Ultrasonic data can be collected and displayed in a number of different formats. The three most common formats are know in the NDT world as A-scan, B-scan and C-scan presentations. Each presentation mode provides a different way of looking at and evaluating the region of material being inspected. Modern computerized ultrasonic scanning systems can display data in all three presentation forms simultaneously.
The A-scan presentation displays the amount of received ultrasonic energy as a function of time. The relative amount of received energy is plotted along the vertical axis and the elapsed time (which may be related to the sound energy travel time within the material) is displayed along the horizontal axis. Most instruments with an A-scan display allow the signal to be displayed in its natural radio frequency form (RF), as a fully rectified RF signal, or as either the positive or negative half of the RF signal. In the A-scan presentation, relative discontinuity size can be estimated by comparing the signal amplitude obtained from an unknown reflector to that from a known reflector. Reflector depth can be determined by the position of the signal on the horizontal sweep.
In the illustration of the A-scan presentation to the right, the initial pulse generated by the transducer is represented by the signal IP, which is near time zero. As the transducer is scanned along the surface of the part, four other signals are likely to appear at different times on the screen. When the transducer is in its far left position, only the IP signal and signal A, the sound energy reflecting from surface A, will be seen on the trace. As the transducer is scanned to the right, a signal from the backwall BW will appear later in time, showing that the sound has traveled farther to reach this surface. When the transducer is over flaw B, signal B will appear at a point on the time scale that is approximately halfway between the IP signal and the BW signal. Since the IP signal corresponds to the front surface of the material, this indicates that flaw B is about halfway between the front and back surfaces of the sample. When the transducer is moved over flaw C, signal C will appear earlier in time since the sound travel path is shorter and signal B will disappear since sound will no longer be reflecting from it.
The B-scan presentations is a profile (cross-sectional) view of the test specimen. In the B-scan, the time-of-flight (travel time) of the sound energy is displayed along the vertical axis and the linear position of the transducer is displayed along the horizontal axis. From the B-scan, the depth of the reflector and its approximate linear dimensions in the scan direction can be determined. The B-scan is typically produced by establishing a trigger gate on the A-scan. Whenever the signal intensity is great enough to trigger the gate, a point is produced on the B-scan. The gate is triggered by the sound reflecting from the backwall of the specimen and by smaller reflectors within the material. In the B-scan image above, line A is produced as the transducer is scanned over the reduced thickness portion of the specimen. When the transducer moves to the right of this section, the backwall line BW is produced. When the transducer is over flaws B and C, lines that are similar to the length of the flaws and at similar depths within the material are drawn on the B-scan. It should be noted that a limitation to this display technique is that reflectors may be masked by larger reflectors near the surface.
The C-scan presentation provides a plan-type view of the location and size of test specimen features. The plane of the image is parallel to the scan pattern of the transducer. C-scan presentations are produced with an automated data acquisition system, such as a computer controlled immersion scanning system. Typically, a data collection gate is established on the A-scan and the amplitude or the time-of-flight of the signal is recorded at regular intervals as the transducer is scanned over the test piece. The relative signal amplitude or the time-of-flight is displayed as a shade of gray or a color for each of the positions where data was recorded. The C-scan presentation provides an image of the features that reflect and scatter the sound within and on the surfaces of the test piece.
High resolution scans can produce very detailed images. Below are two ultrasonic C-scan images of a US quarter. Both images were produced using a pulse-echo technique with the transducer scanned over the head side in an immersion scanning system. For the C-scan image on the left, the gate was setup to capture the amplitude of the sound reflecting from the front surface of the quarter. Light areas in the image indicate areas that reflected a greater amount of energy back to the transducer. In the C-scan image on the right, the gate was moved to record the intensity of the sound reflecting from the back surface of the coin. The details on the back surface are clearly visible but front surface features are also still visible since the sound energy is affected by these features as it travels through the front surface of the coin.