1) is
significant enough to reject the used
and In-Use Liquid materials at this point or (2) justifies
Penetrant Materials further tests to determine the cause and
In the reference test procedure, standard degree of the problem.
materials are applied to one part of the
test piece, the used materials are applied
to the other part (or to a similar piece) Laboratory Fluorometers
and the two systems are processed
equally. If actual cracked parts are being for Fluorescent Brightness
used, the processing should be the same Measurements
as that used in normal production tests. If
synthetic discontinuity test pieces are One type of filter photometer that has
being used, procedures may have to be been used for fluorescent brightness
modified to handle the different surface measurement is shown in Fig. 1. These
and crack conditions of the synthetic fluorometers normally contain the
discontinuity pieces. The main photometer sample holder and the
requirement is to ensure that standard ultraviolet light source, all in one package.
and used material systems are processed They are normally designed to measure
identically. test tubes full of fluorescent liquid. With a
Close comparison of test indications special sample holder (Fig. 2) these
with standard and used material systems instruments can be used to measure

FIGURE 1. Laboratory fluorometer specified by MIL-I-251351 and ASTM E 11356 and

containing built-in ultraviolet radiation source and interchangeable filters for light

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 111

brightness of filter paper soaked with heat resistant type because it may be
highly diluted liquid penetrant. ASTM placed very near the hot light source.
E 11356 contains procedural details for The fluorometer must also be equipped
comparing the brightness of fluorescent with a secondary filter that corrects the
liquid penetrants. These instruments are photodetector to the desired wavelength
no longer manufactured but many are still response. The first job for the secondary
in use. filter is to remove stray ultraviolet
Figure 2 shows a sample holder that radiation. If ultraviolet radiation is not
can be built to accept soaked filter paper removed, one obtains a reflectance
samples. When such a sample holder is measurement rather than a fluorescence
used, it must be positioned properly in measurement and spurious results are
the instrument or no reading will be obtained. Many secondary filters will
obtained. Because most laboratory remove enough ultraviolet radiation to
fluorometers are arranged so that the give correct measurements. An ultraviolet
angle between the illumination source radiation filter may be added if excess
and the photometer is 90 degrees, the face ultraviolet radiation becomes a problem.
of the sample must be set halfway In addition to removing the ultraviolet
between these devices to permit passage wavelengths from the fluorescent
of light. Furthermore, the angle must be brightness measurement, the secondary
exactly the same for each sample filter should normally cause the
measured if extreme measurement instrument to respond to color as the
variations are to be avoided. Usually stops average human eye does. Most
are installed on the instrument case and fluorometers use photodetectors with the
sample holder for this purpose or the blue sensitive response. A filter
holder may be manually rotated until a combination must be used to correct the
maximum reading is obtained. response of these phototubes to
Another instrument that can be used approximate the human eye response.
with soaked filter paper is shown in Fig. 3.
The sample holder is pictured lying on its
side on top of the instrument. For
measurement, the sample holder is Test for Water
inserted in the slot in the front of the Contamination in
Lipophilic Emulsifier
The amount of water contamination in a
lipophilic emulsifier can be easily
Selection of Filters for determined by use of ASTM D 95.21 The
Fluorometer Measurement test procedure and apparatus are followed
exactly as described in the ASTM test
of Fluorescent Brightness
When fluorometers are used for liquid
penetrant brightness measurement, they
must be equipped with proper filters. FIGURE 3. Another type of fluorometer for measuring
First, of course, is the primary filter that penetrant brightness.
must pass ultraviolet-A radiation but
absorb visible light. Generally, this filter
must be made of cobalt glass, often of a

FIGURE 2. Special reflectance measuring sample holder for

use with fluorescence photometer.

112 Liquid Penetrant Testing

specification but anhydrous (waterfree) confirm or eliminate liquid penetrant
xylene must be used as the solvent content of emulsifier as a cause for a
(instead of the general solvent specified). performance deficiency.
It is most important that only the
waterfree xylene solvent material be used. Washability Test for Emulsifier
If this material cannot be obtained, a
satisfactory solvent can be prepared by Contamination Using Grit Blasted
distillation of the commercial grade of Test Panel
xylene by placing a suitable amount of A practical test for emulsifier
commercial xylene in a still and boiling contamination is a washability test on a
off ten percent by volume. Most of the grit blasted stainless steel panel. A drop of
water in the commercial xylene will be in-use emulsifier is placed on the panel
driven off in this first ten percent and is allowed to drain off to one side.
evaporation and the xylene residue will be Then the panel is washed in a very gentle
sufficiently dry to permit a reliable test for flow of tap water. Failure of the emulsifier
the water content of emulsifiers. Although streak to wash clean and without any
lipophilic emulsifiers are petroleum based, edge residues indicates the presence of
the water contamination test results are excessive liquid penetrant contamination.
affected by the type of solvent used in the Emulsifiers usually exhibit a sharp
ASTM D 95 test.21 (See above for detailed washability break at some critical
discussion of water content concentration of liquid penetrant
measurements.) contamination, at which point the streak
of emulsifier will not dissolve properly in
water. In conducting this washability test,
the panel should be examined under
Comparison Tests for ultraviolet radiation for the presence of
Determining unwashed residues.
Contamination of
Emulsifiers by Fluorescent Visual Monitoring of Hydrophilic
Emulsifiers Bath for Liquid
Liquid Penetrant Penetrant Contamination
Fluorescent liquid penetrant
contamination in emulsifiers can often be Visual monitoring of the hydrophilic
seen by illuminating the used emulsifier remover immersion bath, although not
with near ultraviolet (ultraviolet-A) precise, will give clues as to the general
radiation. The actual test for liquid condition and freedom from liquid
penetrant content in an emulsifier can be penetrant contamination. For example, a
quite simple or fairly complex, depending solution of 20 percent hydrophilic
on the amount of information desired. emulsifier in water has a clear, pinkish red
Essentially, the test involves preparation color in white light and exhibits a pinkish
of a standard series of emulsifier samples fluorescence under (near ultraviolet)
contaminated with various known ultraviolet-A radiation. A trace of
amounts of liquid penetrant. These are fluorescent liquid penetrant
then compared with the test sample of contamination in the hydrophilic
used emulsifier to determine the emulsifier bath will darken the emulsifier
approximate degree of its contamination solution color and the fluorescence will
with liquid penetrant. The comparison shift to a blue-white color. Much higher
can be made visually or with instruments, levels of liquid penetrant contamination
depending on the degree of sophistication cause the hydrophilic emulsifier solution
desired. to become cloudy. With still higher levels
The basic procedure for evaluating of liquid penetrant contamination, free
fluorescent liquid penetrant liquid penetrant will float on the surface
contamination in lipophilic emulsifiers is of the hydrophilic emulsifier bath
to make a series of mixtures of the same solution. A hydrophilic emulsifier bath
types of liquid penetrant and emulsifier that is cloudy or has free liquid penetrant
used in production. The mixtures should on its surface is generally considered to be
contain amounts such as 0, 5, 10, 15, 20 over contaminated. Such a bath can be
and 30 percent liquid penetrant. Smaller used but the free-floating liquid penetrant
increments are only confusing. The should be skimmed from the bath surface
solutions should be thoroughly mixed to prevent liquid penetrant
and placed in clear, nonfluorescing glass contamination of test parts as they are
containers. A similar container filled with removed from the hydrophilic emulsifier
a similar amount of test sample is then, bath.
under ultraviolet radiation, visually Noticeable changes in the hydrophilic
compared side by side with the standard emulsifier performance, especially
series. The estimation thus obtained will increased fluorescent background on the
be approximate but close enough to washed test parts, will accompany the
visual changes in the bath described

