Anda di halaman 1dari 49



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