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Magnetic Field Orientation and Flaw Detectability

To properly inspect a component for cracks or other defects, it is important to understand that the orientation between the magnetic lines of force and the flaw is very important. There are two general types of magnetic fields that can be established within a component.

 A longitudinal magnetic field has magnetic lines of force that run parallel to the long axis of the part. Longitudinal magnetization of a component can be accomplished using the longitudinal field set up by a coil or solenoid. It can also be accomplished using permanent magnets or electromagnets. A circular magnetic field has magnetic lines of force that run circumferentially around the perimeter of a part. A circular magnetic field is induced in an article by either passing current through the component or by passing current through a conductor surrounded by the component.

The type of magnetic field established is determined by the method used to magnetize the specimen. Being able to magnetize the part in two directions is important because the best detection of defects occurs when the lines of magnetic force are established at right angles to the longest dimension of the defect. This orientation creates the largest disruption of the magnetic field within the part and the greatest flux leakage at the surface of the part. As can be seen in the image below, if the magnetic field is parallel to the defect, the field will see little disruption and no flux leakage field will be produced.

An orientation of 45 to 90 degrees between the magnetic field and the defect is necessary to form an indication. Since defects may occur in various and unknown directions, each part is normally magnetized in two directions at right angles to each other. If the component below is considered, it is known that passing current through the part from end to end will establish a circular magnetic field that will be 90 degrees to the direction of the current. Therefore, defects that have a significant dimension in the direction of the current (longitudinal defects) should be detectable. Alternately, transverse-type defects will not be detectable with circular magnetization.

Watch this short movie showing the effect of field direction on indication visibility. (775 KB mov)