Part 1 Of What Is Ultrasonic Examination

Travis Jolliff

Ultrasonic examination 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. Most ultrasonic examination applications use short pulse waves with frequencies ranging from 0.1-15 MHz, although frequencies up to 50 MHz can be used.

This 4 part series of articles provides information that will help the reader better understand what Ultrasonic Examination is including:

  • How ultrasonic examination works
  • Pulse-echo and Through-transmission
  • Contact and Immersion Testing
  • Why ultrasonic examination is used
  • Advantages of ultrasonic examination
  • Limitations of ultrasonic examination
  • What Materials Can Be Tested
  • Applications for ultrasonic examination

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

How ultrasonic examination works

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.

Pulse-echo and Through-transmission

Ultrasonic examination can be performed using two basic methods – pulse-echo and through-transmission.

With pulse echo testing, the same transducer emits and receives the sound wave energy. This method uses echo signals at an interface, such as the back of the object or an imperfection, to reflect the waves back to the probe. Results are shown as a line plot, with an amplitude on the y-axis representing the reflection’s intensity and distance or time on the x-axis, showing the depth of the signal through the material.

Through-transmission testing uses an emitter to send the ultrasound waves from one surface and a separate receiver to receive the sound energy that has reached the opposite side of the object. Imperfections in the material reduce the amount of sound that is received, allowing the location of flaws to be detected.

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