You are on page 1of 20



Instrument Performance

Transducer Performance

Material Variations

Surface Roughness

Surface Coatings

Couplant Condition

Part Size and Geometry

Internal Structure

Defect Variation

Defect Size and Geometry

Location with Respect to Adjacent Surfaces

Orientation of Major Axis

Type of Discontinuity and Conditions of Reflection - June 1999, Vol. 4 No. 6

Ultrasonic Inspection 2
Training For Nondestructive Testing Variables Affecting Test Results
Ed Ginzel
Home study correspondence courses (UT, ECT, LPI and MPI) including
NDT Problem Solver Software (solving standard equations in UT, RT and


Ultrasonic tests can provide information about several aspects of a material

such as: thickness, attenuation, shape, presence of defects, size and their
orientation. These rely on two main measurements: amplitude of signal and
time of the signal arrival. To a lesser extent the frequency content of the signal
can also provide useful information but its application is not so common.
We make certain assumptions about the test conditions and presume that
changes in time or amplitude are caused by variation in the parameter of
interest. The assumptions made are based on all parameters being constant
except the one we are interested in measuring changes in. For example, when
performing a thickness measurement we assume the acoustic velocity of the
test piece we are measuring is the same as the acoustic velocity in the
calibration piece. We further assume that the temperature at which tests and
calibrations are made are not important. Yet either or both of the parameters
assumed fixed (materials velocity and temperature) can affect our test results.
Variables affecting the test results will be divided into 4 groups:
1. instrument performance
2. transducer performance
3. material variations
4. defect variations
Another factor relating to the results of an inspection is the Human Factor, this
is a widely debated subject. The subject is not discussed in this chapter nor is
the related subject of Probability of Detection. For more information on POD
please refer to earlier publications on NDTnet
Instrument Performance
In Chapter 7, performance verification of instrumentation was discussed. Scope
(display) and pulser/receiver variations can affect time, amplitude and
frequency content of ultrasonic signals.
Scope - The primary variable in the scope is the linearity of the time base.
Verification methods will usually require a tolerance in accuracy to a
percentage of the total screen range (typically +/- 2%). This ensures no distance
measured will be in error by more than 2%, e.g. for a 250mm range it may be
possible to have an error of +/-5mm maximum in steel.

Pulser-Receiver - Amplitude uncertainties will result from variations in the

linearity of the vertical deflection of the scope or due to inaccuracies in the
amplitude control. Scope vertical linearity ensures that the relationship between
two signals of different amplitudes is maintained over the entire range of the
screen height. This is done by comparing the relative height of two echoes at
different screen heights. e.g. setting two echoes 6 dB apart starting with one at
80% FSH, the other at 40% FSH adjustments are made to first increase the 80%
FSH signal to 90% and 100%. The lower signal should be 45% and 50%
respectively. Reducing the higher signal in 10% FSH increments, the lower
should continue to be half its height. Tolerance for this parameter is +/-5% of
the screen height. This ensures that the signal ratio of two different amplitudes
truly indicates the size or distance effects. This would be most important for
DGS type comparisons.
The other aspect of vertical linearity variability is the amplitude gain control.
This applies to the calibrated gain control usually found in dB increments on a
flaw detector. Since the dB is derived from (dB = 20 log A2/A1 changing the
dB gain by a fixed amount should change the ratio of the signals. This allows
us to expect a signal at 50% FSH to increase to 100% FSH when 6dB is added
to the receiver gain. ASME code requires scanning of a weld to be done using
14dB over reference. This means a signal that was 20% of the reference
amplitude at reference gain would then come up to the reference level denoted
by the DAC. If the receiver gain is not linear the smallest recordable indication
may be greater or less than the intended level. This will be another source of
incorrectly sizing a defect with respect to a reference.
The effect of bandpass filters on displayed signal amplitude has been discussed
in Chapter 6. The effect on amplitude is to reduce signal height if the centre
frequency of the received signal is beyond (greater or less than) the bandpass
region of maximum response. This can be a factor when it is known that the
reflected or re-transmitted signal off a defect has a frequency spectrum
determined by the characteristics of the defect (this is the basis of acoustic
spectrum analysis or frequency analysis).
Transducer Performance
As with the pulser/receiver, transducer performance is checked and monitored
for change. Codes and standards such as those discussed in Chapter 7 cover the
details for verifying instrument, transducer and system performance. But in
addition to ensuring these aspects are within tolerances allowed initially, they
must all be monitored on a regular basis to ensure no significant changes occur.

