Advanced Ultrasonic Testing Equipment and Software Support Innovative NDT Solutions
Ultrasonic testing is one of the most common and useful modern methods of nondestructive testing. By collecting and interpreting the reflection or diffraction of ultrasonic waves transduced into solid objects, ultrasonic testing equipment can detect flaws or defects which can cause structures to fail. It gives technicians the ability to look inside solid objects to find cracks or holes invisible from the surface. This allows companies to prevent costly and dangerous equipment failures. As such, ultrasonic testing is an essential technology for companies engaged in a wide range of industries, including aviation, oil and gas, transportation, and power generation.
Ultrasonic testing is simple in principle, but complex in the details of its mechanisms and implementation. Understanding ultrasonic testing involves learning the broad concepts behind the value it provides, the equipment and software used, and different testing methods. It also requires focused knowledge of the intended application, such as composite materials used in aviation or pipeline geometry in oil and gas.
Zetec has been a leader in ultrasonic and other NDT technologies for decades and has written extensive informational guides on many aspects of ultrasonic testing. We’ve collected a suite of recent, relevant articles on ultrasonic testing. By using this page as a guide, you’ll be able to learn both the basics of ultrasonic testing principles and how UT can be employed for common and innovative testing applications.
Understanding Ultrasonic Testing Equipment and Software
The ultimate value proposition of ultrasonic testing is the ability to prevent costly and dangerous equipment failures or accidents. Relying on visual inspections does not predict metal failures, leaving companies and customers exposed to the repercussions of catastrophe. While other nondestructive testing methods can provide similar security, ultrasonic testing is prized for its speed, efficiency, safety, and ease of use. These qualities allow companies to accomplish more testing in less time with modern ultrasonic equipment. While an ultrasonic testing regimen is an investment in itself, it is one that generates a return through significantly reduced risk and liability.
Read more about the value of ultrasonic testing
While some ultrasonic testing takes place in laboratories, in most cases, the item being inspected is far larger than the ultrasonic equipment itself. So, rather than move the item to the testing station, workers must move their ultrasonic devices to the airplane, pipeline, or turbine. Portable ultrasonic equipment allows workers to capably scan large, immovable assets, extending their working lifespan.
Read more about the advantages of portable ultrasonic equipment
Not all ultrasonic testing equipment is equal. The best ultrasonic testing equipment is fast, powerful, durable, easy-to-use, and portable. High-end functionality is also important, including phased-array capabilities using 2D matrix probes. As corrosion detection is an essential function of ultrasonic testing, corrosion testing abilities are prized in ultrasonic testing equipment.
Read more about the best quality ultrasonic testing equipment
Without advanced software to interpret results, even the best ultrasonic testing equipment is useless. Ultrasonic testing software can do much more than simply display an image of flaws, though this remains a central feature. Software is responsible for controlling the scan itself, especially when using phased array or other advanced techniques. It can magnify images, apply filters, highlight areas, record scans, prepare reports, and communicate results. The right software package provides technicians with all the functionality they need, in as simple a display as possible.
Read more about advanced ultrasonic testing software
While ultrasonic testing technology has been proven continually to be a highly effective means of flaw detection, no technology is entirely without drawbacks. Not every material can be effectively scanned using ultrasound, and other factors like material depth, grain, and irregularities can affect scan results. In order to use ultrasonic technology correctly, it’s important to understand the technology’s limitations, as well as the best ways to mitigate them.
Read more about the disadvantages of ultrasonic sensors
How Phased Array Techniques Improve Ultrasonic Testing
Ultrasonic scanning used to be performed using a simple wave emitter, or transducer. While effective, this single wave only covered small areas of material at a time. It had difficulty scanning complex geometries and ensuring that the entire volume of target material was imaged. It could miss certain flaw types entirely, or provide false positives from others. Since the probe had to be moved directly over each area that needed to be scanned, accessibility limited what could be scanned.
Phased array ultrasonic scanning improves both on simple, monolithic scanning and other NDT techniques, like radiography. Phased array probes pulse multiple waves into materials, creating much greater internal visibility and image integrity. This helps technicians detect flaws monolithic scans could miss. By changing the angle of their scan, they can sweep through materials without moving the probe, lowering the burden of accessibility. Phased array ultrasonic can also be employed in a reflective or refractive configuration, increasing the types of assets which can be successfully imaged.
Read more about combining phased array and time of flight diffraction ultrasonic
Radiography is a method of nondestructive testing that relies on portable X-ray or gamma-ray emitters to provide images of the interiors of objects. While radiography can be effective, it is slow, cumbersome, and hazardous. In order to employ radiographic testing, all non-essential personnel must be kept away from the test site, stopping work. Modern phased array ultrasonic testing can drastically improve processes and results over radiography methods.
Read more about phased array ultrasonic vs. radiography
Steel structures are ubiquitous across the American landscape, as well as the rest of the globe. Relied on for infrastructure, housing, transportation, oil and gas technology, and power generation plants, steel structures must be inspected and maintained regularly to prevent failure. Corrosion and internal flaws or defects can cause steel structures to fail unexpectedly, sometimes with tragic results. Phased array ultrasonic inspection allows companies to carefully inspect their steel structures, ensuring worker and public safety and continued profitable operations.
