The goal of the research conducted for this master's thesis is to understand if active thermography is a suitable technique to detect (identify) and measure (approximate depth and or size) defects in additive manufacturing (AM) processes. Although other non-destructive measurement techniques exist, active thermography is an attractive option for AM applications because of the short measurement times that could be implemented between each layer of a print, and because of the relatively inexpensive equipment required. However, pulse thermography is typically applied to detect larger defects (>1 mm) in materials with high thermal conductivity. It was uncertain if active thermography was sensitive enough to detect the small defects (μm) commonly introduced during AM. Defects of this size are common in AM, and their presence significantly impacts the mechanical properties of the final part. For this reason, the detection limits of active thermography in common AM materials were investigated. Numerical models were created to simulate the heat transfer during active thermography in AM structures (polymer and stainless steel) with defects of varying size. The models included non-ideal conditions such as spectral in-depth absorption of the irradiative pulse and free convection from the object's surface. The spectral properties of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA), and polyamide 12 (PA 12) were measured (see chapter 2) and used in the numerical models. The numerical data indicates that active thermography is sensitive enough to detect the existence of defects smaller than 100 μm in AM materials (see chapter 3). Furthermore, it demonstrates that the defect aspect ratio (defect diameter divided by defect depth) for which traditional 1D thermography models may be used to approximate the depth of defects in 3D systems is approximately 6 (see chapter 4). In addition, the depth of defects with lower aspect ratios (~4) may also be approximated with relatively low error (~10% error). Non-ideal systems (those with convection and spectral in-depth absorption) were simulated, and figures are provided which facilitate the approximation of defect depth using simple, ideal thermography models. Active thermography has shown potential as being an efficient technique for detecting and measuring small defects common in AM.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





active thermography, additive manufacturing, non-destructive testing, defect detection, detection limits, measurement limits, small defects, spectral absorption



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Engineering Commons