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 113

above. As the emulsifier bath becomes available from the emulsifier
more contaminated with liquid penetrant, manufacturer. Figure 5 shows an example
it will become less efficient in removing of the full range of refractive index values
excess surface liquid penetrant and will for concentrations varying from 0 to
require increased emulsifier contact time. 100 percent of a hydrophilic emulsifier in
The addition of hydrophilic emulsifier water. This refractive index test is
concentrate to a contaminated emulsifier applicable only to fresh, uncontaminated
bath is not recommended, because this emulsifier solutions. Therefore, the test is
leads to loss of control over the remover especially suited to solutions applied by
concentration. Properly diluted emulsifier spray. Contamination by liquid
concentrate (corresponding to the original penetrants can cause the refractive index
remover bath concentration) can be of hydrophilic emulsifier baths to shift
added to a tank that is subject to a heavy from the values for uncontaminated
dragout loss due to heavy use. baths.

Concentration Control of Quick Tests for

Hydrophilic Emulsifier or Performance Loss Due to
Remover Remover Contamination
The concentration of hydrophilic
emulsifier in water is important to both Test Procedure
its performance effectiveness and the
economies of its use. The concentration of A quick emulsifier bath performance test
hydrophilic emulsifier can be estimated uses reference panels for comparison tests
by comparing the color of standard to determine the loss in performance due
dilutions to those of the freshly mixed to contamination of hydrophilic
bath. This procedure is used for spray emulsifier baths. (See elsewhere in this
solutions rather than for the more highly volume for descriptions of test panels and
concentrated dip solutions. This color cracked blocks used for evaluating liquid
comparison technique is not usable for penetrant test system performance.) The
contaminated baths of hydrophilic background and indication brightness and
emulsifier. definition obtained when liquid penetrant
A useful technique for determining the coated test panels are exposed to
concentration of specific hydrophilic hydrophilic emulsifier for 15 s and 30 s
emulsifiers in water baths is the time periods are compared. Two grit
measurement of the refractive index of blasted steel test panels and two
the solution. Figure 4 shows a
refractometer being used to determine the
refractive index of a hydrophilic
emulsifier solution. Charts relating the FIGURE 5. Variations of refractive index of
concentration to the refractive index are specific hydrophilic emulsifier as function of
emulsifier concentration in water.

FIGURE 4. Refractometer test provides an 90

Concentration of emulsifier in water (percent)

immediate visual determination of

hydrophilic emulsifier concentration. 80








1.33 1.35 1.37 1.39 1.41 1.43 1.45 1.47

Refractive index

114 Liquid Penetrant Testing

chromium plated panels with fine cracks part for performance test or to alter the
are covered with liquid penetrant and test conditions to correspond to actual
allowed to drain in air for 5 min. The first liquid penetrant processing conditions in
set, including one grit blasted and one use in the specific facility.
cracked chromium plated panel, is
processed as follows: 15 s prerinse, 15 s
drain, 15 s agitated remover dip, 15 s
drain and 15 s wash. Visual Comparison Test for
The second set of similar panels is Dry Developer
processed like the first set, except that the
agitated remover dip is of 30 s duration. Performance
In this test, fresh hydrophilic remover at Developers may suffer degradation, which
20 percent dilution in water leaves no can affect performance and thus should
background residues on either grit blasted not be ignored. The best test of dry
test panel. The first cracked chromium developer is a visual comparison with new
sensitivity panel has good crack developer material under both white light
indications after the 15 s dip. The second and ultraviolet-A radiation. Limits may be
cracked chromium sensitivity panel has set if desired but the results of the
no indications or only faint indications performance test will normally determine
after its 30 s dip in agitated remover. Fresh whether the material is acceptable or not.
hydrophilic remover at 20 percent Water in dry developers usually comes
concentration leaves no background color from incompletely dried test parts,
or fluorescence on either grit blasted careless overspray during washing or
background test panel. All panels are dried leaking roofs or pipes. Added water causes
and developer applied before inspection. lumps in the dry developer tank or on the
These results are those for fresh, clean test parts, which may mask indications. If
hydrophilic remover bath. the contaminant is water, the developer
material may dry eventually, particularly
Interpretation of Results if heated. Liquid penetrant contamination
in dry developers causes bright color or
As the remover bath becomes fluorescent spots that form false
contaminated, similar test panels given indications. Liquid penetrant usually
similar processing show differences in enters the developer through careless
performance. Background is present after handling of washing and removal of
the 15 s dip and faint background after excess surface liquid penetrant. If the
the 30 s dip, on the grit blasted test developer is contaminated, the dry
panels. The cracked chromium plated test powder developer must be replaced.
panels show poor performance after 15 s
in the remover bath. Resolution on the
fine crack panel may improve after the
30 s dip, reinforcing the interpretation of Control and Maintenance
a loss in remover effectiveness with of Aqueous Wet Developer
contamination. A sample of fresh liquid
penetrant should be used periodically in Baths
these tests to determine whether The proper consistency of aqueous wet
contaminated liquid penetrant could be developer baths must be maintained by
responsible for the changes observed in replacing water lost through evaporation
performance. or powder lost through dragout. The
With a specific liquid penetrant and technique for measuring the consistency
remover, this comparison test indicated of the batch will depend on the type and
that no noticeable change in performance brand of material being used. The
occurred until the remover bath reached recommendation of the manufacturer
about four percent contamination. At should be followed in all cases.
four percent contamination with liquid
penetrant, heavy background appears on
the grit blasted test panel after a 15 s dip Visual Examination of Applied
and faint background remains even after a Developer
30 s dip. With about six percent One test involves pouring a streak of well
contamination, the difference in mixed developer bath onto a glossy black
background on the grit blasted test panels plate supplied as part of a comparator kit.
exposed to agitated remover for 15 and 30 The appearance of this streak is then
s is negligible. the comparison between compared with the developer streaks on a
the two dip periods is the guide to standard plate. The solution or suspension
remover condition. The test is only meant can then be adjusted by adding more
to be a quick, easy reference and is not water or more powder until the test streak
quantitative. With different test objects closely matches the proper standard
and processing requirements, the user streak. Any cracking of the developer
may find it beneficial to use an ideal test coating during the drying operation in

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 115

the normal test procedure indicates (1) a convenient surface for this test is a new,
serious loss of water or (2) an excessively clean, tin-plated lid from a gallon can. If
high concentration of developer powder. pulling apart or balling up of the coating
Both of these conditions can cause the occurs, the surface should be dried and
developer to obscure indications of fine then checked for even, complete
discontinuities. developer coverage.

