Net-shape parts obtained by the powder metallurgy process are employed in several industry sectors, especially in automotive. They are typically intricate, complex shaped parts produced in exact shape by compaction of powders into a geometry followed by sintering of the compacts for consolidation, where particles are bonded upon sintering.
Powder metallurgy process, by its nature, is suited to high volume production and is increasingly employing finer powders for refined microstructures (nanometre scale to a very few micrometre features). Therefore any flaws/defects in the parts can have a significant impact on the production output, for example, loss of material and efficiency, as well as potential failures in use later. Additive manufacturing is also coming along as an increasingly popular net-shape materials processing route for production of high value added components. Therefore there is a need for automated inspection by non-destructive means, for determining and separating the good and bad batches during production, preferably as early as possible, allowing for potential healing, where possible, in the process (possibly before the sintering phase) without having to seek destructive examination carried out manually, which can have a negative impact on the production flow and output. More critically, any faulty part that is overlooked may cause further problems later on, such as unexpected premature failures in application. Depending on the component and the criticality of the application this can have drastic consequences.