This month sees the much anticipated release of arguably the most powerful portable ultrasonic tester for rail flaw detection. CATER, an Australian company with over a decade’s experience in developing ultrasonic rail flaw detection (RFD) systems, has announced that HANDWave is now available for sale to the international rail inspection industry.

Its primary advantage is that by reducing the time needed for testing, either more track length can be tested or there is less disruption by track occupation. HANDWave simultaneously processes five ultrasonic beams and the operator is then able to test by only one pass of the rail.

The ultrasonic system, ULTRAWave, is used on HANDWave as in all other CATER RFD carriers. The scalable ULTRAWave system used on HANDWave is practically identical to the larger vehicles. Essentially, the difference is in HANDWave’s walking pace, compared with the motorised vehicles carrying multiple wheel probes. With this in mind, CATER sees HANDWave as a very real alternative to road/rail vehicles by using a number of HANDWave units. For lower capital cost, lower maintenance cost and a greater employment rate for some markets, HANDWave makes for serious consideration in today’s economic climate.

User-friendly and unique

A unique feature is that HANDWave incorporates rail height defect (RHD) software that can identify rail foot corrosion under the web. A combination of loss of bottom and specific rail height thresholds is used to identify corrosion. This capability is especially useful for those networks with water constantly in the rail vicinity, such as tunnels and subways.

It uses user-friendly and easily understood controls with C-Scan graphics on standard Windows platform notebooks. Industrial notebooks capable of coping with the harsh environment can be removed and replayed at a later time. All scans are recorded for immediate review on site or replayed for later analysis in the office. All information is transferable by common file formats such as .csv and MS EXCEL, or printed so that reports can be easily reviewed and compared at a later date.

Training and operating requirements are significantly reduced compared with a road/rail vehicle. Maintenance requirements are also greatly reduced compared with a larger motorised vehicle. The number of consumable or replaceable parts is very small. CATER has deliberately designed HANDWave as a robust and reliable unit for a long functional life span.

A hand verification mode is used in the same way as traditional A-Scan flaw detector units currently used by most NDT and rail inspection operators. Hand-held transducers are able to scan and identify potential flaws for spot checking and verification of artefacts. Even though HANDWave can be used for spot checking, its greatest benefit is in being able to replace larger vehicles for smaller networks or for short distances without loss of detection performance. No other portable RFD system has the multi-functionality, ease of use, robustness and scalability of HANDWave.

CATER is predicting a busy future in supplying this powerful and cost effective rail inspection tool to the international rail market. The suite of CATER RFD products can be viewed at the company’s website.