Hydrometer Test for Evaluation of Fluorescent

Concentration of Aqueous Wet Contaminants in Developer
Developer Baths Coatings
Another technique of checking the bath Another test that should be applied to wet
concentration is by means of a developers is a check for fluorescence.
hydrometer with a suitable range. Before This is easily done by examining the two
checking the concentration with the developer coatings prepared for the
hydrometer, the developer bath should be evenness test under ultraviolet-A
at least 24 h old, soluble powders should radiation. Increased fluorescence of the
be completely dissolved and suspensions test material will be obvious. Whether the
should be thoroughly stirred. The fluorescence has reached a rejection level
hydrometer can be floated directly in the must be determined by the performance
bath or in a small vessel containing a test.
sample of the bath. Manufacturers of the Wet developer becomes fluorescent
developer will supply information as to mainly from liquid penetrant carried into
the correct hydrometer range for the it on test parts or that otherwise enters
developer and will furnish tables relating the developer. There is no way to reclaim
the developer bath concentration and liquid penetrant contaminated developer,
specific gravity. A high specific gravity so replacement is the only answer to such
reading can be lowered by adding water to a problem. Developer should not
the mixture. If the specific gravity is too normally become fluorescent; therefore,
low, add powder and stir thoroughly. the cause of the problem should be
Table 1 compares typical hydrometer determined and procedures should be
readings to developer bath particle altered to prevent recurrence.
concentration. Generally, the powder
concentration in water suspension ranges
from 40 to 240 g (1.4 to 8.5 ozm) of dry
powder concentrate per 1 L (0.25 gal) of Care and Maintenance of
water. This corresponds to 152 to 907 g Nonaqueous Wet
(0.33 to 2.0 lbm) of powder per 3.8 L
(1 gal) of water (4 to 24 percent by Developers
weight). Most of the developers used with portable
liquid penetrant test kits are of the
Evaluating Developer Wetting and nonaqueous wet type. The developers are
procured in a ready-to-use form and
Evenness of Coating contain the necessary developer powder
The coating test is simply to pour or suspended in a volatile liquid medium.
otherwise apply some of the material and With flammable solvent types, operators
some standard mixture to a smooth must avoid smoking or other source of
hard-to-wet metal surface and inspect for ignition while spraying developer from
signs of pulling apart or balling up of the pressurized spray cans. Solvent developers
wet developer coating material. A in bulk should be kept in covered or
closed containers to limit evaporation or
spreading of flammable vapors. If solvent
developers lose appreciable liquid through
TABLE 1. Aqueous developer concentrations of dissolved evaporation, the quality and effectiveness
or suspended particles as function of specific gravity of the developer will decrease
hydrometer readings of the bath. significantly. The solids must be in
Typical suspension, before use, to obtain proper
Specific Gravity
developer performance. Solvent
Developer Concentration
______________________ Hydrometer Readings
developers in pressure spray cans or other
gL1 (lbagal1) at 22 C (72 F) portable containers must be thoroughly
agitated before use to ensure the proper
120 (1.0) 1.052
suspension of developer in solvent when
96 (0.8) 1.042
applied to test parts. Developers in
72 (0.6) 1.032 pressurized spray cans generally do not
48 (0.4) 1.021 require maintenance precautions, because
24 (0.2) 1.011 they are primarily intended for use only
once. When developer is sealed in a spray
can, there is no way for it to become

116 Liquid Penetrant Testing

contaminated with liquid penetrant or
other foreign materials.
If it is necessary to check the content
of solids in nonaqueous solvent
developers, this can best be done by
weighing a well agitated sample of
developer, filtering out the solids and
then weighing the dried solids content.
Older techniques of allowing the solids to
settle out of a developer suspension have
fallen into disrepute.

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 117

PART 7. Quality Control Tests for Test Systems
and Procedures

Figure 6 is a drawing of a combination

Maintenance Checks for test panel devised to verify the
functioning of the liquid penetrant test
Expendable Liquid system. Proper performance of the test
Penetrant Process system can be ensured by processing this
performance test panel through all cycles
Materials of the system, from precleaning to
Expendable materials, once placed in readout of indications, at the beginning of
service in a liquid penetrant each work shift. One half of the
nondestructive test system, are not combination test panel consists of a metal
particularly susceptible to change or strip that has a rough, grit blasted,
variation. Most of the changes that do stainless steel surface. The other half of
take place will be apparent to experienced the combination test panel has a smooth
operators by variation in the performance chrome plated surface with five dimple
of the liquid penetrant or of the crack patterns imposed on it by a
processing materials. In most installations, hardness tester. The five dimple crack
alertness on the part of the operator may patterns range in size from very fine to
be all that is required to maintain all coarse. The combination panel can be
materials in satisfactory condition. used for judging both rough surface
However, it is advisable to carry out a washability and smooth surface
routine check on the test materials to washability, as well as for judging relative
ensure that reliable and consistent sensitivity of the liquid penetrant test
performance is being attained with the process conducted with a given test
test system. system at specified intervals. To remain
Selection of specific tests will depend useful, the combination test panel must
on the make and type of liquid penetrant
process materials being used. Tests
recommended by the manufacturer or FIGURE 6. Penetrant system monitor panel
supplier of the expendable liquid with rough, grit blasted section (at right) for
penetrant process materials may be used washability check and five crack centers in
as a guide. There are some generally chrome plated section (at left) for sensitivity
applicable tests, however, that can be evaluation.
applied advantageously, as described here
and elsewhere in this volume. Note that
these tests described are comparison tests
only; that is, a current result is compared
to a previous result or results obtained
with in-use materials are compared to
results obtained with retained unused

Checking Test System

Performance with Combination
Test Panel
The quality of indications on processed
test parts depends on proper functioning
of all phases of the entire liquid penetrant
test system, including the following:
effectiveness of precleaning of test objects;
condition of the liquid penetrant,
emulsifier and developer (all of which can
easily become contaminated or spent);
liquid penetrant and emulsifier dwell
times; temperature, pressure and
cleanliness of the wash water; drying time
and temperature; lighting in the
inspection area.

118 Liquid Penetrant Testing

be thoroughly cleaned immediately after discontinuities appear; the contrast of the
each use to remove all residues of liquid discontinuity indications; the degree of
penetrant processing materials and water. background color or fluorescence left on
(See elsewhere in this volume for test object surfaces after removal of excess
descriptions of additional artificial surface liquid penetrant and application
reference panels of various types). of developer. The stainless steel
combination grit blasted and chrome
Checking Test System plated test panel (Fig. 6) has been used for
several years to monitor for sudden
Performance Using Test Parts with changes. Another suitable test panel is an
Known Discontinuities unglazed ceramic plate or disk having a
Test parts with known typical surface porosity condition.
discontinuities and known washability Processing special test panels such as
levels can be retained as reference these can alert the inspector to a sudden
specimens and processed at the beginning shift in performance caused by the
of each shift or when inadequate system following: sudden increase in oven
performance is suspected. These test parts temperature; failure of developer dust
serve a function similar to that of the chamber; wash water temperature
combination test panel. The experienced increase; solvent contamination of
inspector will quickly spot a radical emulsifier; and other changes from
change in the liquid penetrant testing normal conditions
system performance by use of either the Though these monitoring panels do
combination panel or retained anomalous not measure the gradual shift in
test parts. A problem that must be performance and do not replace the
recognized is that, even after comparison test, they protect against the
discontinuities in test panels or test parts sudden failure and they can be processed
are cleaned, they may retain residues of quickly and easily.
liquid penetrants or processing materials
from previous liquid penetrant tests or
inspections of other types. The gradual
buildup of retained processing materials Tests for Effectiveness of
will then reduce the apparent size of the Liquid Penetrant Removal
liquid penetrant indications and the test A removability test, or washability test,
panels/parts must be replaced. often follows the fluorescence test (see
elsewhere in this volume for step
Frequency of Comparison Tests of sequence). These tests measure the
Liquid Penetrant Materials removability performance of the
individual process materials. Removal
In all probability, liquid penetrant performance is very important because
materials deterioration due to surplus liquid penetrant must be removed
evaporation, contamination and other from the surface of the part or the entire
causes will be gradual. The rate will vary part will have a high background
with such conditions as the work load, fluorescence. This will greatly reduce the
type of test parts, climatic conditions or contrast between the discontinuity
prior processing. The need for a indication and the rest of the surface area.
comparison test between materials in use On the other hand, if the liquid penetrant
and retained standards will not be the can be removed too easily, it will be
same for all liquid penetrant installations. washed out of the discontinuities. This
The frequency of tests may vary from as will cause greatly reduced discontinuity
often as twice daily to weekly or even detection sensitivity capability,
monthly. particularly for the shallower
Detecting Sudden Performance The test for effectiveness of removal of
Shifts in Test System Operation surface liquid penetrant may be
performed in a variety of ways but, with
It should be remembered that, in addition present procedures, it must always be
to gradual deterioration, there is always done as a comparison to standard
the danger of sudden deterioration of materials; this is because there is so much
materials or sudden change in the variation of the test parameters even
functioning of a processing stage. The when rigorous controls are applied. An
sudden change can be guarded against by accurate comparison can be made only if
processing known anomalous parts or standard and test materials are handled
special test panels with which the side by side.
technician is familiar at the beginning of
each shift or at other selected intervals.
An experienced inspector will detect a
change in familiar parts or test panels by
noting the following: whether the known

