The HANDWave portable ultrasonic single rail tester, (SRT) released recently by CATER, has generated considerable interest in the UT and NDT industry. This robust unit is the latest commercial development from the Centre for Advanced Transport Engineering and Research (CATER).

HANDWave performs the dual roles of combining spot verification and long track testing. The rail inspection operator is able to choose between continuous test mode for regular track testing and spot checking (verifying) if an artefact or potential flaw is identified. There is no loss of accuracy and reliability compared with existing RFD systems.

Rather than use two units to assess rail condition, the operator can cover long distances per session just as a larger hi-rail (RRV) and rail-bound vehicle (RBV) may do. When required the same HANDWave unit converts instantly to a portable UT tester for checking particular spots with hand-held transducers. It can then return to a continuous test mode.

The numerous advantages offered by this unit provide the UT operator with a cost-effective solution to portable rail flaw detection (RFD). However, its unique strength is that the software used is the same as for the CATER RRV and RBVs. ULTRAWave, the ultrasonic software processing system, is used extensively in Japan and in CATER vehicles for consultancy work. This proven system is intuitive and configurable by the customer to suit their particular rail environment.

It is important to stress that the HANDWave ultrasonic software is a scaled-down large system and therefore retains the performance and functionality of all the CATER RFD systems. The same processing unit, same software, same wheel probe engineering and similar screens and controls are used across the CATER RFD system.

The incredibly powerful post-processing software for the larger vehicles, RIPWave, is also used to collate and filter the information for HANDWave. Genuine run-on-run comparison and synchronisation of all data is possible with RIPWave.

The unique rail foot corrosion software able to accurately identify under-foot corrosion leading to early intervention is available as standard on HANDWave. Corrosion is often seen in areas not regularly assessed because regular RFD vehicles cannot test in certain locations or positions.

The processing module, the “smarts” of the unit, is included in the pricing. Unlike some units HANDWave comes ready to operate, with minimal training required for the collection of information. Maintenance requirements are minimal as the unit has a modular and rugged design for many years of trouble-free service.

The wheel probe unit is based on established engineering principles and is superior to the high-maintenance skid-type probes. The unit frame is designed to be self-supporting so there is no need to balance the unit in travel, which quickly becomes tiring for the operator. The standard toughened notebook is easily removable for office use. It stores all information in the easily understood and powerful C-scan graphics.

Major benefits to consider include reduced traffic disruption for small (short) networks, the enormous cost advantage over contracted service fees and the reduced ongoings of maintenance compared with powered vehicles. This gives rail network owners the ability to carry out their own testing, controlling their own information for maintenance needs and thereby avoiding the cost of contracted services. The ROI in this scenario is a definite advantage to maintenance budget managers.

HANDWave is particularly suited to small networks to replace both a RRV and a hand-test unit and makes a great addition to existing rail condition assessment for all sizes of rail network.