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Nuclear Facility Tests RFID on Pipe Welds

A solution from Beweis is intended to accurately identity a pipe weld via a handheld reader, and link that weld to radiographic images of it that prove its integrity.
By Claire Swedberg

Upon receiving the view bundle and the unique ID number at his or her office, the film developer generates an RFID-tagged label and attaches it to each piece of film within that bundle. Every film label's tag ID number is stored in the software, along with the other data related to that weld. According to Crozet, the RFID labels are durable enough to survive the film-developing process.

The developed film is then analyzed, with the results stored on the server. After analyzing the radiographic films, the inspector can then update data in the system to record that the weld has been approved.

The system is intended to provide an automated link between the weld itself (and its location) with the physical radiographic images of that weld, as well as the office in which those images are being stored. A worker in the field could then use the handheld reader to confirm the connection between a specific weld and the physical image file, enabling an inspector or other employee to update information in the software as necessary.

The system also prevents those photographing images of the welds in the field from cheating or committing fraud, Knezevic adds. The concern, he explains, is that if a specific weld is difficult to capture in a digital image, the operator may shoot a different weld that is easier to photograph, then claim that the picture corresponds with the other weld. To prevent this from happening, Beweis places two brass squares, with a letter of the alphabet cut into each one, inside the pipe tag. The letters are invisible to the human eye, since they are sealed inside the tag's plastic casing, but will be discernible on radiographic images once the film is developed. Therefore, at the time that the weld images are examined, the two letters can be compared against those expected for that particular tag ID number, thereby confirming whether the picture is authentic.

The RFID tags in the film labels enable personnel not only to identify the radiographic images during development and inspection, but also to identify them after they have been archived, and to quickly link them to data regarding the weld. For the trial, staff members are using a CAEN RFID desktop reader to interrogate the labels, though Beweis also works with other reader vendors, Knezevic notes.

The system is intended to reduce the incidence of errors that could result from manually writing ID numbers on paperwork, or from the application of lead-based number plates on welds. These lead-based numbers can pose a risk to workers' health (since lead can be toxic), as well as making their work slower than it would be simply using RFID to collect and store data.

During the pilot, which is slated to begin later this summer, the tags will be used only to identify welds during the construction process, after which they will be removed. However, Crozet says, some of the company's other clients "are thinking about keeping the tag attached to the welds after the end of the construction." In that case, he says, "Be-Tag is a convenient and reliable way to identify welds—for example, during maintenance—during their whole life," which can extend to approximately 40 years.

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