Preparation of Part

Parts are often coated in materials like grease, or dirt. These coating can become a hinderance to liquid penetrant inspections.One of the most critical steps in the penetrant inspection process is preparing the part for inspection. All coatings, such as paints, varnishes, plating, and heavy oxides must be removed to ensure that defects are open to the surface of the part. If the parts have been machined, sanded, or blasted prior to the penetrant inspection, it is possible that a thin layer of metal may have smeared across the surface and closed off defects. It is even possible for metal smearing to occur as a result of cleaning operations such as grit or vapor blasting. This layer of metal smearing must be removed before inspection.


Coatings, such as paint, are much more elastic than metal and will not fracture even though a large defect may be present just below the coating. The part must be thoroughly cleaned as surface contaminates can prevent the penetrant from entering a defect. Surface contaminants can also lead to a higher level of background noise since the excess penetrant may be more difficult to remove.

Common coatings and contaminates that must be removed include: paint, dirt, flux, scale, varnish, oil, etchant, smut, plating, grease, oxide, wax, decals, machining fluid, rust, and residue from previous penetrant inspections.

Some of these contaminants would obviously prevent penetrant from entering defects, so it is clear they must be removed. However, the impact of other contaminants such as the residue from previous penetrant inspections is less clear, but they can have a disastrous effect on the inspection. Take the link below to review some of the research that has been done to evaluate the effects of contaminants on LPI sensitivity.

Click here to learn more about possible problems with Cleaning Practices.

Sometimes, inspectors need to spray wash a part before it is inspected.A good cleaning procedure will remove all contamination from the part and not leave any residue that may interfere with the inspection process. It has been found that some alkaline cleaners can be detrimental to the penetrant inspection process if they have silicates in concentrations above 0.5 percent. Sodium metasilicate, sodium silicate, and related compounds can adhere to the surface of parts and form a coating that prevents penetrant entry into cracks. Researchers in Russia have also found that some domestic soaps and commercial detergents can clog flaw cavities and reduce the wettability of the metal surface, thus reducing the sensitivity of the penetrant. Conrad and Caudill found that media from plastic media blasting was partially responsible for loss of LPI indication strength. Microphotographs of cracks after plastic media blasting showed media entrapment in addition to metal smearing.

It is very important that the material being inspected has not been smeared across its own surface during machining or cleaning operations. It is well recognized that machining, honing, lapping, hand sanding, hand scraping, grit blasting, tumble deburring, and peening operations can cause some materials to smear. It is perhaps less recognized that some cleaning operations, such as steam cleaning, can also cause metal smearing in the softer materials. Take the link below to learn more about metal smearing and its affects on LPI

Click here to learn more about metal smearing.


Robinson, Sam J., Here Today, Gone Tomorrow! Replacing Methyl Chloroform in the Penetrant Process, Materials Evaluation, Vol. 50, No. 8, August 1992, pp. 936-946.

Rummel, W., Cautions on the Use of Commercial Aqueous Precleaners for Penetrant Inspection, Materials Evaluation, Vol. 16, No. 5, August 1998, pp. 950-952.

Glazkov, Y.A., Some Technological Mistakes in the Application of Capillary Inspection to Repairs of Gas Turbin Engines, translation from Defektoskopiya - The Soviet Journal of Nondestructive Testing, Vol. 26, No. 3, New York, NY Plenum/Consultants Bureau, January 1990, pp. 361-367.

Glazkov, Yu . A., Bruevich, E.P., and Samokhin, N.L, Special Features of Application of Aqueous Solutions of Commercial Detergents in Capillary Flaw Inspection, Defektoskopiya - The Soviet Journal of Nondestructive Testing, Vol. 19, No. 8, August 1982, pp. 83-87.