BS 4331 Part 3*, recommends the following probe/system performance checks;

probe index daily on rough surfaces, such as castings, twice daily
beam angle
beam skew
monthly and when large changes in probe angle or index are
beam profile
dominant monthly and whenever repairs have been made to either probe or
instrument and if one instrument is replaced with another
pulse length
dead zone
near field
signal-tonoise ratio
daily and after repairs or replacement as above
system gain
monthly and after repairs or replacement as above
* BS 4331 Part 3 will be replaced by EN 12668 -2, Non-destructive testing - Characterization and
verification of ultrasonic examination equipment- Part 2: Probes.

The above monitoring items apply to contact testing probes. The wear
experienced by movement on metal surfaces tends to accelerate changes in
performance. Some of the changes introduced by wear can alter test results
significantly. As an example, consider beam angle change. If at the start of the
day a nominal 60 probe was found to have an actual angle of 62, an
indication is found with a soundpath of 150mm in a 100mm thick plate butt
weld. A quick calculation made by the operator allows plotting to position the
defect 132.4 mm along the surface from the exit point and then 70.4 mm below
the test surface. After several hours of heavy scanning the operator has
unwittingly worn the probe down on the nose and the actual angle changes to
58 (both 62 and 58 are within acceptable tolerances for a nominal 60
probe). When the same indication is investigated again the operator finds an
indication in that same area but it does not seem to be the same. The soundpath
is only 133mm for the "new" indication. The operator, believing the refracted
angle is 62 now plots a defect 62mm below the surface. This situation is
illustrated in Figure 8-1.

Figure 8-1

Similar errors in lateral positional plotting can result from skewing of the beam. When
plotting an indication with an angle beam we assume the beam extends directly ahead
in-line with the probe housing but wear on one side or the
other of the wedge will steer the beam away from the
Figure 8-2
centre-line. If we use the previous example with the 62
probe finding an indication at 150mm soundpath, the plan view plot would indicate it
to be about 132mm directly in front of the probe from the exit point. If a 5 skew
existed that was not accounted for, the error in locating this indication would be about
11.5mm (see Figure 8-2).
Index point or beam exit point for an angle beam probe is easily established on the
11W block. This is used to establish the actual refracted angle so its accuracy within
+/-1.5mm is essential. For longer soundpaths (>25mm the effect on positioning a flaw
forward or backward would not be too critical. e.g. If the flaw plotted in Figure 8-1
was 1mm forward or backward due to the exit point being off 1mm from its scribed
position it would have little bearing on the evaluation of the defect. If, however, the
weld tested was on a 6mm thick pipe with a TIG root the root width might be about
2mm. An error in exit point placement could plot the defect on the wrong side of the
In the chart of items checked as per BS 4331, the first three items are unique to
contact probes, but the remaining items could be considered by any transducer
evaluation, including immersion probes. Handling and aging can cause changes
to the element's backing, degree of polarization, lensing material shape, lens
material bond to the element or degree of loading (for the thin gold face on
PVDF elements). These changes result in changes in both amplitude and
frequency. The effect on performance is multi-stepped.
For example: if aging has resulted in a slight disbonding of the element from
the high density backing of a standard ceramic element, its damping will be
reduced. This will lead to an increased ringing. More ringing reduces resolution
and increases the extent of dead zone due to the rattle. Decreased damping due
to the disbondment, however, allows vibrations to be larger so sensitivity is
increased. The reduction in backing load tends to change the centre-frequency
to a higher value but the increased sensitivity, afforded by more and larger
vibration displacements, reduces the bandwidth. The higher frequency
increases the near zone as it is a function of wavelength. The angle of
divergence is also changed (decreased ) as it too is a function of wavelength.

Operating probes in warm water (>50C) or high radiation fields (several

MegaRads) can cause blistering or disbonding of the epoxy material used for
lensing. This could have similar effects to those noted for backing disbondment
as well as distorting and redirecting the beam centre-line.
In addition to aging and environmental causes of alterations to the transducer
performance, handling can also cause changes to occur. A sharp jolt from
dropping a probe may result in similar disbond problems. With the availability
of different pulse shapes it may be possible to deteriorate polarization in an
element. A negative going pulse voltage is normally applied to probes but
polymer elements tend to perform better with a positive going pulse. Polymer
probes will show no deterioration if pulsed with negative going spikes but
ceramic elements may experience depolarization over extended periods of time.
Depolarization will reduce sensitivity and the increased gain required will
manifest itself in a lower s/n ratio.
Sources of variation in transducer performance are many. Establishing a
baseline with tolerances and then monitoring for changes in any of the
parameters checked will help to ensure reliability of test results.
Material Variations
When considering the variables of the test material that affect test results we
can group them into three areas of concern:
1. entry surface
2. part size and geometry
3. internal structure.
Entry surface variables include:
4. surface roughness
5. surface coatings
6. couplant condition.
Surface Roughness

