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From Materials Evaluation, Vol. 63, No. 1, pp: 27-33. Copyright © 2005 The American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Inc.
Construction Weld Testing Procedures Using Ultrasonic Phased Arrays
by Michael Moles* and Jinchi Zhang†
This month’s “NDT Solution” highlights some of the challenges involved in ultrasonic testing. The authors have used computer modeling to analyze the limitations of commonly used ultrasonic testing procedures. Based on experimental results, the authors offer new ideas for testing procedures and make recommendations for NDT of construction welds in pressure vessels. Readers should find this article very interesting from a theoretical as well as a practical point of view.
In the last few years, a new technology has become available for testing welds — ultrasonic phased arrays. Phased arrays differ from conventional industrial ultrasonics in that beams can be focused, steered and scanned. While this permits new test techniques, it also means that codes originally developed for conventional ultrasonics (or even radiography) may be inappropriate for phased arrays. This paper uses computer modeling to
As plate walls get
thicker, detection drops rapidly with S-scans.
G.P. Singh Associate Technical Editor
onstruction welds in pressure vessels and other components typically require testing to guarantee structural integrity. In the past, such welds were radiographed, though ultrasonic testing has become more prevalent in recent decades. These tests are performed to a code (discussed below). Perhaps more important to the practical engineer, all these tests have limitations, both on discontinuity detection and sizing.
analyze discontinuity detection using two common procedures: standard American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) raster scans and sectorial scans (or S-scans), both easily performed by phased arrays. The emphasis is on midwall discontinuities, which are a known weakness of standard raster test techniques. A limited amount of experimental data is given to qualitatively support the general modeling conclusions and we present some recommendations. Industrial Phased Arrays Phased arrays use an array of elements, all individually wired, pulsed and time shifted. These elements are typically pulsed in groups of approximately 16 elements at a time for weld tests. With user friendly systems, a typical setup calculates the time delays from operator input or uses a predeﬁned ﬁle calculated for the test angle, focal distance, scan pattern and so on (Figure 1). The time delay values are back calculated using time of ﬂight from
the focal spot and the scan assembled from individual focal laws. Time delay circuits must be accurate to around 2 ns to provide the required accuracy. Due to the limited market, complexity, software requirements and manufacturing problems, industrial uses have been limited until the last few years (Lafontaine and Cancre, 2000). From a practical viewpoint, ultrasonic phased arrays are merely a method of generating and receiving ultrasound. Consequently, many of the details of ultrasonic testing remain unchanged; for example, if 7.5 MHz is the optimum test frequency with conventional ultrasonics, then phased arrays would typically use the same frequency, focal length and incident angle. While it can be time consuming to prepare the ﬁrst setup, the information is recorded in a ﬁle and only takes seconds to reload. Also, modifying a prepared setup is easy in comparison with physically adjusting conventional transducers. Using electronic pulsing and receiving provides signiﬁcant opportunities for a variety of scan patterns. Electronic Scans Multiplexing along an array generates electronic scans (Figure 2). Typical arrays have up to 128 elements, pulsed in groups of 8 to 16. Electronic scanning permits rapid coverage with a tight focal spot. If the array is ﬂat and linear, then the scan pattern is a simple B-scan. If the array is curved, then the scan pattern will be curved. Linear scans are straightforward to program. For example, a phased array can be readily programmed to test a weld using both 45 and 60 degree shear waves, which mimic conventional manual tests or automated raster scans. Sectorial (Azimuthal) Scans Sectorial scans use a ﬁxed set of elements, but alter the time delays to sweep the beam through a series of angles (Figure 3). Again, this is a straightforward scan to program. Applications for sectorial scanning typically involve a stationary array,
Materials Evaluation/January 2005 27
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not just S-scans. Depending primarily on the array frequency and element spacing. Figure 4 — S-scan testing of a weld fusion line. the sweep angles can vary from ±20 to ±80 degrees. sectorial scanning and precision focusing to give a practical combination of displays. Thus. Sectorial scans are unique to phased arrays and can be used for weld tests. sweeping across a relatively inaccessible component like a turbine blade root (Ciorau et al. of course. However. the limitations of S-scans for construction welds have not been investigated yet. sizing and testing time. This approach is discussed in ASTM E-1961 for automated ultrasonic testing of girth welds in pipelines (American Society for Testing and Materials.(a) (b) (c) Figure 1 — Phased array techniques: (a) linear scan. (b) sectorial scan. Combined Scans Phased arrays permit the combining of electronic scanning. 2000) to map out the features and discontinuities.. 28 Materials Evaluation/January 2005 . Figure 3 — Sectorial scanning of a turbine rotor. common sense (and computer modeling) indicates that the ultrasonic response will depend on angle of impact. while electronic scanning permits fast and functional tests. S-scans will test a weld feature at a given angle for each array location. Figure 2 — Electronic (linear) scanning conﬁguration. However. not at all angles. location of the array and the thickness of the plate (Figure 4). some discontinuities will be better positioned and oriented than others for detection. this applies to all ultrasonic procedures. Optimum angles can be selected for welds and other components. 1998). (c) depth focusing. This introduces the concept of tailored tests to optimize detection.
