NDTnet - August 1996, Vol.1 No.08
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Ultrasonic Testing in Canada

1st edition by

  • Introduction
  • At the time of its formation as a country in 1867 it was said that Canada was destinted to be a great country. This was a reasonable expectation as it could draw on the best things from those countries which influenced it the most. It was expected we Canadians would have "American knowhow, French culture and English politics." Instead we seem to have adopted "English knowhow, American culture and French politics". Despite these little setbacks we have managed not too badly. Canada has the smallest population of any of the G7 industrial nations and has made significant contributions to the worldwide NDT community.

    The following is a brief survey of ultrasonic (UT) NDT activity in Canada. Generally equipment and techniques are the same no matter where ultrasonics is done. Therefore this report will address only historical aspects of industrial UT in Canada and some of the regional projects and programmes.

  • A Background of UT in Canada
  • Until the late 1960's UT in Canada was a relatively insignificant test method. Radiography and the surface methods (magnetic particle and liquid penetrant testing) were the predominant methods used. This could be accounted for by several factors; lack of good UT equipment, lack of competent UT technicians and lack of confidence in the method. The last item, lack of confidence in the method, was probably a result of the first two items. In fact, radiography became so entrenched that codes used today still poorly apply or inadequately address ultrasonic inspections. For example; CSA W59, which is nearly identical to the American AWS structural steel code, still requires the use of a "fudge factor" to calculate attenuation. This factor is then used in an awkward equation applied to each and every indication over a specified screen height. The resulting value must then be found in one of two tables, one for statically loaded structures and the other for dynamically loaded structures. The rating in the table is used to determine if the indication is acceptable or rejectable. Another example is the 1992 version of CSA Z184 for pipeline construction. In 1990 the two largest pipeline operators in Canada were developing plans to use ultrasonics as the primary NDT method instead of radiography to inspect girth welds. As a result, what was once the main referencing code in the pipeline industry was obsolete a year after it was last updated. The pipeline companies now reference only their own specification for ultrasonic testing.

    Development of commercial nuclear power in the mid 1960's was probably the single most important factor leading to the advancement of ultrasonics in Canadian NDT. Demands for public safety and the rapid expansion of a new industry provided the needed impetus for the development of NDT in general. At that time Canada had a population of only 18 million people, few of which were knowledgable in UT. As with previous economic booms, Canada looked outside its borders to find the talent it needed. Thousands of skilled people, mostly European, immigrated to Canada. These people included engineers and NDT technicians with a better understanding of ultrasonics and its capabilities. In the begining the only code available in North America to address the needs of the pressure components in the nuclear industry was ASME. The first nuclear boilers in Canada were built to ASME Section VIII (for high pressure boilers). By the early 1970's changes to the ultrasonic requirements for nuclear work reflected the improved understanding of the method. This meant better techniques had to be developed. Experience brought from Europe, particularly in ultrasonic weld inspection, provided not only the needed inspection techniques but also the much needed source of training. Today Europe is no longer the sole source of ultrasonic experts, their Canadian students have learned well.

  • A National Certification Programme
  • Typically Canadian, it was decided in the mid 1960's to establish a government regulatory body for the NDT industry. To this end the Canadian Government Standards Board (now called the Canadian General Standards Board) established a certification programme for NDT technicians. Industry was growing quickly, the country was large and the population mobile. This programme ensured that all certified practioners had at least a common base level of understanding and experience. Because it was a common examination for all people certified the certification would be portable. The CGSB certification programme has changed little since it was first established. In fact the CGSB NDT Certification Standard was almost identical to the new international standard ISO 9712 and required very few changes to harmonize with ISO.

    Central certification of NDT in the 1960's was very timely. Around the same time as the nuclear industry began to grow the MegaProjects began. Oil and gas exploration in the Arctic and northern Alberta meant thousands of kilometres of pipeline construction. Discovery of heavy oil in the Athabaska Tar Sands provided work for thousands of people in both the building of the refinery facilities and their operations. The controversial Baie James (James Bay) Hydroelectric project in northern Québec began in the 1970's and it too employed thousands of people.

    Nuclear industry has now fallen out of favour and the poor global economy has meant the decline of the MegaProjects. However, the foundation that these projects provided to ultrasonics in Canada cannot be denied. In the period from about 1965 to 1985 improvements in UT instrumentation and technician competence raised the level of industry confidence in UT in Canada to such a level that areas of inspection that were previously the sole domain of radiography are now being replaced by UT.

