Why NDT is going Digital

Firstly ask yourself :

“ why am I using my mobile phone or camera for images ? “

“ why don’t I still by film for my old camera ? “

The answer to “why” NDT is going digital is the same as any process going from analog to digital: Digital workflows are faster, easier to manage, more versatile, and more cost effective than analog.

For NDT, the development of DICONDE standard has propelled NDT into the digital age during this decade in much the same way DICOM moved medical x-ray into digital during the previous two decades.

Both DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine), and DICONDE (Digital Imaging and Communication for Non-Destructive Evaluation) are standards defining all image attributes and elements in a universal format. This universality enables digital images to be viewed, manipulated, transferred and compared regardless of the digital system used to create the image and regardless of the viewer used to look at it.

Experience and Innovation

Experienced NDT professionals know that sometimes multiple radiography methods are required in order to meet the demands of a particular inspection application. To meet that need in an analog workflow, it can be necessary to stock a wide assortment of films, each designed for a specific quality and/or throughput requirement. With digital solutions, it is possible to meet a wide range of NDT inspection applications in a much more reliable and cost effective manner.

As organizations launch more inspection applications using the improved image quality of digital radiography systems, and, as more processes and workflows are implemented digitally, the use of existing radiographic film in comparisons becomes more problematic. Ask any NDT technician who needs to compare digital radiography results from today to last year’s film radiography results and you’re likely to hear about workflow degradation.

While digital workflows are more efficient, this efficiency holds only when the entire process is digital. Digital workflows interrupted to accommodate analog film images or pieces of paper slow are even slower than all film or all paper workflows.

Reaping the Benefits of NDT Digital Workflow

If an organization wants improved processes and lower costs from digital NDT, it is imperative the company goes completely digital as quickly as possible to reap the ROI on digital investments. This means converting archived film to digital.

Today’s film digitizing systems scan original radiographic images with accuracies better than +/- two pixels, in each axes. Coupled with high definition resolution of digital systems enables more accurate comparisons than original film. Unlike film, a digital process is flexible, allowing the best acquisition method for each specific film type.

During the film scanning process, valuable data can be stored as part of the image, such as who took the images, where they were taken, when they were taken, and even the kV, mA, and equipment identifiers.

Storing Historical Data

Once films are converted to digital, a space-saving central archive of historical inspection data is created and easily accessed and compared to a current finding. A digital central archive makes storing, pre-inspection planning, and post-inspection analysis much faster and much more accurate than moving between film archives and newly acquired digital images would be. It also provides a platform for future re-analysis (with newer software tools), or assisting in root-cause inquiries.

Dgital systems are scalable, particularly those that are Internet accessible (referred to as being “in the Cloud”). This means that whether you have one location or many; multiple acquisition systems or one type; geographically diverse locations or a single location, with a digital archive, your data is accessible when you need it, wherever you need it.

Due to the low expense of maintain digital data, archived images may be kept for the lifetime of the object inspected—possibly 20-plus years. During this time, migrating data to new systems, as software and hardware obsolescence occurs, or as vendors change, is easy with DICONDE because it’s a universal format.

Moving to Digital NDT- https://www.qualitymag.com/articles/92934-ndt-cloud-storage-how-to-make-the-right-move

Despite obvious advantages provided with digital images, in terms of image manipulation, workflow and archiving - NDT organizations have varied considerations before converting from conventional to digital radiography. DICONDE is the most cost effective, productive alternative to traditional film-based systems. This growing demand for more speed, security and cost reductions is leading NDT to crossing the digital divide.

Before we explore the question that seems to be on the minds of those in the nondestructive testing (NDT) industry and every other industry these days—Should we move our data to the cloud?—let’s discuss some background on how we got to this point in NDT.


The move to digital imaging and archiving in NDT became official back in 2004 when the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E07.11 subcommittee made DICONDE (Digital Imaging and Communication for Non-Destructive Evaluation) the standard (E2339-11) for NDT imaging. Based on DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine), a proven imaging and archiving standard since 1993, DICONDE is an imaging and archiving technology standard that defines all image attributes and elements in a universal format. Since DICONDE’s adoption as the standard in NDT, digital converts have been realizing the benefits of digital archiving and workflow.