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 119

Selection and Renewal of
Removability Test Panels Purpose of Cracked
Removability is probably best tested on a Sample Tests
fairly rough surface such as the stainless A practical test of a liquid penetrant test
steel test panels sand blasted with 165 m system uses a test object or part of the
mesh aperture (100 lines per 1 in. mesh) type actually being inspected that
grit as specified by MIL-I-251351 or contains the smallest allowable
AMS 2644.2 Rough surfaces on test objects discontinuity. If this discontinuity is
are harder to wash than smooth surfaces, detected, the liquid penetrant test system
so they allow a better evaluation of wash is doing the minimum required job. How
capability. A problem with wash test well this smallest discontinuity is detected
panels is that, once used, a very slight can be determined by the brightness of
residue remains on the surface and affects the indication as measured with a
future tests. An effective procedure for photometer (Fig. 7), if such an instrument
cleaning removability test panels for reuse is available and the information is
includes the following processing steps: required. However, because each users
(1) use a soft brush under running water test parts and minimum allowable
to remove the developer, (2) dry, (3) dip discontinuity size will be different, there
in alcohol, (4) dry, (5) immerse in a is no way that individual ratings will be
solvent and ultrasonically clean and comparable when using different parts.
(6) dry. This entire cycle can be repeated if
necessary to remove all traces of prior
processing materials. If this procedure
does not completely clean the panels, Synthetic Crack Specimens
they can be sandblasted again and
probably should be after five or ten uses. for Comparison
Procedures for Performing In practice, there is a great need for
Removability Tests reproducible, synthetically produced
discontinuities that can be used to rate
When performing removability tests, and compare liquid penetrant test systems
standard and test materials should be and materials. Many attempts to produce
applied to separate panels that were grit such devices have been made over the
blasted simultaneously or adjoining areas years. Unfortunately, none of these
on a single test piece, being careful not to attempts has produced the ideal synthetic
allow the liquid penetrants to mix. The discontinuity. The big problem is
test should actually be run twice: once reproducibility. To rate liquid penetrant
with a minimum removal effort (short materials properly in different locations,
emulsification or wash) that will not quite
completely remove the standard materials
and once with a fairly strong removal
effort that will completely remove liquid FIGURE 7. Narrow angle photometer with digital readout and
penetrant from the standards. optical finder.

Interpretation of Liquid Penetrant

Removability Tests
If the test materials are more completely
removed than the standards, the test
materials are being removed too easily
and performance will suffer. This loss of
performance usually shows up on the
performance test, so the purpose of
removal test is to point out any poor
removability performance. This may be
obvious from the results being obtained
in the actual test operation where parts
being tested may be showing sufficiently
high residual background that complaints
arise. If so, the main use of this test is to
locate which material or materials are
causing the poor removability.

120 Liquid Penetrant Testing

the test parts must be identical and no indications on the two halves, whereupon
two parts of any current synthetic the last used material replaced by the new
discontinuity sample are identical. material may be considered at fault.
Without identical test discontinuities, Once the faulty material is found, the
there is no way to cause the rating of a necessary corrective measure may be
system done at one location to equal that obvious. If not, further tests may be
done at another. Even at one location any necessary but need be carried out on the
rating of a test system, process or material inferior material only. If no material is
is a comparative rating only. found faulty, one or more processing
Over the course of many years, two parameters or procedural steps may be at
types of synthetic discontinuity test fault. An audit of the test process or
panels have found wide use despite their having a different operator process the
inadequacies; the cracked chrome plated cracked specimens may help reveal the
brass panel and the quench cracked problem.
aluminum block. These are briefly In most cases comparable crack
described below and discussed in detail patterns appear immediately adjacent to
elsewhere in this volume. The normal each other on the two halves of a
procedure for checking a complete system specimen. The patterns should be
by means of cracked specimens is to treat observed not only for brightness but also
one half of each specimen with all new for crack definition as well. Photographic
materials and the other half with all records of crack patterns can aid observers
in-use materials. After processing is to make valid conclusions. Some
complete, the specimen is examined contaminants, particularly in liquid
closely under the appropriate light, penetrants, can cause bleeding of
according to the types of materials used. indications to such a degree that,
If a careful comparison reveals no although the indications may be larger,
outstanding difference between the two they are less well defined and may even
halves of the specimen, it can be assumed obscure other fine indications. In such a
that all materials are in usable condition. case, indications are usually less bright.
If the half that was processed with in-use
materials bears indications that are Cracked Nickel-Chromium Plated
definitely inferior, it indicates that at least
one of the in-use materials is not up to Specimens for Evaluating the
standard. The actual material(s) at fault Performance of Test Systems
can be pinpointed by carrying out further One synthetic discontinuity test panel is
tests, substituting new materials, one at a the cracked nickel-chrome plated panel.
time, for the in-use ones. This should be In this case the two halves are two
continued until the block shows equal

FIGURE 8. Two examples of matched halves of chrome plated, cracked panels for evaluating
liquid penetrant system performance: (a) coarse cracks, relatively deep; (b) fine cracks,
relatively shallow.