Read more about using phased array ultrasonic to inspect steel structures
Ultrasonic Testing in the Aviation Industry
The aviation industry depends on ultrasonic testing to keep airplane crews, passengers, and cargo safe. Based on manufacturer recommendations and codified by international standards organizations and national regulatory bodies, ultrasonic testing is required for airline operators. The many different materials involved in aircraft construction require different testing techniques. Composite materials, turbine blades, and metals of varying thicknesses are routinely scanned using ultrasonic technology to detect defects or corrosion which can lead to flight failure.
Read more about ultrasonic testing for commercial aircraft
Jet turbine blades are among the most stressed components of aircraft, which says a lot. Turbine blades are exposed to extreme heat, corrosion, and mechanical stresses. When they fail, they cause create seriously dangerous conditions mid-flight. Regular ultrasonic scanning of turbine blades of recommended by manufacturers, and required by law.
Read more about ultrasonic testing of airplane turbine blades
Ultrasonic Testing in the Oil and Gas Industry
The oil and gas industry is known for heavy equipment and mammoth infrastructure. As the industry also relies on high volumes of many hazardous materials, asset integrity is paramount for the success of operations and the health of workers and nearby communities. Oil and gas companies rely on ultrasonic testing for a wide variety of applications upstream, midstream, and downstream. Different ultrasonic testing setups are preferred for different applications. Still, due to the typical environments encountered, portability and durability are equally important as processing power.
Read more about ultrasonic testing in oil & gas
Among the largest assets of oil and gas companies are their pipelines. Stretching thousands of miles across vast and varied landscapes, pipelines are irreplaceable as a means to transport oil and gas products from extraction and production sites to refineries and consumers. Ensuring pipeline integrity is a constant occupation, one that requires ongoing investment in labor and technology. Investing in more efficient ultrasonic scanning technology to test pipeline integrity helps oil & gas companies continue to cover old pipelines, and expand to new ones as well.
Read more about ultrasonic pipeline testing
While welds are found in nearly every heavy industry, in oil & gas, they are widespread and indispensable. Welding requires skill and focus to perform correctly, and tiny, invisible imperfections can cause major damage to personnel, equipment, and the environment. Scanning welds with ultrasonic testing equipment gives companies a means to guarantee weld integrity, providing them the peace of mind of knowing their equipment can handle its loads.
Read more about ultrasonic weld testing
Ultrasonic Testing of Composite Materials
Composite materials are increasingly common across a broad swath of industries, used for their high strength-to-weight ratio and other desirable qualities. However, composite materials must be fabricated carefully to ensure their durability and can degrade and fail the same as traditional materials like metal or wood. Especially when composite materials are used in critical, expensive assets, like satellites or yachts, they must be tested for defects and degradation. Ultrasonic testing technology provides a powerful, cost-effective means of testing composite materials.
Read more about using ultrasonic techniques on composite materials
Just as phased array ultrasonic testing improves on older, monolithic methods in traditional materials, it also outperforms older methods in the scanning of composite materials. Advanced techniques, like time-reversal phased array, improve the effectiveness of ultrasonic scanning.
Read more about using time-reversal phased array ultrasonic to inspect composite materials
The aviation industry has embraced composite materials, using them widely in commercial aircraft of all types and descriptions. In this high-risk industry, only effective materials testing regimens can effectively mitigate the liability of flight. Ultrasonic testing provides a fast and effective means for scanning composite materials in airplanes. Though novel techniques are required, much of the equipment remains the same as that used to scan traditional metals, allowing airlines to accomplish more testing with less investment.
Read more about ultrasonic testing of airplane composites
Innovative Ultrasonic Testing Applications
Ultrasonic testing technology can be used for many applications, some of which have yet to be discovered. New methods of manufacturing, such as 3-D printing and additive manufacturing, can make good use of ultrasonic testing to ensure the quality of the products they produce. This is especially important, as the boundaries of this new technology are being expanded every day. Predictive models are ineffective without a historical record, meaning that the only way to detect impending materials failure in products created with additive manufacturing is to test them.
Read more about NDT methods for additive manufacturing.
Another innovative use of ultrasonic testing technology is to detect the thickness of materials, particularly materials of different types. For example, ultrasonic testing can be used to test the thickness of coats of paint, which can be essential for many low-tolerance applications.
Read more about ultrasonic thickness measurement
More mature technologies, such as the railroads, can also use ultrasonic testing. Assuring the condition of train tracks across the world requires fast, effective equipment due to the sheer volume of track to be inspected. Investing in the best ultrasonic testing equipment can help prevent train derailments, schedule delays, and the resulting costs.
Read more about ultrasonic railway track inspections
Ultrasonic testing equipment and software are not only useful tools. In many heavy industries, they are essential. The ability to visualize internal flaws in materials informs maintenance crews and helps keep equipment and assets safe and operational. The specific applications of ultrasonic testing technology are numerous and varied, as widespread as the critical equipment and infrastructure we rely on every day.
Zetec has been a leading provider of ultrasonic testing equipment and software for a generation. To learn more about using ultrasonic technology in your industry, contact Zetec today.