2 in. ASME Code Case 2235 (American Society of Mechanical Engineers. A simulated 30 degree half angle weld proﬁle was used. the root notches MODELING Modeling was performed using commercial software. AWS D1:1 (American Welding Society. with six 5% notches either on the weld centerline or fusion line. In the near weld position (5 mm [0.). There is effectively no direct reﬂection from the notch. There are many different codes available for ultrasonic testing. For 12. Figure 6b shows the centerline notch detected.) cap was modeled. as shown in Figure 5. with some permitting automated procedures. which suggests why some operators call discontinuities far from the actual location. Three wall thicknesses were used: 12.).4.98 in. but the root was effectively ﬂat. 2002). 1999) and international codes such as EN 1714 (European Committee for Standardization. with procedures or techniques following. however. the American Society of Mechanical Engineers code family is dominant (American Society of Mechanical Engineers. However. A 1 mm (0. this would mean a distance of 15 mm (0.7 mm (0. the far distance is 35 mm (1. computerized data collection.). though most do not specify the method of generating and receiving. In North America in particular.). Two basic procedures were used: ASME raster scans at 45 and 60 degrees and sectorial scans (S-scans) from 35 to 70 degrees. ASME 2235 aims at using modern developments in automated ultrasonics and fracture mechanics.7 mm (0. DNV OS F101 (Det Norske Veritas. Far from the weld was deﬁned as 5 mm (0. using either raster scans or S-scans.) Materials Evaluation/January 2005 29 .) Plate The 45 degree tests detected all the root and cap notches as expected (Figure 6a). though there are many more possible conﬁgurations. MODELING RESULTS 12. None of the codes specify the actual procedure to be used. calibrating on side drilled holes is not demanding for phased arrays.8 mm (2 in.5 in. there are a number of other codes available for speciﬁc uses: API 1104 and API 620 (American Petroleum Institute.4 mm (1 in. a typical location. 0. the ASME code requires detection on only one angle. Near to the weld was defined as 5 mm (0.] from the weld toe). as side drilled holes are omnidirectional reﬂectors. More importantly. In effect.2 in. The S-scans were modeled at two positions: near the weld and far away.7 mm (0. The S-scans showed more variable results. The midwall notches were not so detectable. the far distance is 25 mm (0. so this was an acceptable result overall.2 in. 20 or 30 mm (0. the codes are the key issues. Thus.04 in.) plus 10.) from the modeled weld toe. However.5 in.8 mm (2 in.). for 25. mostly these codes are written for conventional manual tests. The 60 degree tests were not so satisfactory.8 or 1.CODES Test procedures are based on requirements stipulated by standards and codes and then generalized to address the day to day requirements for typical components or industries. 1998). the side drilled holes may not be representative of the inservice discontinuities and hence can give misleading setups and procedures. These are standard tests on a common weld design. performance demonstrations and ﬁtness for purpose. 1999. 25. Almost no codes mention phased arrays. 2003). These are admittedly fairly arbitrary distances. but by an indirect reﬂection that depends on cap geometry.) and 50.4 mm (1 in.5 in. 2000). but not unrealistic.) depending on the thickness.2 in.). 2001) is unusual in that it speciﬁes automated tests.) and for 50.6 in.4 in. Note that the strong reﬂection occurs much later than predicted. from the toe for all thicknesses. ASME generally requires that two angles be used in a raster pattern for coverage and that calibration be performed on side drilled holes.