Surface roughness will have several possible effects on the inspection of a test
piece. In contact testing roughness on a gross scale results from: weld spatter,

plate scale, dirt (sand) and rough cast surfaces from sand casting. These
irregularities will cause some points of contact to push away the couplant and
force it into the lower areas around the probe. If the couplant is not sufficiently
viscous it will drain away quickly and fail to couple the probe to the test piece.
See Figure 8-3.
Figure 8-3

In addition to reduced coupling, which will reduce signal amplitudes, the rough
surface increases the rate of wear on the probe. On an otherwise smooth surface
isolated protrusions such as weld spatter can hinder or stop probe motion or in
the case of mechanized systems there may be sufficient force to move the probe
past the obstruction but this could result in damaging the probe by either
tearing it from its mounting or severely scoring the plastic wedge. When the
dirt on the test piece is very fine (similar to a flour texture) coupling can be
prevented due to surface tension preventing the liquid couplant penetrating to
the metal. Unless a transfer value has been established between test piece and
calibration piece, this could go undetected.
In addition to affecting coupling, surface roughness tends to reduce signal
amplitude by scattering and focusing the beam. This applies to both contact and
immersion testing.
Whether uniform or irregular, a rough surface has the potential to present a
scattering effect at an interface where a beam impinges. The degree of
scattering is based on the ratio of roughness to wavelength. When roughness is
less than about 1/10 a wavelength, scatter will be negligible. To reduce signal
losses due to scattering an operator can select a lower frequency probe. With a
wavelength of 0.37mm in water for a 4MHz probe, signal loss due to scatter
can occur for irregularities as small as about 0.04mm. In addition to signal
reduction another effect of surface irregularities is to redirect and mode convert
some energy which when returned to the probe can be the source of spurious
signals. In contact testing false indications from standing waves resulting from
scatter on rough surfaces will normally have short soundpaths. They can be
eliminated as true flaws by failing to locate any trace of indication from the full
skip or from the opposite side.
Unless done properly, removal of surface roughness by mechanical means can
result in further scattering problems. Small curved gouges left by a grinding
wheel used to remove spatter or machining grooves can form small lenses. The
affect of grinding can be unpredictable. Some of the lensing may concentrate

the beam thereby increasing signal amplitude, or, the lens effect may be a defocusing of the beam, again resulting in lower than expected signal amplitudes.
Uniform surface preparation by sand or shot blasting usually provides a good
surface for ultrasonic testing. Removal of excess metal by a hand held grinding
wheel is commonly used on weld caps and roots. When a pipe weld has had its
root ground flush and inspection can only be performed from the outside
diameter, quality of grinding can result in unnecessary repair calls if grinding
has been along the weld axis. The small grooves made by the grinding wheel
run parallel to the root edge and are easily confused with lack of fusion, missed
edge or undercut defects.
Surface Coatings

Surface coatings are added to protect a surface from corrosion or to enhance its
appearance. Thin films, such as oxide layers, anodizing layers or electroplated
finishes, and the slightly thicker coatings of paint or lacquer are usually well
bonded to the surface. Quality of bond may be compared to the uncoated
reference block by a simple transfer value. Even a slight loss due to the coating
may be preferable to removing the coating and trying to inspect on the rough
surface it hides.
When thickness testing is done on a painted surface the paint thickness can add
error to the reading. For example:
A nominal 25mm steel plate has a cellulose paint coating of 0.5mm.
Vsteel = 5980m/s, V paint = 2600m/s. If a digital thickness meter is
calibrated on a 25mm thick piece of the steel plate without the paint
coating and then placed on the painted surface an error will occur. The
coating is sufficiently thin that its interface with the metal will occur in
the dead zone but the duration of time spent in the paint is added to the
travel time to the opposite wall of the plate. If the true plate thickness at
the point of measurement is 25.16mm and the paint coating is 0.5mm
thick, the time in the paint is 0.5 ( 2.6 x 10 6 = 0.19s. 0.19 microseconds
is equivalent to 1.15mm in steel. The reading on the digital meter would
combine the two thickness as though all travel was in steel. This results
in 25.16 + 1.15 = 26.31mm as the indicated thickness. This problem can
be overcome by using an A-scan display and measuring the interval
between the first and second echo instead of the main bang and first
echo. This is shown in Figure 8-4.
Figure 8-4