(a) (b)

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 121

separate panels made by cutting the
originally prepared panel completely in FIGURE 9. Quench cracked aluminum test panel specified by
half. Two examples of this type are shown MIL-I-25135,1 AMS 26442 and ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel
in Fig. 8. Code.22
The cracks extend entirely through the
brittle nickel-chrome plating to the brass
below, so the depth of the cracks is
controlled by the plating thickness.
Variation of the coating thickness thus
allows the production of different ranges
of crack size that can be used to test liquid
penetrant test systems with different
sensitivity levels. The nickel-chrome
plated crack specimens, especially the fine
grade, contain some of the smallest
discontinuities normally detectable by the
liquid penetrant method. Thus, they can
be used as go/no-go standards for the
rating the relative performance of a liquid
penetrant test system over a period of
A further advantage of these panels is
that they may be easily and completely
except the cracked aluminum blocks and
cleaned for reuse, by washing and
the cracked nickel-chromium plated
brushing off the developer coating and
panels. All others were too difficult to
then by soaking the panel in solvent
make, not reproducible enough or not
sufficiently indicative of performance.
There is still need for a better synthetic
Quench Cracked Aluminum discontinuity sample than those presently
Specimens for Evaluating the available.
Performance of Test Systems
A second type of synthetic discontinuity
sample in common use, especially for
visible dye liquid penetrant test systems,
is the quench cracked aluminum block
specified in AMS 26442 and elsewhere.1,22
This sample is produced by nonuniformly
heating a piece of rolled 2024-T3
aluminum alloy to nearly its melting
point, then by quenching the piece
quickly in cold water. This produces a
network of cracks of various sizes, as seen
in Fig. 9. Naturally, there is considerable
variation in crack patterns from piece to
piece and no two pieces are exactly alike.
Therefore, these samples also must be
used strictly for comparison of two liquid
penetrant test systems or materials on the
same piece at the same time.
These samples are suitable only for
systems of low sensitivity. To clean them
for reuse, it is necessary to wash and
brush off the developer, soak the panels in
solvent at least overnight and then reheat
them to about 30 C (50 F) less than the
original temperature. This procedure can
be repeated only three or four times for a
panel before it must be replaced.

Need for Improved

Synthetic Crack Specimens
Various other liquid penetrant test
reference samples have been tried over the
years but none has survived in general use

122 Liquid Penetrant Testing


1. MIL-I-25135, Inspection Materials, Conshohocken, PA: American Society

Penetrants. Washington, DC: United for Testing and Materials (1992).
States Department of Defense (1989). 13. KSC-SPEC-Z-0013, Penetrant, Magnetic
(Cancelled January 1998; replaced by Particle and Ultrasonic Inspection,
SAE AMS 2644.) Requirements for, Specification for.
2. SAE AMS 2644, Inspection Material, Kennedy Space Center, FL: National
Penetrant. Warrendale, PA: SAE Aeronautics and Space Administration
International (1996). (1969).
3. MIL-STD-6866, Inspection, Liquid 14. MIL-STD-271, Nondestructive Testing
Penetrant. Washington, DC: Methods, Requirements for.
Department of Defense (1985). Washington, DC: Department of
(Canceled 22 November 1996; Defense; United States Government
replaced by ASTM E 1417.) Printing Office (June 1986). (Cancelled
4. ASTM E 1417, Standard Practice for May 1998; superseded by NAVSEA
Liquid Penetrant Examination. West Technical Publication
Conshohocken, PA: American Society T9074-AS-GIB-010/271.)
for Testing and Materials (1995). 15. MSFC-STD-366(1), Penetrant Inspection
5. ASTM E 165, Standard Test Method for Method. Huntsville, AL: Marshall Space
Liquid Penetrant Examination. West Flight Center (1976). (Cancelled.)
Conshohocken, PA: American Society 16. SAE AMS 2647B, Fluorescent Penetrant
for Testing and Materials (1995). Inspection Aircraft and Engine
6. ASTM E 1135, Standard Test Method for Component Maintenance. Warrendale,
Comparing the Brightness of Fluorescent PA: SAE [Society of Automotive
Penetrants. West Conshohocken, PA: Engineers] International (1995).
American Society for Testing and 17. SAE AMS 3155C, Oil, Fluorescent
Materials (1992). Penetrant Solvent-Soluble. Warrendale,
7. ASTM E 1208, Standard Test Method for PA: SAE [Society of Automotive
Fluorescent Liquid Penetrant Examination Engineers] International (1994).
Using the Lipophilic Post-Emulsification 18. SAE AMS 3156C, Oil, Fluorescent
Process. West Conshohocken, PA: Penetrant Water Washable. Warrendale,
American Society for Testing and PA: SAE [Society of Automotive
Materials (1994). Engineers] International (1983).
8. ASTM E 1209, Standard Test Method for 19. SAE AMS 3161A, Oil, Odorless Heavy
Fluorescent Liquid Penetrant Examination Solvent. Warrendale, PA: SAE [Society
Using the Water-Washable Process. West of Automotive Engineers]
Conshohocken, PA: American Society International (1993).
for Testing and Materials (1994). 20. NAVSHIPS 250-1500-1, Welding
9. ASTM E 1210, Standard Test Method for Standard. Washington, DC: United
Fluorescent Liquid Penetrant Examination States Department of Defense (1995).
Using the Hydrophilic Post-Emulsification 21. ASTM D 95, Standard Test Method for
Process. West Conshohocken, PA: Water in Petroleum Products and
American Society for Testing and Bituminous Materials by Distillation.
Materials (1994). West Conshohocken, PA: American
10. ASTM E 1219, Standard Test Method for Society for Testing and Materials
Fluorescent Liquid Penetrant Examination (1990).
Using the Solvent-Removable Process. 22. ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code:
West Conshohocken, PA: American Section V, Nondestructive Examination.
Society for Testing and Materials New York, NY: American Society of
(1994). Mechanical Engineers (1995).
11. ASTM E 1220, Standard Test Method for
Visible Liquid Penetrant Examination
Using the Solvent-Removable Process.
West Conshohocken, PA: American
Society for Testing and Materials
12. ASTM E 1418, Standard Test Method for
Visible Penetrant Examination Using the
Water-Washable Process. West

Care and Maintenance of Liquid Penetrant Test Materials 123

5H A P T E R

Interpretation of Liquid
Penetrant Indications

Charles W. Eick, Dassault Falcon Jet, Little Rock,

Art Cedillos, Palomar Plating Company, Escondido,
Donald J. Hagemaier, Boeing Company, Long Beach,
J. Thomas Schmidt, J.T. Schmidt Associates, Crystal
Lake, Illinois
PART 1. Inspector Functions and Terminology
for Interpretation and Evaluation of Liquid
Penetrant Test Indications

inspector sees can be accepted as that of a

Interpreting Results of bona fide discontinuity. The inspector
must further be able to derive all possible
Liquid Penetrant Tests significant information from the
All nondestructive testing methods, appearance of the indication itself. From
including liquid penetrant testing, this, the inspector may be able to declare
produce indirect indications of conditions that a crack or porosity or some
but do not by themselves tell exactly what nonrelevant condition is present.
these material conditions are. The test The task, however, becomes easier and
indications must be correctly interpreted the declaration more authoritative if the
before they give any useful information as inspector knows the background of the
to the actual conditions that exist in a part being tested. The inspector should
material. know the material, the process by which
it is made and the various processes it has
been through. The inspector should know
the kinds of discontinuities characteristic
Definitions of Liquid of the material and should be aware of
Penetrant Interpretation what discontinuities various processes are
likely to introduce. The inspector should
and Evaluation know enough about failure of parts in
There is often a tendency on the part of service to know where fatigue cracks are
an inspector to confuse the terms most likely to occur. In addition, of
interpretation and evaluation and to fail to course, the inspector must be familiar,
recognize that there is a significant from past experience, with the appearance
distinction between them. Actually, the of indications of these discontinuities in
terms refer to two entirely different steps similar parts or materials.
in the test process and require entirely
different categories of knowledge and
experience. To interpret an indication
means to give a decision as to what Experience Needed for
material condition is causing the Evaluation of Liquid
indication. There may be many possible
conditions: cracks, porosity, lack of results
Penetrant Indications
from the assembly of parts, such as a Once it is known that a crack or porosity
forced fit. Evaluation then follows or other discontinuity of given size or
interpretation. If it has been decided that direction is present, a decision as to the
a crack of given size and direction exists, disposition of the test parts depends on
the extent of its effect on the usefulness an evaluation of the significance of the
of the part must be evaluated before the discontinuity to the serviceability of the
part can be disposed of: either accepted as part. This is a question of stress and stress
is, reworked or scrapped. distribution or environmental
requirements and calls for the knowledge
of the designer and engineer responsible
for the performance of the part. For a
Experience Needed for given service, one direction of
Liquid Penetrant discontinuity may be harmless but the
same discontinuity that may be at right
Interpretation angles to the tensile stress may be highly
To interpret liquid penetrant indications objectionable. In the same way, a
correctly, the inspector must first of all be discontinuity in an area of low stress can
thoroughly familiar with the test method perhaps be tolerated but a similar
in use. The inspector must know that discontinuity in an area of high stress
liquid penetrant processing has been would cause rejection of the part. The
correct. In the case of fluorescent liquid usual way of expressing this idea is to
penetrants, for example, the inspector evaluate a discontinuity as a defect only
must be certain that washing has been when it will interfere with the usefulness
thorough, so that the indication the of the part in service.

