Nondestructive testing is a fast-growing field that is increasingly relevant in today’s job market. Despite its thoroughly modern applications, nondestructive testing (NDT) has a long and varied history. One of the earliest forms of nondestructive testing is the X-ray, which was discovered in 1985 and used in industrial radiography in the 1920s.
Soon after, eddy current and ultrasonic technologies added more techniques to the NDT toolkit. Today, NDT is used to look for engineering flaws in the aerospace, energy, and nuclear industries, test the integrity of aging infrastructure in our cities and ensure the safety of medical devices in the health care industry.
NDT differs from destructive testing in that the object being observed remains intact, and cannot be altered by the test. As a result, working as an NDT specialist involves a mix of mental and physical responsibilities. It offers endless variety and opportunities to solve problems. NDT specialists leave their work at the end of the day knowing that they’re contributing to the health, safety, and security of the people around them.
In addition to that, NDT is an affordable and accessible industry to train in. The American Institute for Nondestructive Testing offers courses for less than $10,000 that include both online and in-person components. Earning a certificate requires a high school diploma, but not a college degree, and can be achieved in as little as 7 months.
In the U.S., NDT specialists earn an average salary of $40,000 to $60,000 per year, with salaries increasing by 15% since 2004. NDT is also a growing industry in European and Asian markets, with a high demand for qualified NDT specialists. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the growth of the nondestructive testing industry in Europe, as well as job opportunities for specialists in emerging markets.
According to Global Market Insights, the nondestructive testing market will see a high compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2025. Europe is currently leading the field, with a 30% market share as of 2018. The main driver behind Europe’s market share is its regulatory framework, which mandates nondestructive testing in many industries, as well as increased collaboration by regional operators.
In particular, the aerospace industry is expected to have a CAGR of 6% in the same time period, due in part to the role that NDT plays in streamlining the testing and maintenance of aerospace parts. NDT allows for ongoing testing of the components over the lifespan of the product, ensuring their internal and external integrity.
The oil and gas industries account for 25% of the NDT market, relying on nondestructive testing to assess and monitor the safety of processing and storage facilities. Other areas of the market that account for NDT growth are the surface inspection market (which has an expected CAGR of 6%) and the volumetric inspection industry.
Currently, volumetric inspection accounts for over 50% of the NDT market share globally. This includes the use of radiation and other techniques to test the interior integrity of an object, such as the testing of high-pressure cylinders for cracks and imperfections.
Radiography testing is also expected to grow by 5% during the same timeframe. The rise in new infrastructure projects and their associated safety regulations means there is still room for substantial growth in the market. But in some industries, growth has been held back by a need for more skilled NDT specialists and additional equipment.
In short, the growth of the NDT market is driven by a combination of several components: aging infrastructure, increased regulation, and new development projects. In many parts of the world, the age of existing infrastructure components means that both the public and private sector must invest more in testing and maintaining their assets.
Old and new developments alike are being held to more rigorous safety standards, partly as a response to highly-publicized accidents that have beset many fields, such as the oil and gas industries. As industries seek to protect their infrastructure and adhere to these new guidelines, they will depend on NDT specialists to meet their goals.
Industries that don’t comply with the relevant regulations risk fines, increased insurance rates, and of course, damage to their reputations, making NDT technologies an integral part of their day-to-day operations. From assessing the safety of bridges and buildings to ensuring a consistent supply of medical goods and airplane parts, the work of NDT specialists keeps these industries operating to their highest standards.
Additionally, investments in new markets and infrastructure projects in Europe, Asia, and beyond means that opportunities are opening up for NDT specialists around the world. A successful NDT specialist will be able to adapt to new tools and applications and apply the techniques of NDT to the latest advances in engineering, medicine, and more.
NDT jobs are as varied as the industries that require testing. NDT specialists can find work in aerospace and defense, research and development, energy, public safety, and more. In particular, new technological developments are opening up new opportunities for NDT tools to be applied in a range of emerging industries. Let’s take a look at some of the opportunities for employment you can expect in these emerging NDT markets:
Developments in robotics and autonomous systems will lead to new ways for NDT tools to be applied. For example, autonomous systems can allow NDT techs to safely perform inspections on infrastructure in deep water, remote areas, and dangerous or radioactive locations that are difficult to study with current NDT techniques.
Nondestructive testing is more effective when technicians have access to historical data and can discover trends and changes over time. Developments in Big Data systems will offer new opportunities for NDT techs, as large facilities can be monitored and assessed in real time, and this information can be collected and integrated with other data sets.
The development of new materials and manufacturing techniques, such as composites and additive manufacturing, will lead to new applications for nondestructive testing. The more that NDT techniques can be developed alongside these technologies, the sooner they can be brought to market and appropriate safety regulations can be applied.
High Value Manufacturing refers to the production of long-lasting, defect-free products that adhere to 22 identified competencies. NDT can have an impact on many of these competencies, including resource efficiency, energy storage, and sustainability. NDT can be used to assess defects in lightweight and miniaturized products, biotech and pharmaceutical products, and low-carbon manufacturing systems.
The NDT industry is expected to see continued growth in Europe, in part due to stricter safety regulations throughout the European Union. However, job opportunities will vary from country to country based on the specific industries available in those markets.
For example, the U.K. is considered the “international gold standard” for NDT training, and performs over 25,000 inspections per day. It is home to 24 of the world’s 183 major NDT companies, compared to 75 in the U.S., 24 in Asia, and 57 elsewhere in Europe.
The U.K. government has designated 8 “great technologies” in which it is expected to be a global leader, and NDT testing is an integral part of 5 of those industries. These fields include new technologies such as robotics, advanced materials, and Big Data.
Developing new NDT techniques alongside developments in these industries ensures that the technology can be quickly brought to market. In the past, NDT techniques have taken decades to become practical for industry use. Therefore, increased collaboration between sectors can lower costs and speed up the application of new NDT tools.
In addition, the industry is likely to seek out a new generation of NDT specialists, as the current workforce is dominated by technicians over the age of 45. Future specialists will need to have a higher level of IT skills and be able to adapt to new technologies.
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