NDT Digital Archiving

With digital images, a central archive of historical inspection data can be easily created. A central archive makes storing, pre-inspection planning, and post-inspection analysis quicker and more accurate. It also provides a platform for future re-analysis (with newer software tools), or assisting in root cause inquiries. In a digital archive, images are stored with critical metadata (part, revision, inspector) allowing for quick image search, and retrieval.

In terms of archive security, digital is ideal, particularly for highly sensitive information. Digital archiving can ensure only inspectors with a “need to know” are permitted access. Additional image access can be followed with audit trails, showing who looked at what, where, and when, and keeping unauthorized personnel out. Plus, any digital inspection report can be stored with the image data for ease of reference. The data in storage is further safeguarded by mechanisms that verify data integrity, and prevent accidental deletion or changes. And, with a central archive, you can provide a quickly accessible reference point for proving due-diligence when mistakes are later found, or lawsuits occur.


With the use of digital (DICONDE) technology, NDT image workflows are simpler and more cost efficient than traditional film workflows, and provide flexibility not available with other proprietary digital workflows. From acquisition to sharing, a digital image workflow improves delivery and report integration for visual and radiographic NDT users. Now to the question of the cloud.


When storing DICONDE images there are basically two options to explore—store your images at your own facility, or outsourcing the storage to a third party. The outsourcing is referred to as the cloud. A simple definition of cloud storage can be found on Wiki: “Cloud Storage is a model of data storage where the digital data is stored in logical pools, the physical storage spans multiple servers (and often locations), and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by hosting company. These cloud storage providers are responsible for keeping the data available and accessible, and the physical environment protected and running. People and organizations buy or lease storage capacity from the providers to store user, organization, or application data.”

While the promise of the cloud is very appealing (significantly lower costs through the elimination of a capital investment for hardware and workflow implementation, and ongoing maintenance and associated personnel costs) all industries are apprehensive about putting company data in the cloud. However, if the right questions are asked during provider review, it should make it very easy and inexpensive to start securely storing images in the cloud. Here are some questions to ask potential providers before you make the move:

How do I get my images into the cloud?

Cloud storage can receive images from any DICONDE compliant device. Customers who still produce analog film or have archives of legacy film can simply digitize their film using a scanner then send the scanned (DICONDE) images to the cloud.

What security is in place to protect my images?

Cloud services should provide secure connections, back-ups, and storage. Look for providers that store your data encrypted, both over the Internet and while it is stored. A good provider will also replicate your data to more than just one datacenter to ensure physical redundancy. Ask the provider if they do additional backups to tape vaults, or similar, to minimize the risk of loss.

It’s also best to get a clear written agreement for what will happen if the provider goes out of business or is sold; what is their guarantee against downtime and how you can hold your vendor to their commitments; and what options do they offer to help you migrate to another provider if necessary.

What safeguards are in place to protect the integrity of our images?

A provider’s software should offer a level of integrity checking above basic disk or tape checking. DICONDE files should be “fingerprinted” to ensure that the image you store is the image that you retrieve five, ten, or twenty years down the road. These file “fingerprints” (also known as hashes) can quickly identify unexpected changes to either the image or metadata and should be audited from time to time. Archives should also always retain the original data if an authorized modification is made.

How much does cloud storage cost?

The whole premise of cloud storage is that it’s a very economical way to store data—somebody else maintains the infrastructure. Look for storage providers that offer a “pay-as-you-go” model with little or no upfront capital investment.

How easy is it to share my images?

Sharing images should be as simple as point and click. You should be able to access your stored images in several ways: in the field, on a web viewer using a web browser, or onsite with dedicated DICONDE viewers.

What happens if we want to change cloud providers?

When switching providers, it should be easy to get and transfer your images. You want to ensure that the provider doesn’t highjack or store your images in a proprietary format.

The transition to digital radiography in NDT is fast becoming the norm with demonstrated improved workflows and cost reductions clearing its path. With the same promised benefits, we expect the cloud to become a keystone in the conversion to digital.

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