126 Liquid Penetrant Testing

material from its raw state to finished
Importance of the form and on into its service life. This
classification is as follows.
Inspectors Evaluation 1. Inherent discontinuities are
Because correct liquid penetrant discontinuities introduced into the
evaluation depends on accurate basic materials as the result of its
interpretation, the inspector is the key initial production from ore to raw
person in the test process. In some mass components up to the point where it
inspection operations, the person who is ready for initial processing.
operates the test equipment merely 2. Processing discontinuities fall readily
segregates the parts that show indications. into two groups: (a) discontinuities
Others decide their disposition. In most introduced during primary processes
cases, however, the inspector who first such as casting, rolling, forging,
sees the indication is also expected to drawing, welding etc. and (b)
interpret it. Actually, if the inspector has discontinuities introduced during
any of the qualifying background, he or finishing processing, such as
she is the one best able to do this, because machining, heat treating, grinding,
the inspector is most familiar with all plating etc.
kinds of indications as they occur on the 3. Service discontinuities are those
parts the inspector handles. Also, the discontinuities that develop as the
inspector is best able, because he or she result of the material or part being in
performed the tests, to know that the service. This group includes fatigue,
process has been properly carried out or corrosion and damage from impact,
to know and assess any variations from overloads and environment.
normal behavior during the test. The
inspector therefore must be thoroughly
honest and dependable. The inspector
must be fully alert to the importance of
the work he or she is doing.
Testing in Primary Metals
Discontinuity detection with liquid Production
penetrants is more art than science. This By far the largest field of application of
is necessarily true unless or until some nondestructive tests is in the metal
successful means is evolved that can making industry, including ferrous alloys
automatically see and accurately interpret and the growing list of nonferrous metals
liquid penetrant indications. In the and alloys now being produced and used.
meantime, the inspector must be relied Time and space do not permit discussion
on to perform these functions. Skill and of all the types of discontinuities that are
proficiency in developing and then special to many of these materials or
interpreting indications must be acquired consideration of the many special
by experience. A skilled and experienced processes used to work them and the test
inspector can add greatly to the inherent problems they present. However, for the
effectiveness of liquid penetrant testing. usual metals and alloys, there is a
Assuming that the inspector knows considerable similarity both of processes
how to operate the instruments and carry and discontinuities that are encountered.
out the techniques, it is almost self Describing the production of basic metals
evident that the inspector cannot do a and pointing out the sources of
competent job unless he or she also discontinuities covers, by analogy except
knows the materials under test. The for detail, the discontinuities found in
inspector must know what they are, how many of the common metallic materials
they are made and how they have been as well. The problems of nondestructive
processed. This knowledge must include testing are still overwhelmingly concerned
an understanding of what discontinuities with the more common metals.
may be introduced during manufacture
and processing. If the inspector knows
what discontinuities to look for and Methods for Producing Metals
where they are likely to occur, the and Alloys
inspector can select the techniques Iron and the nonferrous metals are
available for their detection much more refined from their ores by a variety of
effectively. processes but most of them are ultimately
produced in molten form and the molten
metal is poured into molds and allowed to
solidify. These molds may be ingot molds
General Classification of from which the solidified ingot is taken
Discontinuities by Their through a variety of forming processes or
Origination they may be molds for casting the metal
into final shape, with little or no physical
Discontinuities are most commonly deformation to be made on the product
classified on the basis of the progress of subsequently.

Interpretation of Liquid Penetrant Indications 127

Sources of Impurities in Molten source of discontinuities in castings and
Metal much testing focuses on the location of
these undesirable conditions (Figs. 1
All care is taken and elaborate techniques and 2). This is true of nonferrous castings
have been devised to ensure that the as well as steel, and special types of
metal be as free as possible from MOVIE.
porosity are related to individual metals Fluorescent
unwanted foreign materials when it and casting processes, as for instance
solidifies. Inevitably, however, the metal bleedout
surface porosity in die cast magnesium reveals
does contain amounts of (1) dissolved or alloys.
entrapped gasses; (2) various nonmetallic shrinkage.
Shrinkage on cooling results in thermal
materials such as oxides and sulfides of cracks in castings, most often on the
the metal; and (3) finely dispersed surface and related to the shape of the
particles of slag. To some extent the casting but sometimes internal (see Figs. 3
behavior of the metal during cooling can and 4). Other casting discontinuities are
be controlled by size and shape of the hot tears and cold shuts, both being
mold, the technique of pouring and the surface discontinuities.
addition of suitable materials to assist in
the removal of gasses.
FIGURE 1. Fluorescent liquid penetrant indications of porosity
Sources of Discontinuities Related and shrinkage cracking in cast light alloy aircraft fittings.
to Metal Solidification
In spite of all precautions to produce and
solidify metal sound and free of foreign
materials and gasses, the solidified
product invariably contains a greater or
less quantity of such nonmetallic
materials. Most metals contain
nonmetallic inclusions of one sort or
another. Their presence is not in itself an
indication of poor quality; this is true of
steel, copper, brass, aluminum and other
metals. However, if not well distributed or
if the segregates are large, they may be
very objectionable. They will appear as
stringers or discontinuities in the final
rolled or forged product, which may
seriously affect the suitability of the metal
for many purposes.

Discontinuities in Metal Ingots

In solidifying and cooling, the metal
shrinks. This shrinkage may cause shrink FIGURE 2. Fluorescent liquid penetrant indications of porosity
cavities in the center of the ingot, usually in light alloy aircraft casting.
mostly confined to the top or
last-to-freeze portion. This section of the
ingot is normally cropped and discarded.
If it is not completely eliminated, such
internal discontinuities may show up in
the finished product as pipe in rolled bars
or as laminations in plate or strip.
Cracking also may occur on the surface
of ingots. These cracks are removed as
completely as possible by chipping or
scarfing so that they will not show up as
seams on the finished product.