Couplant Condition

Both contact and immersion methods utilize intervening media to transfer

sound from the probe into the test piece and back to the receiver. With
immersion methods it is accomplished by a single fluid medium. In contact
testing there are nearly always at least two intervening media; the delayline or
protective face and the thin film of coupling fluid or grease. Attenuation and
acoustic velocity are the two main properties that dictate the performance of a
couplant. Attenuation affects amplitude of the signal and velocity will
determine both transit time and refracted angles.
But attenuation and velocity of couplants are not independent properties. Each
is a function of other parameters. Unless these parameters are controlled or in
some way compensated for, gross variations from the reference value or
calibration conditions can result.
Attenuation of couplants varies with material composition as would be
expected. Published attenuation values are available for many materials as
indicated in the table below. Attenuation coefficients are often quoted in nepers
which allow for frequency dependence. 1 Np = 8.686 x f 2 = dB/cm. Table 8-1
indicates attenuation of some common liquids.
Table 8-1
silicon oil
castor oil
ethylene glycol

Attenuation (Np x 10-15)


In more practical terms, for water, this would mean an attenuation of about 5
dB per metre. Since such long water path lengths are not normally used the
0.005 dB/mm attenuation is considered negligible. But for the heavier oils
attenuations 200 to 500 times greater can have significant effects on signal
amplitude and frequency content. For the fixed delaylines or wedge materials
used in contact testing attenuation variations can be far more pronounced and
variation between manufacturers can cause considerable response differences.
For example the plastics listed in table 8-2 are typical wedge materials selected
by manufacturers and based on velocity for refraction purposes, but attenuation
differences would result in noticeable amplitude response variation and

frequency content of transmitted waveforms. Since the operator rarely knows

what wedge material a manufacturer has used, little can be done to correct for
potential variations in periodic inspections where results of tests taken with one
or more years separation are compared.
Table 8-2
lexan (poly

Attenuation dB/cm Acoustic

@ 5 MHz
6.4 to 12.4

2.75 to 2.61



1.8 to 3.6
2.8 to 16

2.32 to 2.48
2.6 to 2.77

Attenuation is not a material constant. Under changes in conditions it can

change. For example attenuation in water is inversely proportional to both
temperature and pressure.
At standard pressure and temperature (1 atmosphere and 20C) attenuation in
water is 25.3 x 10-15 Np. When temperature is 0C and water still liquid
attenuation is 56.9 x 10-15 Np and at 40 it is 14.6 x 10-15 Np. At 1000
atmospheres attenuation drops to 12.7 x 10-15 Np and increases to 18.5 x 1015
Np in a vacuum (zero atmospheres) when the temperature is held at 30C.
Attenuation of couplants need rarely be considered when calibration and test
conditions are the same couplant material, temperature and pressure. However,
mechanical actions can add to variations in attenuation under some conditions
e.g. liquid soap is often used in contact testing. Under static conditions it
provides reasonable coupling, ease of probe movement and clean hands. When
a part is inspected with more rapid probe motion than may be used for static
calibration it is possible to lather the soap. As bubble density builds in the
couplant attenuation will increase.
Far more pronounced on test results are the affects of velocity changes. As with
attenuation of couplants, velocity is normally considered fixed for a given
material. Providing all parameters affecting velocity are controlled the
assumption is valid but subtle changes in parameters can have significant

Just as plastic compositions change in velocity so too does water. Pure water at
20C and 1 atmosphere pressure has a velocity of 1480m/s. But water is not
normally pure. As salinity increases as in sea water, acoustic velocity increases.
At 20C in sea water with a 3% salinity the acoustic velocity increases to about
1515m/s. For work done on off-shore structures, where immersion work would
occur using the surrounding sea water, any calibrations done on-board ship
must use water of the same salinity as will occur at the depth of test or probe
placement and refracted angle will be mis-calculated. As well, acoustic velocity
increases with pressure in water so with increasing water depth velocity also
rises. This is relatively insignificant but may be corrected for by the equation.
Vd = Vo + (d x 0.018)
where Vd = acoustic velocity at depth d
d = depth in meters
Vo = acoustic velocity at the surface.
For our example of a 3% salinity the correction for work at 50m would be 1515
+ (50 x 0.018) or 1515.9 m/s.
Temperature is undoubtedly the most significant parameter affecting acoustic
velocity. As such, its control or knowledge of its change is essential to ensure
inspection accuracy. Change in acoustic velocity with change in material
temperature is termed acoustic temperature dependence. Strangely, temperature
dependence is not always the same sign, i.e. increasing material temperature
will increase acoustic velocity in some materials and decrease it in others.
Table 8-3 illustrates some of the variations in temperature dependence (


t) for some materials.

