SScanSS: Strain Scanning Simulation Software
Advanced experimental methodology for residual strain or residual stress measurements by neutron diffraction developed by The Open University in collaboration with ISIS neutron and muon source and now used worldwide.
The SScanSS method was specifically designed to improve the quality of neutron diffraction measurements by:
- Maximising accuracy in strain measurements, using:
- Comprehensive planning through accurate kinematic simulation of entire experiment and
- Optimised and automated instrument control
- Providing a high level of traceability and QA through provision of:
- Accurate three dimensional virtual laboratory including kinematic instrument model and laser scanning sample model geometry
- Automatic recording and archiving of instrument configuration and instrument movements throughout experiment, enabling comprehensive record keeping and verification of measurement points etc.
The ENGIN-X neutron diffraction instrument at the ISIS neutron and muon source in Oxfordshire offers state-of-the-art non-destructive measurement of residual stresses, . In addition to utilising one of the world’s most powerful pulsed neutron sources, the powerful combination of hardware and software incorporated to the instrument enables it to offer unique capabilities to the engineering community.
The neutron strain scanning (NSS) technique for determining the stress field deep inside engineering components or test samples has evolved rapidly since its inception in the early 1980’s. NSS is now an established tool for both academia and industry that commands substantial worldwide investment.
The ENGIN-X instrument at ISIS, was one of the first instruments designed with this ethos in mind. However it was recognized from the start that hardware improvements alone would not be sufficient to realize the full potential of these instruments. In particular, routine problems of experimental method needed to be overcome such as the difficulty of sample positioning and alignment and of estimating the time needed for an experiment. In addition, the avoidance of collisions between the sample and elements of the instrument hardware was of prime importance.
The possibility of using modern software techniques in the solution of these problems was realized in the development of the SScanSS software suite, [2, 3]. SScanSS utilizes virtual reality methods to provide comprehensive planning and execution tools for strain scanning experiments. The software provides comprehensive facilities for positioning measurement points with the sample and automating instrument movements to realize these measurements. In addition, the neutron path length through the sample may be calculated and combined with the instrument gauge volume and material attenuation coefficient to provide estimates of the likely measurement time. In this way, the temporal and spatial viability of the experiment can be verified in advance and maximum use made of the beam-time through planning and automation.
Use of robotics methods for modelling and controlling Neutron and Synchrotron diffraction instrumentation
The SScanSS software tools for planning and executing neutron strain scanning experiments were initially written specifically for the ENGIN-X engineering diffractometer at ISIS in the UK. However, recognition that a majority of the specimen positioning systems in use at strain scanning facilities are effectively serial robot manipulators, suggested that the methods of serial robot kinematic modelling might provide a means to generalize these tools for other facilities.
The numerical solution of the inverse kinematic problem allows specimens to be automatically positioned and orientated so that pre-determined strain components are measured. Using this approach, the measurement positions and required strain components are established, prior to an experiment, on a virtual reality model of the sample to be measured. The software will then calculate the positioner movements that are required to execute these measurements, either in simulation mode, for planning purposes, or for automated instrument control at the time of the experiment.
A positioning system with sufficient degrees of freedom, such as the ENGIN-X (x, y, z, Ω ) table with the addition of 3-axis goniometer provides considerable flexibility and the option to (1) measure the three orthogonal strain components typically required for stress determination to be measured consecutively at each measurement point or, (2) optimize a secondary characteristic of the measurement position such as the measurement count time.
Measuring Stress on hidden features
The geometry of the sample being measured is usually captured by laser scanning. In some circumstances however it may be required that account is taken of the internal geometry of the sample, either in positioning measurement points or in optimising the beam path through the object during the measurements. If this facility is required and suitable CAD models are not available, tomographic data may be utilised using neutron or synchrotron imaging. The new instrument IMAT at ISIS enables this technique to be conveniently applied, [4, 5].
This software may be downloaded and used by users of the ENGIN-X, (ISIS, UK), KOWARI, (ANSTO ,AUSTRALIA) and NRSF2, (ORNL ,USA) neutron diffraction facilities or any other person given permission to do so by the author, (please contact us for details).
- Full installation package (SScanSS for windows v6.0 beta.zip, 87 MB, password protected)
- SScanSS User Manual (SScanSS User Manual v6.0 beta.pdf, 0.5 MB)
 J.A. James and L. Edwards, Application of robot kinematics methods to the simulation and control of neutron beam line positioning systems. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A. (2007) 571, 709-718.
 S. Pierret, A. Evans, A Paradowska, A. Kaestner, J. James, T. Etter and H. Van Swygenhoven. Combining neutron diffraction and imaging for residual strain measurements in a single crystal turbine blade. Journal of Non-Destructive Techniques & Evaluation” (NDT&E) International 45 (2012) 39–45