Normal Beam Inspection

Pulse-echo ultrasonic measurements can determine the location of a discontinuity in a part or structure by accurately measuring the time required for a short ultrasonic pulse generated by a transducer to travel through a thickness of material, reflect from the back or the surface of a discontinuity, and be returned to the transducer. In most applications, this time interval is a few microseconds or less. The two-way transit time measured is divided by two to account for the down-and-back travel path and multiplied by the velocity of sound in the test material. The result is expressed in the well-known relationship

d=vt2d=\frac{vt}{2}

where d is the distance from the surface to the discontinuity in the test piece, v is the velocity of sound waves in the material, and t is the measured round-trip transit time.

The diagram below allows you to move a transducer over the surface of a stainless steel test block and see return echoes as they would appear on an oscilloscope. The transducer employed is a 5 MHz broadband transducer 0.25 inches in diameter. The signals were generated with computer software similar to that found in the Thompson-Gray Measurement Model and UTSIM developed at the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation at Iowa State University.

Precision ultrasonic thickness gages usually operate at frequencies between 500 kHz and 100 MHz, by means of piezoelectric transducers that generate bursts of sound waves when excited by electrical pulses. A wide variety of transducers with various acoustic characteristics have been developed to meet the needs of industrial applications. Typically, lower frequencies are used to optimize penetration when measuring thick, highly attenuating or highly scattering materials, while higher frequencies will be recommended to optimize resolution in thinner, non-attenuating, non-scattering materials.

In thickness gauging, ultrasonic techniques permit quick and reliable measurement of thickness without requiring access to both sides of a part. Accuracy's as high as ±1 micron or ±0.0001 inch can be achieved in some applications. It is possible to measure most engineering materials ultrasonically, including metals, plastic, ceramics, composites, epoxies, and glass as well as liquid levels and the thickness of certain biological specimens. On-line or in-process measurement of extruded plastics or rolled metal often is possible, as is measurements of single layers or coatings in multilayer materials. Modern handheld gages are simple to use and very reliable.