Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI) is a non-destructive testing (NDT) process for detecting surface and slightly subsurface discontinuities in ferromagnetic materials such as iron, nickel, cobalt, and some of their alloys. The process puts a magnetic field into the part. The piece can be magnetized by direct or indirect magnetization. Direct magnetization occurs when the electric current is passed through the test object and a magnetic field is formed in the material. Indirect magnetization occurs when no electric current is passed through the test object, but a magnetic field is applied from an outside source. The magnetic lines of force are perpendicular to the direction of the electric current which may be either alternating current (AC) or some form of direct current (DC) (rectified AC).
The presence of a surface or subsurface discontinuity in the material allows the magnetic flux to leak, since air cannot support as much magnetic field per unit volume as metals. Ferrous iron particles are then applied to the part. The particles may be dry or in a wet suspension. If an area of flux leakage is present, the particles will be attracted to this area. The particles will build up at the area of leakage and form what is known as an indication. The indication can then be evaluated to determine what it is, what may have caused it, and what action should be taken, if any.