Home - Education Resources - NDT Course Material - Ultrasound

Introduction to Ultrasonic Testing

Basic Principles
Present State
Future Direction

Physics of Ultrasound
Wave Propagation
Modes of Sound Waves
Properties of Plane Waves
Wavelength/Flaw Detection
Elastic Properties of Solids

Acoustic Impedance
Refraction & Snell's Law
Mode Conversion
Signal-to-noise Ratio
Wave Interference

Equipment & Transducers
Piezoelectric Transducers
Characteristics of PT
Radiated Fields
Transducer Beam Spread
Transducer Types
Transducer Testing I
Transducer Testing II
Transducer Modeling
Tone Burst Generators
Function Generators
Impedance Matching
Data Presentation
Error Analysis

Measurement Techniques
Normal Beam Inspection
Angle Beams I
Angle Beams II
Crack Tip Diffraction
Automated Scanning
Velocity Measurements
Measuring Attenuation
Spread Spectrum
Signal Processing
Flaw Reconstruction

Calibration Methods
Calibration Methods
DAC Curves
Curvature Correction
Thompson-Gray Model
Grain Noise Modeling

Selected Applications
Rail Inspection

Reference Material
UT Material Properties


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 = vt/2 or v = 2d/t

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.