Sources of Discontinuities in Metal

In the case of castings, where the metal
solidifies in final form, great care is taken
to place gates and risers by which surplus
metal is provided at favorable locations so
that impurities can float out of the casting
proper and gas can have a chance to
escape. Porosity and gas pockets along
with slag inclusions are still a major

128 Liquid Penetrant Testing

Sources of Discontinuities in The surface of blooms and billets may
Blooms and Billets contain seams due to rolled out ingot
cracks resulting from cooling stresses or
When cast into ingots, the metal is then bursts or tears or rolled-in scale or metal
further worked down into usable forms by particles. All of these surface
forging, rolling or pressing. The steel imperfections should be removed before
ingot, for example, is reheated to the the final finishing operation. Unless they
proper temperature and passed between are completely removed, the end product
heavy rolls to form blooms or billets. The will contain seams or other surface
size of ingots varies widely, depending on discontinuities that would be
the ultimate product to be made from objectionable. The surfaces of blooms and
them. Ingots of alloy and tool steel may billets may be freed of such objectionable
be quite small, weighing perhaps 100 kg conditions by chipping, grinding or flame
(220 lbm), whereas ingots from which scarfing. Billets, especially when intended
large forgings or large thick plate are to be for seamless tube piercing, are often
made may weigh many tons. Blooms and cleaned up by scaling, i.e., by taking a cut
billets are formed in an intermediate step off the surface in a lathe if the billet is
between the ingot and the finished size or round or by planing the surface if the
product. billet is square.

Sources of Discontinuities in Hot

Rolled Bars, Shapes, Plate or Strip
FIGURE 3. Fluorescent liquid penetrant indication of crack at The blooms or billets are often reheated to
attachment lug in cast light alloy aircraft part. proper working temperature and rolled
into bars, shapes, plate or strip. As has
been pointed out, seams, stringers and
laminations may appear in the finished
product as a result of rolling, forging or
extrusion. The rolling operation itself may
introduce certain discontinuities, of
which the most common are laps
resulting from too much or too little
metal to fill the rolls. Too rapid reduction
of cross section, especially if the metal is
at too low a temperature, may produce
tears and internal rupture called cupping.
Internal shrinkage cavities from the
ingot or gas pockets not completely
welded shut in the rolling operation may
result in laminations in plate or strip or in
pipe, bars or other shapes. Uneven
cooling of some types of steel may cause
cooling cracks to appear in bars and
shapes a type of damage that may be
very severe.

Sources of Discontinuities in
FIGURE 4. Thermal cracks and shrinkage in cast motor
housings. Forgings
If the ingot or billet is used for forging, a
variety of discontinuities can be produced,
usually because of improper handling of
the metal under the hammer or to
working at too low a temperature.
Common discontinuities are laps and
folds. Forging bursts, both external and
internal, can also occur. Figure 5 shows a
forging lap.
In the case of die or drop forging, laps
and surface tears and bursts may be
produced. In die forgings, excess metal is
forced out between the two halves of the
die forming the flash and this excess
metal is subsequently trimmed off. If not
properly done, flashline cracks or tears
may be formed. Another type of forging
discontinuity is the internal rupture

Interpretation of Liquid Penetrant Indications 129

usually called flake, which occurs in the dimensional tolerances can thus be
process of cooling relatively large forgings. maintained and the metal becomes
These may be very severe and extremely somewhat work hardened. Die marks,
objectionable. scratches and surface imperfections
sometimes make their appearance in this
Sources of Discontinuities in process. Of course, the process does not
remove any seams or other discontinuities
Rolled and Pierced Products present in the material before the cold
In the production of seamless tubing, the finishing is applied.
billet is pierced. Discontinuities on the
inside surface of the pierced billet may Sources of Discontinuities in
take the form of tears. Seams may occur
on the outside surface, especially if the Fusion Weldments
surface of the billet or blank had not been Welding is a process that has its own
properly cleaned. group of typical discontinuities that must
be guarded against. In fusion welding
Sources of Discontinuities in processes, where liquid metal solidifies in
the weld, the same sort of discontinuities
Extrusions may occur as in castings namely, slag
Nonferrous seamless tubing is often made inclusions, gas porosity and thermal
by extrusion, starting with hollow or cracks. In addition, cracking in the parent
pierced billets or from solid ingots. metal may occur because of thermal
Discontinuities that occur may be checks stresses or as a consequence of hydrogen
and tears or imperfections may result pressure. There are also discontinuities
from uncovering or bringing to the due to lack of penetration of the weld and
surface internal discontinuities of the failure to get proper fusion of the weld
billets or ingots. In addition to tubing, metal to the parent metal.
many shapes and products are made
today by various extrusion processes. Sources of Discontinuities in Heat
Because of flow of the metal of the
original ingot during extrusion, oxide and Treating Processes
surface skin sometimes becomes folded Looking now at the various finishing
into the interior. A form of pipe also processes, most metal products undergo
results from this action, which is most some form of heat treatment to produce
objectionable when it appears in a desirable physical properties. In the course
finished shape. of heat treatment, discontinuities may be
produced, most often as the result of
Sources of Discontinuities in Cold warping or cracking. Quenching cracks
occur in steel when the process is not
Worked Metal Products properly carried out or when the design of
Cold rolling and cold drawing of strip, rod the part or the steel used is not adapted to
and wire is a process for improving the the operation. Quenching cracks are apt
surface finish of steel products. Close to appear in connection with changes in
cross section of the material that cause
excessive cooling stresses or at locations
FIGURE 5. Fluorescent liquid penetrant indication of forging where the contour of the surface permits
lap in aircraft turbine bucket (shown on as-forged surface stress concentrations to occur. Sometimes
which has not been machined). hardened parts are cracked when an
attempt is made to straighten those that
have warped slightly out of shape.
Special nondestructive test techniques
have been devised for checking hardness
against specification tolerances and for
such unwanted conditions as abnormal
grain size, segregations etc.

Sources of Discontinuities in
Machined and Ground Surfaces
Sometimes machining operations, as for
instance too heavy a cut with improper
tools, may cause surface damage, leaving
discontinuities in the form of surface
tears. Grinding of surfaces for accurate
dimensions or for finish is a prolific
source of surface cracking, especially on
hardened steel surfaces. Parts that have
been hardened may have residual internal

130 Liquid Penetrant Testing

stresses, produced in the quenching Significance of Surface
process and not subsequently removed by Discontinuities under Repeated
drawing or stress relieving. Such parts are
particularly sensitive to the formation of
Loading or Vibration
grinding checks. Fatigue cracks almost invariably start at
the surface and are initiated by conditions
that bring about locally high stresses.
Sources of Cracks during Plating These stress concentrations involve
or Chemical Treatment stresses above average for the part. The
Parts containing residual stresses from stresses may, in their local area, be above
heat treatment or perhaps simply from the fatigue strength of the metal. Surface
cold working may crack during plating scratches, cracks or other discontinuities
processes or during the pickling that may cause these local areas of high stress
precedes plating. This is because the (Fig. 7). Localized high stresses may also
pickling etch removes some of the metal be caused by design features of the part
surface containing compressive stresses, for example, high stresses occur around
permitting the internal tensile stress to be holes, fillets and stiffening members.
relieved through cracking. Embrittlement
by absorbed hydrogen during pickling Prevention of Fatigue Failures in
may sometimes be a factor in such
One of the main purposes of liquid
penetrant nondestructive testing is to
Sources of Fatigue Cracks Incurred locate and eliminate discontinuities likely
during Service Operation to lead to fatigue failures. However,
The last group of discontinuities are those fatigue cracking still occurs and is a
that occur after the part or material has serious indication sought by
been placed in service. Of this group, nondestructive techniques when the
fatigue cracking and failure resulting from
fatigue is by far the most important
group. Fatigue occurs during repeated or FIGURE 7. Example of working standard and interpretation
cyclic loading or stressing of materials (see guide for 356-T6 aluminum alloy casting with line of
Figs. 6 and 7). porosity that will propagate into a fatigue crack and cause
A fatigue failure starts with a crack failure. This condition is in stressed area, so fan casting
initiated by a variety of causes. Under should be rejected.
cyclic loads, this crack progresses through
the cross section of the metal until only a
small portion of the original section
remains sound. Finally failures occur even
when calculated or average stresses are far
below the elastic limit and do not depend
directly on whether the tensile strength of
the metal, as determined by static tests, is
either high or low.