Again. especially on the raster scans. The signal is relatively weak and depends on multiple reﬂections and on the cap proﬁle.plate before returning. However. but at 60 degrees the returned signal was a fortuitous bounce. The midwall notches were unpredictable. In summary. these multiple signals typically occur further down the time base and can lead to misinterpretation.) Plate The results on the 25. the far position S-scan detected the fusion line midwall notch clearly at a 60 degree incident angle (Figure 7b). perhaps on cap geometry and on suitable bounces. were detectable at high angles. The root and cap notches were predictably detected. at both the near and far positions. S-scans detected all the notches in the welds for the 12. the signals bounced off the bottom of the 30 Materials Evaluation/January 2005 .7 mm (0. The A-scan display shows the amplitude of the returned signal.4 mm (1 in.) plate were less encouraging.) plate. The optimum for the centerline notch was 50 degrees.7 mm (0. based on a number of bounces (Figure 6c). the centerline midwall discontinuity was detected at 55 degrees only. 25. Also. the midwall discontinuities presented signiﬁcant detection issues for both raster scans and S-scans. Predictably. However. as shown in Figure 7a.5 in. The fusion line midwall discontinuity was only detected at 60 degrees.2 in. For the midwall fusion line notch in the near position.5 in. Figure 8a shows the near weld (5 mm [0. This is a “one and a half skip” test and is a normal ASME procedure.4 mm (1 in. many of the signals came from fortuitous bounces and were neither direct nor predicted. Detection in this instance would depend on weld geometry and discontinuity characteristics. the results were much the Figure 5 — The six notches used for modeling on a 12. At 50 degrees the signal was direct. For the far position.) plate. this type of reﬂection depends on actual array location. it is also similar to the drawing in Figure 4. again through a fortuitous reﬂection off the plate bottom (Figure 6d). Other angles showed lower amplitudes in this simulation.] from weld toe) centerline midwall notch S-scan at 45 degrees. which was the only S-scan to detect the notch at all. As before.
ﬂexibility and size. small Materials Evaluation/January 2005 31 (b) (b) Figure 7 — Far position S-scan of a midwall centerline notch: (a) at 55 degrees. not phased arrays. (c) of an S-scan in near position at 50 degrees southwest for a centerline midwall discontinuity. testing for creep damage. This is a procedural issue. Likewise.] from weld toe) and raster scans. Sectorial scans have many useful applications: stress corrosion crack detection.] from the weld toe). Obviously. 1997) and is obviously just as critical now. again by indirect reﬂections off the bottom of the plate. there was no detection of the fusion line midwall notch at any angle. but gradually disappears in the far positions.) Plate For the centerline midwall discontinuity using S-scans in the near position (5 mm [0.) below the surface (that is. (b) of the midwall centerline notch for 45 degrees southwest on a 12.7 in.half skip” test. However. in the thicker plates. two thirds of the way down to the root). including the 60 degree “one and a same (Figure 8b). Figure 9 shows a series of S-scans on a 25. which could cause signiﬁcant positioning errors. (a) (a) DISCUSSION The modeling results here are discouraging. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS Unfortunately.) plate at 45 degrees. some preliminary experimental results using S-scans qualitatively support the modeling. no detection was made at any angle.] from weld toe).5 in. While signals were reﬂected around the plate as normal. The discontinuity is readily visible in the near S-scan positions. including speed. One of the conclusions of the massive PISC II trials for the nuclear industry was that procedure was critical then (Bush. largely due to the problems and cost of making discontinuities.) plate. these typically did not ﬁnd their way back to the probe.7 mm (0. (d) of an S-scan in near position for 60 degrees southwest for a fusion line midwall discontinuity. the beams were reﬂected away from the probe. However. reﬂections.5 in. In the far position (35 mm [1.4 mm (1 in. or some corner discontinuities. showing good detection. In summary. 