Early detection of fatigue cracks and accurate measurements of the crack growth play an important role in the maintenance and repair strategies of steel structures exposed to cyclic loads during their service life. Observation of welded connections is especially of high relevance due to their higher susceptibility to fatigue damage. The aim of this contribution was to detect and monitor fatigue crack growth in thick welded specimens during fatigue tests as holistically as possible, by implementing multiple NDT methods simultaneously in order to record the crack initiation and propagation until the final fracture. In addition to well-known methods such as strain gauges, thermography, and ultrasound, the crack luminescence method developed at the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM), which makes cracks on the surface particularly visible, was also used. For data acquisition, a first data fusion concept was developed and applied in order to synchronize the data of the different methods and to evaluate them to a large extent automatically. The resulting database can ultimately also be used to access, view, and analyze the experimental data for various NDT methods. During the conducted fatigue tests, the simultaneous measurements of the same cracking process enabled a comprehensive comparison of the methods, highlighting their individual strengths and limitations. More importantly, they showed how a synergetic combination of different NDT methods can be beneficial for implementation in large-scale fatigue testing but also in monitoring and inspection programs of in-service structures - such as the support structures of offshore wind turbines.
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