Dye penetrant inspection (DPI), also called liquid penetrant inspection (LPI), is a widely applied and low-cost inspection method used to locate surface-breaking defects in all non-porous materials (metals, plastics, or ceramics). Penetrant may be applied to all non-ferrous materials, but for inspection of ferrous components magnetic-particle inspection is preferred for its subsurface detection capability. LPI is used to detect casting and forging defects, cracks, and leaks in new products, and fatigue cracks on in-service components.
1. Section of material with a surface-breaking crack that is not visible to the naked eye. 2. Penetrant is applied to the surface.
3. Excess penetrant is removed.
4. Developer is applied, rendering the crack visible.
DPI is based upon capillary action, where low surface tension fluid penetrates into clean and dry surface-breaking discontinuities. Penetrant may be applied to the test component by dipping, spraying, or brushing. After adequate penetration time has been allowed, the excess penetrant is removed, a developer is applied. The developer helps to draw penetrant out of the flaw where a visible indication becomes visible to the inspector. Inspection is performed under ultraviolet or white light, depending upon the type of dye used - fluorescent or nonfluorescent (visible).
Penetrants are classified into sensitivity levels. Visible penetrants are typically red in color, and represent the lowest sensitivity. Fluorescent penetrants contain two or more dyes that fluoresce when excited by ultraviolet (UV-A) radiation (also known as black light). Since Fluorescent penetrant inspection is performed in a darkened environment, and the excited dyes emit brilliant yellow-green light that contrasts strongly against the dark background, this material is more sensitive to small defects. When selecting a sensitivity level one must consider many factors, including the environment under which the test will be performed, the surface finish of the specimen, and the size of defects sought. One must also assure that the test chemicals are compatible with the sample so that the examination will not cause permanent staining, or degradation. This technique can be quite portable, because in its simplest form the inspection requires only 3 aerosol spray cans, some paper towels, and adequate visible light. Stationary systems with dedicated application, wash, and development stations, are more costly and complicated, but result in better sensitivity and higher sample through-put
 Inspection steps
Below are the main steps of Liquid Penetrant Inspection:
The test surface is cleaned to remove any dirt, paint, oil, grease or any loose scale that could either keep penetrant out of a defect, or cause irrelevant or false indications. Cleaning methods may include solvents, alkaline cleaning steps, vapor degreasing, or media blasting. The end goal of this step is a clean surface where any defects present are open to the surface, dry, and free of contamination. Note that if media blasting is used, it may "work over" small discontinuities in the part, and an etching bath is recommended as a post-bath treatment. 2. Application of Penetrant:
The penetrant is then applied to the surface of the item being tested. The penetrant is allowed time to soak into any flaws (generally 5 to 30 minutes). The dwell time mainly depends upon the penetrant being used, material being testing and the size of flaws sought. As expected, smaller flaws require a longer penetration time. Due to their incompatible nature one must be careful not to apply solvent-based penetrant to a surface which is to be inspected with a water-washable penetrant. 3. Excess Penetrant Removal:
The excess penetrant is then removed from the surface. Removal method is controlled by the type of penetrant used. Water-washable, solvent-removable, lipophilic...