  • UT in Canada
  • Industrial ultrasonic testing is usually associated with manual inspection techniques. These would include weld testing, corrosion surveys, flaw detection in forgings, material characterization, etc. Performing these tasks in Canada usually, although not always, requires CGSB (ISO 9712) certification. The number of people certified in Canada has constantly increased. Today CGSB issues over 10,000 certificates in the five methods certifiable to (UT, RT, LPI, MPI and ECT). 3920 people are certified to CGSB (ISO 9712). Of these 2,224 are certified in UT, i.e. 57% of all people certified in Canada hold certification in UT. Those certified in UT work in all aspects of industry; electric utilities, petro-chemical industies, heavy industries (foundries and forges), fabrication facilities, government agencies and private service companies. To get an overview of UT in Canadian industry a breakdown of CGSB (Fig) certified personnel will help. The distribution of certified people fits well with the population distribution of the country. Ontario (especially the southern region) has the highest population and associated with that is a high concentration of industry. The northern territories and the Atlantic provinces (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick) have the lowest populations and as such less industry is based there.

  • Ultrasonic Activity by Industry
  • Dr. Dirk Leemans presented a review of the state of NDT in Canada in a paper published in the Canadian Journal of NDT (vol 8 #4, 1987). His study indicated the following users of NDT services in Canada;

    Industry Average % Use
    Oil & Gas37.8
    Pulp & Paper7.3
    Steel & Nonferrous7.9
    In this paper Dr. Leemans also pointed out that Ultrasonics represented over one third of all the NDT work performed in Canada and would soon replace Radiography as the number one choice of NDT method by consumers.

  • Canadian Research in Ultrasonics
  • Research in nearly all fields is commonly felt to be under-funded in Canada, UT research is no exception. However, excellent work is carried out in several Canadian research facilities. Research is carried out in government facilities, utilities, private industrial labs and university labs. Some of these facilities include [3-13]

  • Societies
  • The Canadian Society for NDT (CSNDT) [1]is based in Mississauga, Ontario. It provides a central location to address NDT concerns and provides with the affiliated branches around the country, a social hub for NDT practioners. The CSNDTis also responsible for the bi-monthly publication the CSNDT Journal.

  • Training Facilities
  • NDT training is carried out in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons in Canada. Formal classroom training is a pre-requisite of CGSB and ISO certification. In addition to in-house training at larger factories, several consultants provide courses in an irregular basis. Several community colleges provide regualr programmes that incorporate NDT in their cirriculum. Some of these colleges include;

    British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Burnaby British Columbia
    West Viking CollegePort aux Basques Newfoundland
    CEGEPTrois RiveresQuébec
    Sir Sanford Flemming CollegeTorontoOntario
    Mohawk CollegeHamiltonOntario
    The author provided the first correspondence training in NDT over 12 years ago. Recently updated to meet ISO training requirements, Materials Research Institute [2]continues to provide correspondence training to the Canadian NDT community. This has been a popular option for the technician not wanting to take time off work to prepare for CGSB exams. http://www.mri.on.ca

  • Distributors
  • UT equipment is manufactured by many companies around the world. A list of some of the Canadian distributors and the companies they distribute for are provided in the table below.

    NameCity, ProvinceProducts Represented
    InTech Supplies Ltd. Vancouver, B.C.Panametrics
    N-Tech Technologies Ltd.Calgary, AlbertaKrautkramer Branson, Magnaflux
    Quality NDEKitchener, OntarioMagnaflux, Staveley
    NDT TechnologiesKitchener, OntarioSonatest,
    CANDETRexdale, OntarioKrautkramer Branson
    ANDECRexdale, OntarioANDEC equipment
    LaserFastCobourg, OntarioPanametrics
    Quality NDEMercier, QuébecMagnaflux, Staveley
    NDT TechnologiesMontréal, QuébecSonatest,
    RD TechCité du Québec, QuébecTOMOSCAN
    Pipetronix Ltd.Concord, OntarioPipetronix e.g. UltraScan

  • Major Events Scheduled for NDT in Canada
  • Pan American Conference, Toronto, 1998

  • References

  • Other interesting Canada sources

    The Author Ed Ginzel is an independent consultant with the Materials Research Institute.
    He can be contacted at

    Help and foreword about the new series "Ultrasonics by Country"

    This series will provide additional information on demand. We do not plan just to copy the contents of the Virtual Library to here; this site will also integrate items outside the Internet as well as geographical UT-Highlights. Also the countries' NDT- societies will be integrated into this site, including those with no Internet presence.
    The UT in Country - Text is an example of the information you can access through each country's clickmap. "Clicking" on the country's flag at the capital city will take you to the UT in Country - Text. is an example of the information you can access through each country's clickmap. "Clicking" on the country's flag at the capital city will take you to the UT in Country - Text. By "Clicking" on the other map icons you can access the related bookmarks within this document or go directly to another site.
    When the series is fully underway, we will use the advantages of electronic online publishing to keep information up to date. The series will become a permanent department of the journal, and hopefully, a useful information source, at present still under construction.

    If you would like to contribute information, either general or country-specific, please send us a message: Email info@ndt.net.

    May 1996, Rolf Diederichs

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    Rolf Diederichs 01. June 1996, info@ndt.net

    /DB:Article /AU:Ginzel_E_A /IN:MRI /CN:DE /CT:general /CT:UT /CT:Canada /ED:1996-08