System Performance Check
System performance checks involve processing a test specimen with known defects to determine if the process will reveal discontinuities of the size required. The specimen must be processed following the same procedure used to process production parts. A system performance check is typically required daily, at the reactivation of a system after maintenance or repairs, or any time the system is suspected of being out of control. As with penetrant inspections in general, results are directly dependent on the skill of the operator and, therefore, each operator should process a panel.
The ideal specimen is a production item that has natural defects of the minimum acceptable size. Some specification delineate the type and size of the defects that must be present in the specimen and detected. Surface finish is will affect washability so the check specimen should have the same surface finish as the production parts being processed. If penetrant systems with different sensitivity levels are being used, there should be a separate specimen for each system.
There are some universal test specimens that can be used if a standard part is not available. The most commonly used test specimen is the TAM or PSM panel. These panel are usually made of stainless steel that has been chrome plated on one half and surfaced finished on the other half to produced the desired roughness. The chrome plated section is impacted from the back side to produce a starburst set of cracks in the chrome. There are five impacted areas to produce range of crack sizes. Each panel has a characteristic signature and variances in that signature are indications of process variance. Panel patterns as well as brightness are indicators of process consistency or variance.
Care of system performance check specimens is critical. Specimens should be handled carefully to avoid damage. They should be cleaned thoroughly between uses and storage in a solvent is generally recommended. Before processing a specimen, it should be inspected under UV light to make sure that it is clean and not already producing an indication.