50. None of the S-scan angles in the far position detected the fusion line midwall notch. hydrogen induced crack tests.) plate was worse than for 12.4 mm (1 in. again by multiple .4 mm (1 in. in the sense that phased array technology does not appear to be detecting discontinuities as well as expected. what is really happening is that a new procedure is being used that is neither tried nor tested in construction weld applications and the codes have not fully addressed this yet. Only the 60 degree S-scan detected the notch. Phased arrays work well and offer many commercial advantages over conventional ultrasonics. not a technological issue. The problem is that S-scans (and raster scans) are not tailored to midwall discontinuities.) plate.8 mm (2 in. shaft crack tests.7 mm (0. the predicted detection at 60 degrees depends on actual positioning of the array and on indirect reﬂections. In summary. there was no detection at any angle. (a) (b) (c) (d) Figure 6 — Software modeling: (a) of a 12.) plate for 45 degrees southwest on a root notch.) plate looking at a fusion line artiﬁcial discontinuity. This discontinuity was measured at 19 mm (0. there was no detection of the midwall centerline notch at all. the test approach is the issue. S-scans performed very poorly and unreliably on thicker plates. only the 35 degree S-scan detected the notch. In all cases.4 mm (1 in. The signal was strong.98 in. this is not necessarily the case. (b) at 60 degrees.2 in. but far down the time base. it is difﬁcult and expensive to reproduce these modeled results experimentally. In the far position (25 mm [0. Similar results occurred for the midwall fusion line notch.) plate and unpredictable. Figure 8 — S-scan data: (a) a midwall centerline notch for a 25. notch detection for 25.4 in.7 mm (0. (b) a fusion line midwall discontinuity at 60 degrees in the near position for a 25.5 in.
ASME raster scans are unreliable but predictable for midwall discontinuity detection. S-scans are performed from specific locations. Despite these limitations. This is particularly true for midwall discontinuities. Time of ﬂight diffraction is very good at detecting midwall discontinuities and is permitted under ASME Code Case 2235 (2001).3 is not detected on any of the pulse/echo channels. it has significant limitations. it may be desirable to use multiple S-scan passes to improve discontinuity detection. So. since raster scans cover the whole area. the implication of this study is clear: S-scans have severe limitations for thick construction welds. ■ Third.) plate with an artiﬁcial fusion line discontinuity approximately two thirds down towards the root: (a) near weld position (approximately 5 mm [0. since the operator can scan around the weld as normal and quickly look for discontinuities. testing composites. Figure 10 shows a scan using both pulse/echo and time of ﬂight diffraction.98 in. this will slow down tests signiﬁcantly and require the use of a second mechanical axis. cap geometry. but is clearly detected by time of ﬂight diffraction. discontinuity (a) (b) (c) (d) Figure 9 — S-scans from a 25. along the lines of the ASTM E-1961 zone discrimination technique (ASTM. while actual ultrasonics is more complex.] from the toe) — discontinuity is clearly visible. the midwall discontinuity at location 106. however. it should be pointed out that ASME rasters have signiﬁcant limitations for midwall effects as well. whereas in reality probes may scan from anywhere. 32 Materials Evaluation/January 2005 location and character).4 mm (1 in. In contrast. All beams are calculated as rays with software.98 in. Figure 10 — Pulse/echo and time of ﬂight diffraction scan of a plate with midwall discontinuities. 1998). The code simply states that the search unit and beam angle selected shall be appropriate for the conﬁguration being tested. one excellent solution is to use tailored scans. Discontinuities are simulated as flat reflectors. if the discontinuity is well oriented.] as a guideline) are generally tested using S-scans. In particular. One obvious step would be to compare raster scans and S-scans in the next plate test trials. The modeling shows that thin plates (less than 25 mm [0. diffraction signals are typically 20 to 40 dB below pulse/echo signals and would be ignored in normal pulse/echo tests.) — the discontinuity is disappearing. however. weld tests. S-scans are both unreliable and unpredictable for critical midwall discontinuities.2 in. rapid manual tests with good imaging and special applications (Dubé.diameter tube tests. The ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (2003) is not clear on the applicability of S-scan tests using a single pass. In practice. what can we do to improve these tests? ■ First. Despite the major benefits of computer modeling. S-scans are probably more reliable with manual than automated scans.6 in. the operator can expect to detect it using automated scanning with raster scans. 2004). However. Also. it is easy to use a tandem probe arrangement with .) from the toe (in between position) — discontinuity is clearly visible. The software also does not include diffraction. (b) approximately 15 mm (0. while real discontinuities are typically more omnidirectional (this will influence detection).) — the discontinuity has disappeared. However. ■ Second. (d) just past the far position at approximately 30 mm (1. thick plate tests are both unreliable (don’t ﬁnd the discontinuities) and unpredictable (results depend on probe position. This paper would argue that the angles are inappropriate since discontinuities are clearly going to be missed. (c) at the far position of approximately 25 mm (0.2 in. nozzle tests. use time of flight diffraction as well as ASME raster scans or S-scans.
