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

Advantages of ultrasonic testing

The advantages of ultrasonic testing include:

  • High penetration power, allowing for flaw detection deep within a part
  • High sensitivity, allowing for the detection of very small flaws
  • Can be used to test when only one side of an object is accessible
  • Greater accuracy, when compared to other non-destructive testing methods, for determining depth of internal flaws and the thickness of parts with parallel surfaces
  • Able to estimate size, shape, orientation and nature of defects
  • Able to estimate alloy structures of components with differing acoustic properties
  • Non-hazardous to nearby personnel, equipment or materials
  • Highly automated and portable operations possible
  • Immediate results can be obtained, allowing for immediate decisions to be made

Limitations of ultrasonic testing

There are, however, a few limitations to ultrasonic testing, as follows:

  • Requires experienced technicians for inspection and for data interpretation
  • False positive results, also known as spurious signals, may result from tolerable anomalies as well as the component geometry itself
  • Objects that are rough, irregularly shaped, very small or thin, or not homogeneous are difficult to inspect
  • Loose scale or paint will need to be removed before testing can commence, although clean, properly bonded paint can be left in place
  • Couplants required for tests that use conventional ultrasonic testing
  • Ultrasonic testing may have reduced sensitivity for volumetric flaws, particularly metal inclusions, than radiographic testing

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