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Meet Fabien Lefèvre, NDT expert

Fabien Lefèvre – an R&D engineer in NDT (Non-Destructive Testing) at the DPSU* department of the VRCF** – specializes in ultrasonic testing methods.
02/07/2022
Innovation and R&D

The use of NDT has expanded rapidly over the past few years because it addresses growing requirements in terms of safety, risk management and quality. Drawing on his experience with NDT in welded products, Fabien is also involved in the additive manufacturing sector – a rapidly expanding area at Vallourec.

What's your current role within Vallourec?

NDT is a discipline that combines processes and techniques for measuring and delivering conformity and integrity in materials or parts without having to destroy or alter them. My work is quite technical. In addition to project management, I prepare, conduct or commission experimental tests, in the laboratory or in the factory, for a better understanding of the new NDT processes (which we’ll be using in our factories in future), and use existing resources to inspect the new products developed by the Group. 

This work requires me to examine metal parts produced via additive manufacturing (3D printing) processes, and I support a Group production unit based in Singapore that specializes in additive manufacturing using the wire-arc process. When the first parts were produced there, more than a year ago, they were sent to the VRCF for inspection. This enabled us to produce an NDT recommendations guide for our Singapore-based colleagues, with whom we have been in regular contact since.

Can you tell us a little more about your background?

I obtained my electronics Ph.D in ultrasound from the Université Polytechnique des Hauts-de-France. I produced a thesis on the characterization of thin films using guided waves generated and detected by laser. I also hold Level 3 certification from COFREND (the French Confederation for Non-Destructive Testing) in ultrasonic NDT (production and maintenance sector). 

Having worked in the research center of a major French nuclear group as NDT methods engineer, then as a technical assistance engineer – also in NDT – in a factory belonging to the same company producing large components, I joined Vallourec in 2019.

What made you want to join the Vallourec group?

It was the international scale of the Group that made me interested in working at Vallourec, plus the close proximity between the research center and the factories. That proximity means, for example, that it’s possible to react very quickly when recurring defects are detected in batches of parts. Some of them are sent to the research center where we carry out NDT expert assessments so we can characterize the defects. They are then cut up and analyzed by the VRCF experts to confirm what we observed through non-destructive testing, pinpoint where the defect came from and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

I also like the way that people are “accessible”. During my onboarding seminar, I met the CEO at that time – Philippe Crouzet – and a few members of the Executive Committee. I really felt like I was part of a team. I also experienced the same non-siloed approach while I was taking a more technical training course on all of Vallourec’s products. 

And what do you like most about your work?

At VRCF, we can draw upon a truly multidisciplinary environment and a group of experts of various different nationalities. We have the opportunity to hold discussions and make progress in a variety of areas. This has taught me a huge amount about all Vallourec products, and I’ve made great progress in materials science.

I especially like the technical side of the center, which is seriously cutting-edge, and supported by the latest-generation equipment. We have access to laboratory resources and state-of-the-art CND equipment, such as a new ultrasonic tank. For some time now, we’ve also been conducting R&D explorations into ultrasound imaging techniques, such as TFM (Total Focusing Method) technology.

I especially like the technical side of the center, which is seriously cutting-edge, and supported by the latest-generation equipment. 
Fabien Lefèvre
R&D Engineer in NDT

And what's your view of R&D at Vallourec?

In my previous positions, I had a fairly traditional view of R&D, with multi-year programs that sometimes never really seemed to end and assignments that served more to promote technologies and skills than to seriously attempt to solve practical problems or satisfy customers. At Vallourec, the close link with the Innovation department provides a much more dynamic view of things. Lead times are shorter. There’s a strong profits-driven culture, and a real effort to create value. I enjoy the more operational and applied side of R&D. We have a genuinely central contribution to make in projects, with direct and regular discussions with customers that enable us to fully understand their requirements.

We’re starting to sell parts made using additive manufacturing processes to customers such as TotalEnergies, Shell, EDF and Saipem, who are very interested in our know-how. If an explanation or technical support is required, we are actively involved, and it’s our job to provide a rationale for the tests that we’ve specified. 

At Vallourec, the close link with the Innovation department provides a much more dynamic view of things. Lead times are shorter. There's a strong profits-driven culture, and a real effort to create value. I enjoy the more operational and applied side of R&D. We have a genuinely central contribution to make in projects, with direct and regular discussions with customers that enable us to fully understand their requirements.
Fabien Lefèvre
R&D Engineer in NDT

Our industry is changing rapidly. Renewables and services, for example, are becoming an increasingly important part of VRCF’s projects, and – in a more general sense – of all of the Group’s research centers, with whom we have many areas of synergy. We have quite a few aces up our sleeve.





*DPSU: Process Development & Factory Support
**VRCF: Vallourec Research Center France