Part 1 Of Understanding Ultrasonic Testing

Travis Jolliff

Ultrasonic testing comprises a range of non-destructive testing techniques that send ultrasonic waves through an object or material. These high frequency sound waves are transmitted into materials to characterize the material or for flaw detecting. One common application for this test method is ultrasonic thickness measurement, which is used to ascertain the thickness of an object such as when assessing metal corrosion.

This 4 part article provides information that will help the reader better understand Ultrasonic Testing. Key elements include:

  • How does ultrasonic testing work
  • Why is ultrasonic testing used
  • Pulse-echo and Through-transmission ultrasonic testing
  • Contact and Immersion Ultrasonic Testing
  • What Materials Can Be Tested Using Ultrasonic testing
  • Applications for ultrasonic testing
  • Advantages of ultrasonic testing
  • Limitations of ultrasonic testing

Part 1 addresses How does ultrasonic testing work and Why is ultrasonic testing used. Part 2 will address Pulse-echo and Through-transmission ultrasonic testing and Contact and Immersion Ultrasonic Testing. Part 3 will address What Materials Can Be Tested Using Ultrasonic testing and Applications for ultrasonic testing. Part 4 will address Advantages of ultrasonic testing and Limitations of ultrasonic testing.

How does ultrasonic testing work?

Ultrasonic inspection uses a piezoelectric transducer connected to a flaw detector, which in its most basic form is a pulser-receiver and oscilloscope display. The transducer is passed over the object being inspected, which is typically coupled to the test object by gel, oil or water. This couplant is required to efficiently transmit the sound energy from the transducer into the part, however, this couplant is not required when performing tests with non-contact techniques such as electromagnetic acoustic transducer or by laser excitation.

Why is ultrasonic testing used?

As a non-destructive testing method, ultrasonic testing is ideal for detecting flaws and defects without damaging the object or material being tested. Periodic ultrasonic inspections can also be used to check for corrosion or for growth of known flaws, and thus potentially prevent a failure of a part, component or entire asset. It is used in a wide range of industries including aerospace, automotive, construction, medical, metallurgy, and manufacturing.

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