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Thermal nondestructive evaluation (TNDE) is an indirect process, so that regardless of the form of energy used to excite the sample, interaction with the internal structure of a part occurs through the process of heat conduction. This article discusses the steady-state configuration and selective excitation configuration of the signal-generation mechanisms in thermal nondestructive evaluation methods. The three widely used approaches to TNDE are surface-excited thermography, vibrothermography, and thermoelastic stress analysis. The article provides information on the common features, characteristics, and limitations of these approaches.

For most nondestructive evaluation (NDE) applications, the term thermography actually refers to surface-excited thermography (SET) that involves thermal mapping of surface temperature as heat flows from, to, or through a test object in response to excitation applied to the sample surface. This article discusses the strategies for implementing thermography for NDE, including the steady-state/whole-body approach and transient heat conduction. It describes the most common signal-processing methods, such as thermographic signal reconstruction, lock-in thermography, and pulsed-phase thermography. The article concludes with a discussion on the use of thermal methods for thermal diffusivity measurement and characterization of multilayer structures.

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