NATA Sector Insights: Materials, Assets and Products (MAP)

Industry News May 9, 2022
NATA team

With over 1390 accredited facilities, MAP is an essential sector for NATA and indeed, for the safety of the Australian public. 

Divided into key activity areas, the sector includes the:

1. Integrity of equipment and structures (IES)

  • NDT is commonly used during construction to ascertain or verify compliance of new product with specified requirements and is also increasingly used in-service to evaluate possible deterioration or failure modes, as outlined below. 
  • The most widespread applications in Australia are weld testing of new fabrication and in-service corrosion monitoring of piping.  Commercial NDT is almost invariably carried out on-site, rather than in a base facility.  The scope of operations ranges from a single NDT technician performing an individual test to manufacturing facilities which are testing product on-line and to construction project testing using sophisticated techniques to perform repetitive testing under tight time constraints, e.g., weld testing on oil or gas pipeline construction.  
  • There are varied reasons for using NDT, which reflects the wide range of industrial users of the technology. Asset owners and/or operators of equipment often use NDT as part of a maintenance strategy to continue safe operation, maximise performance, minimize down time and to extend service life of plant items. These items are typically critical, complex, expensive and where down time or failure have significant safety and/or economic consequences. This ‘in-service’ condition assessment can be contrasted with so-called ‘compliance’ testing which pertains to new fabrication, where purchasers of equipment items may require NDT as a quality measure to demonstrate compliance with specified requirements and to minimise possibility of premature failure in service while providing protection against litigation in the event of failure. 
  • Industries using NDT include energy (oil, gas), transport (all modes), construction (civil construction), chemical, manufacturing, mining and Commonwealth and State statutory authorities. 

2. Geotechnical and civil construction materials testing (GCCMT) 

  • Testing a specific range of materials used particularly in public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, airports, dams, etc but also in commercial and residential construction projects. 
  • Geotechnical and Civil Construction Materials Testing was originally part of the Mechanical Testing field until it was formed as a separate field ‘Construction Materials Testing’ in the early 1990s.  Mechanical Testing, including construction materials testing, is one of the original fields of testing dating back to the formation of NATA. 

3. Physical Performance testing (PPT) 

  • Testing may be performed on a range of products from lifting equipment, pipelines, and structural assemblies to personal protective equipment, packaging, plumbing products, furniture, and toys.  
  • Tests are applied to materials including metals, timber, plastics, rubber, textiles, paper, glass, leather and wool. 
  • Testing may be based on standard test methods or product standards and/or specifications. It is mainly conducted to determine or verify compliance with specified requirements. It is also applied in product research & development, and incident investigations e.g., product failures. 
  • Testing may be conducted routinely (e.g., welds), infrequently (e.g., weight of structures & assemblies), or based on production (e.g., steel manufacturing). 
  • This testing also includes slip testing, and the physical testing of PPE. 

4. Electrotechnology testing (ETT) 

  • Electrical appliances and accessories 
    • The purpose of electrical safety testing is to confirm three main outcomes:
    • The product does not allow contact with live parts (i.e., where current is flowing). 
    • The product does not overheat during operation.
    • If the product fails, it does not catch fire or expose live parts. 
  • High voltage testing 
    • Tests involving components and systems typically related to power transmission, e.g., transformers, insulators, surge protectors, cables, etc. 
  • Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing 
    • EMC testing involves the measurement of unwanted emissions, and the countermeasures (i.e., “immunity”) that reduce unwanted emissions.  EMC testing is closely related to EMF testing described below.
    • “Emissions” refers to the generation of electromagnetic energy, whether deliberate or accidental, by some source and its release into the environment.
    • “Immunity” refers to the ability of electrical equipment to function correctly in the presence of emissions.  “Susceptibility” is the opposite of immunity. 
  • Electromagnetic field (EMF) testing 
    • EMF testing involves the measurement of non-ionising electromagnetic radiation emitted by a variety of sources (e.g., power lines, microwave ovens, MRI machines, mobile phones, transmission towers, radiocommunications, etc.) for the purposes of assessing levels of exposure to the public.  EMF testing is closely related to EMC testing.
    • EMF emissions are strictly regulated.  Most countries have defined EMF exposure limits (e.g., occupational vs. general public) and associated product compliance requirements. 
  • Lighting 
    • Lighting encompasses a range of tests from visible light measurements, characteristics of individual light sources, retroreflective performance measurements and laser outputs to performance testing of lighting installations 
  • Software 
    • Facilities accredited for software testing conduct ‘software product evaluation’ which is a broad range of activities covered by the ISO/IEC 14598 suite of standards. 
  • Gaming 

    Gaming testing covers products such as electronic poker machines.  Testing is generally performed to the Australian/New Zealand Gaming Machine National Standard 2015.  This was developed to provide guidance to manufacturers for the design of gaming machines, game software and related equipment, and to provide a testable standard to ensure that common regulatory requirements will be met. In addition to this standard, a jurisdiction may provide a local Appendix – setting out any additional or differing requirements for their specific jurisdiction. 

