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Dye Penetrant Testing

Dye penetrant testing examines the surface of an item (non destructively) for surface-breaking flaws, such as
cracks. A liquid penetrant is applied to the surface and left to soak. The liquid is drawn into any cracks via
capillary action. The liquid is typically brightly colored or a fluorescent (under UV light) dye. After the soak time
has expired, the excess penetrant is wiped from off and a developer is applied. The developer is usually a dry
white powder (for example chalk powder) suspension that is spayed on the component. The developer is drawn
out of the crack by reverse capillary action, resulting in a colored indication on the surface that is broader than the
actual flaw, and therefore, much more visible. This technique can be used to detect surface flaws on essentially
any non-porous material. Typical applications include:
Grinding cracks
Heat zone cracks
Poor weld penetrations
Heat treatment cracks
Fatigue cracks
An example of the process is shown below.
Step 1.

A bicycle crank arm was tested because the owner noticed
a crack on the square axle attachment point and
suspected a crack at the pedal attachment point.

Micro shrinkage
Hot tears
cold shuts
Stress corrosion cracks
Intergranular corrosion

Step 2.
The suspect areas were sprayed with a red dye
penetrant and left to soak.
Step 3.
The dye was wiped off and the crank was
sprayed with developer (chalk). The crack at the
axle attachment is clearly visible. The suspected
crack at the pedal attachment showed no red
dye, indicating that it was a scratch and not a

Clean the part thoroughly using a suitable cleaner, acetone, aqueous degreasing, etc. Allow
the part to dry. Drying can occur using a hair-dryer or in air. If air-dried, allow enough time for the
cleaning agent to evaporate from the defects. This may take several hours depending on the
ambient temperature and cleaning material used on the part.
Apply the penetrant to the surface being inspected. This can be accomplished by spraying,
brushing, dipping, etc. Allow the penetrant material to sit for a minimum of 10 minutes. Do not let the
penetrant sit on the surface for longer than 2 hours as drying may occur. The part and penetrant
should beat a temperature between 50 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove excess penetrant using a clean, dry, lint free cloth. Remove as much penetrant as
possible using as many cloths as necessary. This is followed by wetting a lint free cloth with a
solvent. The cloth must be damp or moist. A cloth dripping with solvent will wash the penetrant
material out of the defect and make the test ineffective. Allow the solvent to dry before the next step.
Apply non-aqueous developer. The developer usually come in a spray can and is normally white.
Apply a light coating holding the can about 6 to 12 inches from the surface. You should see visual
evidence of the metal surface showing after applying the developer. Too thick of a coat will make the
test ineffective.
The evaluation should occur using the proper lighting. Bright white light for visible dye
penetrants and UV light for fluorescent type penetrants. Evaluating the results. This is the most
difficult part of the testing process. Most people do not have a lot of experience with the different
defect types, for example, porosity, shrink, cracks, etc.Porosity is typically round and easily defined,
while shrink can look like a big blob of residual penetrant. Solvent wiping can help in determining the
defect type and if the indication you are seeing is from a real defect or just an anomaly not
associated with a defect. Solvent wiping is achieved by wiping the area of interest with a cloth
dampened with solvent. Do not flood the area with solvent or allow solvent to run or pool on the
surface as this may washout the defect and make it undetectable. As soon as the wiping occurs you
can look at the indication to determine defect type