In this study, a magnetic flux leakage (MFL) method, known to be a suitable non-destructive evaluation (NDE) method for continuum ferromagnetic structures, was used to detect local damage when inspecting steel wire ropes. To demonstrate the proposed damage detection method through experiments, a multi-channel MFL sensor head was fabricated using a Hall sensor array and magnetic yokes to adapt to the wire rope. To prepare the damaged wire-rope specimens, several different amounts of artificial damages were inflicted on wire ropes. The MFL sensor head was used to scan the damaged specimens to measure the magnetic flux signals. After obtaining the signals, a series of signal processing steps, including the enveloping process based on the Hilbert transform (HT), was performed to better recognize the MFL signals by reducing the unexpected noise. The enveloped signals were then analyzed for objective damage detection by comparing them with a threshold that was established based on the generalized extreme value (GEV) distribution. The detected MFL signals that exceed the threshold were analyzed quantitatively by extracting the magnetic features from the MFL signals. To improve the quantitative analysis, damage indexes based on the relationship between the enveloped MFL signal and the threshold value were also utilized, along with a general damage index for the MFL method. The detected MFL signals for each damage type were quantified by using the proposed damage indexes and the general damage indexes for the MFL method. Finally, an artificial neural network (ANN) based multi-stage pattern recognition method using extracted multi-scale damage indexes was implemented to automatically estimate the severity of the damage. To analyze the reliability of the MFL-based automated wire rope NDE method, the accuracy and reliability were evaluated by comparing the repeatedly estimated damage size and the actual damage size.
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