What Is Ultrasonic Examination And How Does It Work – Part 3

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

Advantages of ultrasonic examination

The advantages of ultrasonic examination 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 examination

There are, however, a few limitations to ultrasonic examination, 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 examination
  • Ultrasonic examination may have reduced sensitivity for volumetric flaws, particularly metal inclusions, than radiographic testing

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