FIGURE 6. Fluorescent liquid penetrant indications of fatigue

cracks in aircraft wheel.

Interpretation of Liquid Penetrant Indications 131

machine or structure is inspected at abnormal service conditions or simple
intervals during its service life. abuse of the engine or machine.
Fortunately, fatigue cracks do not often On the subject of sources of
propagate so rapidly that they cannot be discontinuities in all kinds of materials on
located early in their existence and the which nondestructive testing techniques
part replaced before failure. are commonly used, books have been
written that give useful references for
Sources of Failures Related to those in the field of nondestructive
testing.1-3 The material in the present
Corrosion chapter gives merely a general idea of
If a part that is subject to frequent stress how many typical and often encountered
reversals or fluctuations is at the same discontinuities are produced and to
time subject to corrosion, fatigue cracks provide background for later discussions
may appear very rapidly and may progress of nondestructive testing techniques
to failure in a very short period of time. designed to locate such discontinuities.
Corrosion leads to another type of
service failure through cracking of metal
subject to corrosion at the same time it is
under tensile stress. Stress corrosion
cracking of steel beams around bolt holes,
leading to bridge collapse, is an example.
Such cracking is analogous to cracks in
the surface of heat treated or cold worked
parts produced in pickling before plating,
where residual tensile stresses are left from
some previous operation. The corrosion
allows the tension stress at the surface to
be relieved by cracking (Fig. 8).

Other Causes of Service Damage

Other sources of service damage causing
cracking that can be located by
nondestructive techniques are abnormally
high stresses caused by vibration, as in
steam turbine blades and jet engine
buckets; impact due to wrecks and other
sudden stoppages; and overloads due to

FIGURE 8. Visible dye liquid penetrant indications (without

developer) of stress corrosion cracking of metallic sheet.

132 Liquid Penetrant Testing

PART 2. General Interpretation of Liquid
Penetrant Indications

Mechanism of Formation Appearance of Liquid

of Liquid Penetrant Penetrant Indications
Indications If fluorescent liquid penetrant is used, the
Any liquid penetrant indication marks the examination is made under ultraviolet
location of a discontinuity on the surface radiation, sound areas appear as deep
of the test object. There must be a surface violet-blue, whereas discontinuities glow
opening; liquid penetrants cannot detect with a brilliant, generally yellow-green
inclusions, chemical segregation, the light. The intensity of the fluorescence is
presence of foreign material or any other associated with the volume and
abnormality unless an opening is present. concentration of liquid penetrant retained
Because of the nature of liquid penetrant in the discontinuity. If visible dye liquid
testing, even a crack or void will remain penetrant is used, the examination is
undetected unless open to the part made in ordinary white light. The
surface. Liquid penetrants work equally developer forms a white background and
well on any nonporous metal, regardless discontinuities are made visible by a red
of magnetic properties, size, shape or color indication, whose richness is closely
chemical composition. related to the volume of entrapped liquid
Even ferromagnetic metals, which are penetrant.
usually checked by magnetic particle Several factors influence the exact
testing, are sometimes more easily appearance of individual liquid penetrant
inspected for surface cracks by liquid indications. However, there are certain
penetrants. For example, the sudden general trends that hold true for all sorts
change in section in sharp fillets or in the and forms of materials.
roots of threads may cause a nonrelevant MOVIE.
magnetic indication. Because liquid Interpretation of Continuous Line Linear
penetrant testing deals only with the Liquid Penetrant Indications discontinuity.
surface, it can be used with equal accuracy
in sharp corners or on wide, flat areas. A crack usually shows up as a continuous
linear liquid penetrant indication, as
shown in Fig. 9. The width and brightness
Evaluation of Liquid Penetrant
The presence of an indication poses three FIGURE 9. Typical liquid penetrant
questions. indications: (a) large crack or opening;
(b) tight crack or cold shut; (c) partially MOVIE.
1. What type of discontinuity causes this
welded lap; (d) pits or porosity. Open and
2. What is the extent of this (b) partially open
discontinuity? cracks.
3. What effect will this discontinuity
have on the anticipated service of the
On the answers to these three questions
depends the fate of the part acceptance
or rejection.
Quantitative information on the type
and size of discontinuity is not always (d) MOVIE.
obtainable from surface inspection alone. (c)
Pitting and
Liquid penetrant indications do, however, porosity.
provide the experienced inspector with
qualitative data on which to base a
decision in all obvious cases. The
inspector must know the kind of
discontinuity and its approximate
magnitude before attempting to solve the
third problem, that of estimating probable
damage to the part.

Interpretation of Liquid Penetrant Indications 133

of fluorescence or color depend on the be caused by insufficient cleaning before
volume of the crack. The line may be testing, by incomplete removal of excess
fairly straight or jagged, because it follows liquid penetrant, by too thick a coat of
the intersection of the crack with the developer. Weak indications extending
surface. A cold shut on the surface of a over a wide area should be regarded with
casting also appears as a continuous line, suspicion. It is usually wise to repeat the
generally a relatively narrow one. Because liquid penetrant test and to eliminate any
cold shuts are caused by imperfect fusion false indications due to faulty technique,
where two streams of metal meet but do rather than to attempt immediate
not merge, the liquid penetrant indication evaluation of a diffused indication.
is likely to be smooth in outline rather
than jagged. A forging lap may also cause Edges of Indications
a continuous line liquid penetrant
indication. The sharpness of liquid penetrant
indications is affected by the volume of
liquid retained in the discontinuity, the
Interpretation of Intermittent Line test conditions such as temperature and
Liquid Penetrant Indications time allowed for indications to develop
Many forging laps are partially welded and the type of liquid penetrant used.
during subsequent blows of the forging Generally, clear cut indications come from
hammer. The liquid penetrant indication narrow linear discontinuities.
caused by such forging laps is therefore an
intermittent linear indication. A Brilliance and Extent of Liquid
subsurface crack that does not reach the Penetrant Indications
surface for its entire length or a seam that
is partially filled also produces an The color or fluorescent brightness of
intermittent line or liquid penetrant liquid penetrant indications can be useful
indication, as shown in Fig. 9c. in estimating the seriousness of the
discontinuity. Brightness is directly related
to the amount of liquid penetrant present
Interpretation of Rounded Areas and therefore to the size of the
of Liquid Penetrant Indications discontinuity. It is difficult for the human
Rounded areas of liquid penetrant eye to detect slight differences in color of
indication signify gas holes or pin holes dye or brilliance of fluorescence. Tests
in castings or relatively large areas of