No job too big or small for the Arnold Chemical and Metallurgical Lab
By Deidre Ortiz, AEDC/PA
/ Published February 18, 2019
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- The chemists and metallurgists at Arnold Air Force Base support facilities base wide by helping tests stay on schedule, preventing equipment failures and keeping AEDC team members safe.
The items that come through the Arnold Chemical and Metallurgical Lab for analysis and testing range from metal materials and equipment, such as turbine blades, to liquids, like water and oils.
“A majority of the testing performed in the Chemistry Lab are oils and fuel used in the test facilities,” explained Mary Forde, Arnold engineer and scientist. “We also test fuel from the Fuel Farm, and most of the fuel that comes on base gets tested here first.”
Other than testing, oil analyses supports the condition-based monitoring program at Arnold. This program allows trending of data as an indicator for maintenance and has contributed to significant cost savings for AEDC.
While working in the lab, the chemists at Arnold will at times encounter a liquid they’re unfamiliar with.
“You never know what will come through the door,” Forde said. “We’ve had someone bring us a rusty-looking liquid in a bucket and ask us to determine what it is.”
Though people may bring their items in to the Chem Lab, Arnold chemists can offer guidance before taking a sample of the mysterious liquid or material.
“The day-to-day for us on the Chem side entails bringing in samples and then sending out the analysis reports,” Forde said. “Samples come in, reports go out.”
While delivering timely and accurate analysis for AEDC test customers, the lab also provides quick turnaround analysis for the health of Arnold personnel.
“The Chem Lab is accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association to perform industrial hygiene analyses, the bulk of which is supporting air quality and asbestos analyses,” Forde said. “Sometimes Safety and Health personnel will need a sample tested that day to make sure it is safe to continue testing or working in an area.”
The Chem Lab is certified by the State of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to test drinking water and the chemists often support the environmental safety offices at Arnold Air Force Base, testing the water in different locations to ensure that there is no contamination of any kind.
When it comes to inspecting metals and equipment, Ken Delaney, the non-destructive testing (NDT) lab supervisor at Arnold, stated that the preventative maintenance performed by personnel in the Metallurgical/NDT lab has saved the Complex money and test downtime.
“The Met/NDT Lab helps to avert test downtime through the discovery of defects that could lead to failure,” Delaney said. “By inspecting the rotating equipment we are able to detect problems before they become major problems, and if there is a problem, we provide failure analysis. We can determine how and why the problem occurred and help come up with a solution to prevent it in the future.”
He noted that the NDT specialists follow a schedule and perform preventative maintenance in the test areas as part of the periodic preventative maintenance cycle.
“If we find something, it’s then removed and the issue is fixed before that equipment is returned to service,” Delaney said.
In addition to inspecting equipment at Arnold, the Met/NDT Lab supports the Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 at White Oak, Maryland, and the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at Moffett Field, California.
“We support not only testing, but the users, and will perform non-destructive testing directly for customers,” Delaney said.
NDT can involve radiography or X-ray, ultrasonic, liquid penetration or magnetic particle testing to determine the structural integrity of a metal. These are used to see if a weld is sound or to see if there are any flaws or cracks in a piece of equipment.
Another large part of the Met/NDT services provided by the labs is performing welder qualification testing for all welders at Arnold.
“The primary group we support is the Model and Machine Shop, performing inspections at key points in the fabrication process,” Delaney said. “We kind of work like a quality control group, especially in terms of inspecting the welding.”
As someone who has worked in the Chemical and Metallurgical Lab for 32 years, Delaney said he has most enjoyed that the job is challenging and interesting.
“We have a certain freedom with NDT in that we’re not always stuck at our desks,” he said. “I also like getting to monitor ongoing efforts.”
Shannon Medley, NDT specialist, agreed stating, “Every day is different and working with skilled craftsmen makes the work satisfying.”