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(above) 1991 ASTM Subcommittee gathers at Parker X-Ray in East Hartford, Conn.
Evaluating Critical Products

by Clare Coppa

Bruce Parker would rather wear a sweatshirt than his best suit.

The president of the Parker Industrial X-Ray Laboratory, he describes himself as a very casual person although he’s partly responsible for aircraft integrity. When it comes to the standard reference radiographs his company produces for ASTM International, his commitment to quality is renowned.

Manufacturers use ASTM reference radiographs to check critical components after they’re cast or welded. A radiographer might compare an X-ray of a jet-engine blade with an ASTM radiograph to determine its final acceptability.

The staff of Parker X-Ray, East Hartford, Conn., has been producing ASTM radiographs for over 30 years. They also use ASTM radiographs in-house to inspect parts for clients. “There have been many instances when production of critical parts have had to be put on hold,” Bruce Parker said, “because those parts did not meet the X-ray acceptance standards as set forth in the manufacturing requirements.

“From jet engines having to be taken off the production line, to race-car engines that could not be used in a specific race, Parker’s job is to inspect a wide variety of sub and final assembly of parts,” he said. “A key part of the inspection process is comparing the X-rays Parker takes against the appropriate reference radiographs for that particular job.”

On Jan. 22 in Florida, ASTM Committee E07 on Nondestructive Testing presented Parker X-Ray with an award for maintaining the highest standards of workmanship and professionalism. “They do an absolutely fabulous job,” said Tom Jones, Committee E07 chairman.

“We’ve been very very pleased with the quality of work that we’ve gotten from Parker X-Ray, and not only with the quality of work but with the attitude that they’ve taken,” said Jones, a nondestructive testing (NDT) engineer with Howmet Research Corporation. As well as helping to develop ASTM reference radiographs, Jones uses ASTM radiographs at Howmet to evaluate the acceptability of turbine blades for jet engines.

Founded in 1953, Parker X-Ray maintains historic plates. “We have been entrusted with the [radiograph] standards of the world,” Parker said, “hard metal plates, that have been created by the government, or one of its subcommittees, sometime after World War II. In order for us to produce these films, i.e. take the X-ray film of the plate, we need the plate in house.”

Maintaining an original reference radiograph is difficult because the master film degrades over time. Parker X-Ray developed a process to duplicate the original look of the old film. “Some of our staff have been here for 30 years,” Parker said. “We have a lot of continuity with our people and our process. It’s important.”

Speaking for Committee E07, Jones said the Lab staff sets the highest level of quality on the radiographs they produce for ASTM. “We see them as absolutely critical to the consistent conduct of business,” he said.

“The feeling that Parker Labs is more like an ASTM partner than a vendor arose over the years,” said Daniel Polansky, a physical scientist and former E07 chairman who has developed ASTM standards since 1958. The relationship solidified, he said, because Parker nearly always agreed with the committee’s critical rejection of production radiographs. “As a result, the relationship which developed was not adversarial but that of a team whose objective was to produce a final product that would be accepted worldwide.”

Polansky relied on ASTM radiographs in his former work at the U.S. Naval Ordinance Laboratory, Silver Spring, Md. He explained how Parker’s partnership with ASTM began. “Early in the 1970s, a question arose in industry as to the interpretation of a specific grade of an anomaly in a given radiograph,” he said. “A review of the radiographic standards indicated that depending on their production there was a possibility of grading differences between interpreters.”

At Polansky’s suggestion, Committee E07 established a review team of metallurgists and radiographers to inspect ASTM radiographs in production at Parker X-Ray, twice annually. The current team includes Polansky, Jones, Edwin Lewis (chairman of the current review team, Subcommittee E07.93 on Illustration Monitoring), William Plumstead (chairman of E07.92, Editorial Review), and Dwight Isenhour (chairman of E07.02, Reference Radiological Images).

“What ASTM is trying to do is maintain the continuity of safety, and the continuity of world standards,” Parker said.

George Luciw, E07 Technical Committee director, has accompanied the review team to Parker X-Ray for 20 years. “They know and they understand how important these reference radiographs are to the NDT industry,” he said from his desk at ASTM headquarters in West Conshohocken, Pa. “Their work is really magnificent and has been consistent over 20 years.” //

Copyright 2002, ASTM