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Konica Minolta’s Research Proposal on Ultrasonic Nondestructive Inspection Selected for JAXA’s Request for Proposals (RFP)
Aiming to Be Used for Defect Evaluation of Reusable Launch Vehicles

March 21, 2024

Tokyo (March 21, 2024) - Konica Minolta, Inc. (Konica Minolta) today announced that its R&D proposal has been selected for the third Request for Proposals (RFP) under the Innovative Space Transportation Programs* of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The Company will conduct joint research with JAXA on the selected research theme.

Selected Research

Research on efficient inspections and maintenance of CFRP vehicles using ultrasonic nondestructive inspections

Background of the Research Proposal

When reusable launch vehicles are launched frequently in the future, a technology will be required to efficiently inspect and restore recovered vehicles. At present, in the aircraft field and rockets, defects of vehicles made from carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) are evaluated mainly by conducting nondestructive inspections based on hammering and ultrasonic waves. However, for large structures, including aircraft and rockets, the current ultrasonic nondestructive inspections alone are time-consuming and costly. Thus, an efficient system is expected to be required in the future by combining screening technology for abnormal parts based on appearance data gathered by cameras and other devices and AI technology with ultrasonic inspections to visualize the internal structure of parts in which abnormalities have been detected.

Under this proposal, research will be conducted with the aim of putting quantitative, efficient nondestructive inspection technology to practical application to ensure structural integrity using Konica Minolta’s ultrasonic inspection technology.

Konica Minolta’s Ultrasonic Inspection Technology

Konica Minolta’s ultrasonic inspection technology is based on diagnostic ultrasound systems of the Healthcare Business. High-definition images that clearly show the fiber structure of muscle fascicles and nerve fascicles, which are just several tens to hundreds of micrometers thick, were made possible by the development of an ultra-wideband, high-sensitivity linear probe and image improvement by Triad Tissue Harmonic Imaging, which won the 16th Technology Award of the Japan Society of Ultrasonics in Medicine, and have been highly evaluated particularly in the fields of orthopedics and anesthesiology. Diagnosis is assisted by various image processing solutions as well as a navigation function to perform automatic calibration required for measurement and an automatic detection assistance function.

Konica Minolta has been actively studying possibilities to apply this ultrasonic technology to solving social issues in the future. One possibility is to use ultrasonic nondestructive inspections for the reuse and recycling of CFRPs, which will be increasingly used going forward. Ultrasonic nondestructive inspections will be made more efficient by integrating automation technology into high-definition imaging technology, thus making products lighter and more compact.

* Innovative Space Transportation Programs

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