net. Hazelton. which uses side drilled holes for setup and also performance demonstrations.net/article/v05n10 /lafont2/lafont2. G. it may be necessary to reﬁne the codes to ensure that S-scans have higher discontinuity detection probability. 2004. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. American Welding Society. Rome. D. 11-15 October 2000. but misses the same discontinuities each time. 19th edition. T. 1998.) show low detection rates. West Conshohocken. particularly with midwall discontinuities. No. Mississauga. European Committee for Standardization. Standard 1104.phased arrays.. Ω RECOMMENDATIONS ■ Perform trials comparing ASME raster scans with S-scans to verify these results. Ed Ginzel. 10th edition. Speciﬁcally. detection drops rapidly with S-scans. Italy. Waterloo. Design and Construction of Large. <www. “In-situ Examination of ABB l-0 Blade Roots and Rotor Steeple of Low-pressure Steam Turbine. skip pattern. Brussels. performed the experimental scans. Det Norske Veritas. Canada. New York. ASME Code Case 2235-4. ■ Limited experiments qualitatively support this modeling. ■ ASME rastering is more consistent. ■ Discourage S-scan tests for thick walled construction welds. N. L. may need to specify alternate reﬂectors and scans for S-scan tests. 2000. “Potential of Ultrasonic Phased Arrays for Faster. “Nondestructive Examination. 1997. Cancre. Appendix D. Welding of Pipelines and Related Facilities. Bush. Materials Evaluation/January 2005 33 .. geometry. DNV OS-F101. 2003. M. Better and Cheaper Inspections. AWS D 1. ■ S-scan detection depends on gate. CONCLUSION ■ Computer ray tracing shows that both ASME and S-scans have detection limitations. 2001. Ciorau P. American Welding Society.” Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. use tailored tests. Craig and J. ASME Code Case 2235.. Washington. S.1:2000. American Society for Testing and Materials. Submarine Pipeline Systems. D. 17th edition. Using Phased Array Technology.ndt. Miami. 1998. wall thickness and location of the probe and is less consistent than raster scanning. ASTM. The software used was supplied by UTEX Scientific Instruments. Welding Research Council.” Welding Research Council Bulletin 420. New York. Moles. Article 4. Vol. Standard Practice for Mechanized Ultrasonic Examination of Girth Welds Using Zonal Discrimination with Focused Search Units. EN 1714: Non Destructive Examination of Welded Joints — Ultrasonic Examination of Welded Joints. Dubé. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Chris Magruder..98 in. critiqued the paper. 5. Ontario. ASTM E-1961-98. New York. Plates above approximately 25 mm (0. DC. Welded. October 2000. Divisions 1 and 2. of the Materials Research Institute. Pennsylvania.” 15th World Conference on NDT. DC. of R/D Tech. European Committee for Standardization. Florida. 2002. R/D Tech. Poguet. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Lafontaine. ed. Gilham. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. ■ To improve probability of detection.H. “Ultrasonic Examination of Heavysection Steel Components PISC-II and PISC-III Action 2 as They Apply to Nonnuclear Thickwalled Pressure Vessels. which is a good technique for midwall discontinuity detection. and F. ASME. American Petroleum Institute. Introduction to Phased Array Ultrasonic Applications — R/D Tech Guideline. ■ As plate walls get thicker. Det Norske Veritas. American Petroleum Institute. Use of Ultrasonic Examination in Lieu of Radiography: Section I and Section VIII. REFERENCES American Petroleum Institute. American Petroleum Institute.” NDT. if possible.htm>. 1999. MacGillivray. ■ Modify codes to ensure greater reliability from S-scans. Section V. ■ Fourth. Low-pressure Storage Tanks. 1999. Inc. Structural Welding Code — Steel. Washington. and always use time of ﬂight diffraction as well as raster or S-scans. API 620. 10.
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