    Testing may be required to support export and the technical standards for all target jurisdictions may be required to be referenced in scopes to highlight the capability of the facility. 
  • Information Security 

    Information security covers activities such as penetration testing (i.e., hacking), authentication, confidentiality, etc. commonly using the internationally recognised ‘Common Criteria’ as the accredited ‘method’. 

    The Common Criteria defines a common framework for evaluating security features and capabilities of information technology security products against functional and assurance requirements.  It is intended to provide assurance to customers that the process of specification, implementation and evaluation for any certified computer security system is conducted thoroughly and consistently. 

    The Common Criteria for Information Technology Security Evaluation (CC), and the Common Methodology for Information Technology Security Evaluation (CEM) are the technical basis for an international agreement, the Common Criteria Recognition Arrangement (CCRA).  The CCRA is analogous to the ILAC MRA and it intended to ensure that: 
    • Products can be evaluated by competent and independent laboratories to determine the fulfilment of particular security properties. 
    • The certification of the security properties of an evaluated product can be issued by a number of Certificate Authorizing Schemes. 
    • These certificates are recognized by all the signatories of the CCRA. 
  • eHealth 

    eHealth is another niche area of software testing covering software for handling medical records, e.g., test results, patient evaluations, prescriptions, etc. 

    A key concept in healthcare software is the ‘Healthcare Identifier’ (HI) which is a means to identify healthcare providers (individual or organisation) and healthcare recipients as defined in the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010.  Materials characterisation (MC) 

5. Performance and Approvals Testing (PAT) 

  • This is a cross-over area, with some testing falling under Physical Performance Testing in scopes, and some under Electrotechnical Testing. 
  • PAT covers testing on items such as gas appliances and water-consuming appliances for characteristics like energy efficiency, performance, and safety.  A very wide range of testing includes noise and vibration measurement, fire and thermal testing, performance testing on lighting, household, commercial and industrial appliances, electrical safety testing, performance tests on high voltage/power infrastructure and equipment. 
  • Pattern approval is the examination of the design of an instrument prototype against national or international standards. This determines the measurement accuracy of the instrument and whether the instrument retains this accuracy under a range of environmental and operating conditions. 
  • Pattern approval requirements are administered by the National Measurement Institute (NMI) which is part of Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER). 
  • NMI publishes pattern approval specifications applicable to particular products (e.g., breath alcohol devices are covered by NMI R 126 Pattern Approval Specifications for Evidential Breath Analysers).  Below is a partial list of products subject to pattern approval: 
  • length and area measuring instruments 
  • fuel dispensers for motor vehicles including control systems, calculators/indicators 
  • automatic and non-automatic weighing instruments 
  • vehicle tanks 
  • liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) systems 
  • utility (gas, electricity and water) meters 
  • evidential breath analysers 
  • digital indicators 
  • load cells 

6. Materials Characterisation

  • Materials in this sector are usually tested to determine their physical, chemical and sometimes biological characteristics, for use as inputs to manufacturing processes. 
  • Chemical characterisation is generally using a group of analytical methods used by industry to evaluate the chemical composition and properties of materials, components, or products in order to determine compliance with material specifications.  Chemical testing is a fundamental process in the field of materials science, which provides a scientific understanding of materials. 
  • Sectors which use chemical analysis include, but are not limited to, energy (oil, gas, coal), transport (all modes), construction (civil construction), chemical, manufacturing, mining, and various works conducted by Commonwealth and State statutory authorities and the Watermark scheme which regulates products in contact with the supply of drinking water. 
  • Biological tests performed on products are generally to determine the effects of microbiological contamination on a product, to determine microbiological resistance of a product, or to assess potential mutagenicity or toxicity of a product. 
  • Physical, mechanical tests (similar to those used in Physical Performance Testing) may also be used to characterise materials. 

If you would like to learn more about NATA’s MAP sector and applications, please contact