Remote field testing (RFT) is an electromagnetic method of nondestructive testing whose main application is finding defects in steel pipes and tubes. Remote field testing may also refer to as RFEC (remote field eddy current) or RFET (remote field electromagnetic technique). An RFT probe is moved down the inside of a pipe and is able to detect inside and outside defects with approximately equal sensitivity (although it can not discriminate between the two).
Remote Field Testing is one of several electromagnetic testing methods commonly employed in the field of nondestructive testing. Other electromagnetic inspection methods include magnetic flux leakage, conventional eddy current and alternating current field measurement testing. Remote field testing is associated with eddy current testing and the term “Remote Field Eddy Current Testing” is often used when describing remote field testing. However, there are several major differences between eddy current testing and remote field testing which will be noted in this section.
RFT is primarily used for ferromagnetic tube inspection since conventional eddy current techniques have difficulty inspecting the full thickness of the tube wall due to the strong skin effect in ferromagnetic materials. For example, using conventional eddy current bobbin probes to inspect a steel pipe 10 mm thick (such as what might be found in heat exchangers) would require frequencies around 30 Hz to achieve the adequate I.D. to O.D. penetration through the tube wall. The use of such a low frequency results in a very low sensitivity of flaw detection. The degree of penetration can, in principle, be increased by the use of partial saturation eddy current probes, magnetically biased probes, and pulsed saturation probes. However, because of the large volume of metal present as well as potential permeability variations within the product, these specialized eddy current probes are still limited in their inspection capabilities.
The difficulties encountered in the testing of ferromagnetic tubes can be greatly alleviated with the use of the remote field testing method. The Remote Field Eddy Current Tester has the advantage of allowing nearly equal sensitivities of detection at both the inner and outer surfaces of a ferromagnetic tube. The method is highly sensitive to variations in wall thickness and tends to be less sensitive to fill-factor changes between the coil and tube. RFT can be used to inspect any conducting tubular product, but it is generally considered to be less sensitive than conventional eddy current techniques when inspecting nonferromagnetic materials.