Table 8-3
(V /

Acoustic Velocity


caster oil
ethylene glycol




water (pure)
water (sea)



polymethyl methacrylate 2690
polyvinyl chloride


By comparison most metals have a temperature dependence of between -0.5 to

-5.0 m/s/C depending on mode and axis of propagation.
When dimension verification is accomplished by determining travel time in a
coupling liquid, as in Figure 5-20, variation in temperature could easily affect


Table 8 - 3a:
Velocity change with Temperature


accuracy. Even more challenging is correcting for change over a period of time. e.g.
temperature at the start of the test is 20C, but over a half hour period it increased to
35C. For water this increases the acoustic velocity to 1520 m/s, it does not change
linearly with temperature (see Table 8 - 3a).
When applied to angle beam testing the problems become more obvious. Snell's Law
allows us to predict refracted angles in a material based on knowing the acoustic
velocities involved and the incident angle. The ratio of the velocities determines the
degree of refraction. When a standard contact testing wedge is purchased it is marked
with the nominal refracted angle it will produce in a steel with shear velocity assumed
to be 3250 m/s. A plastic wedge having an acoustic velocity of 2600 m/s is machined
at 43.9 to produce a nominal 70 refracted beam in steel. This assumes 20C
operating temperature. If a test piece is inspected that is warm to the touch (~40C)
the velocity of both steel and plastic will be less than assumed. If the plastic changes
by -4.0 m/s /C, and steel by about -2 m/s C the velocities to use would be 2312 for
the plastic and 3210 for the steel. The actual refracted angle would be closer to 74.

Figure 8-5 illustrates the effect of temperature on refracted angles in steel for three
common fixed wedge angles.

Figure 8-5

Incident angles indicated in the legend in Figure 8-5 are those to produce
nominal 45, 60 and 70 refracted angles under standard conditions. The
plastic calculated for is UVA II with an acoustic velocity of 2760 m/s. The
affect on angulated longitudinal waves is even more pronounced, this due to the
greater ratio difference in velocities between the plastic and steel in
compressional mode.
Part Size and Geometry

Test results may vary if the test piece differs from the calibration or reference
piece. In this way both shape and size will contribute to potential variation in
test results. Particular interest in this variable exists for contact testing on
curved surfaces. When a flat probe is used on a convex curved surface only a
portion of the probe makes contact. This will reduce the amount of sound that
can be transferred to and from the test piece. As a result sensitivity compared to
coupling to a flat piece is reduced. The proportion of sound reduction compared
to a flat piece is a function of the curvature of the part, the crystal diameter and
the coupling ability of the couplant via its viscosity.
Some sources also consider the relative hardness of the probe face with a
greater coupling or contouring available from softer material such as plastics
and virtually no contouring available.
To avoid machining calibration blocks for every possible radius and surface
condition compensation is made by adding gain to the receiver. The amount of
compensating gain can be determined by a simple transfer value or it can be
calculated using formulae and charts. Examples of the charts used for convex
curvature compensation are found in Figures 8-6 and 8-7. These are from
Australian Standard 2207 - Methods For The Ultrasonic Testing of Fusion
Welded Joints in Steel. Two conditions are considered. In the first figure a
nomogram is used to correct for losses when the probe contact is made on the
curved surface. The test part radius is located on the left-hand scale and a line
made through the appropriate probes diameter on the middle scale. The point
on the right-hand scale this line intersects is the amount of gain to add as a
correction factor.

In the second figure the probe makes contact on a flat surface but the beam
reflects off a convex curve thereby redirecting portions of the beam away and
reducing the maximum possible reflected energy. The graph used does not
consider probe diameter, instead, ratio of surface curvature to metal path
thickness is used. moving vertically up from the ratio axis (horizontal axis) at
the appropriate ratio for your work piece, the point on the vertical axis where
the curve is intersected gives the necessary correction factor.

Figure 8-6

Figure 8-7

Other codes and specifications may use different equations or graphs but the
intent is the same.
Attempts to compensate by simply adding gain may not be adequate.
Improvement is had by contouring the plastic wedge to the test piece. However,
since the probe can no longer be calibrated on a flat reference piece this makes
machining of a reference piece of the exact same geometry a necessity. For
very small parts even this may prove unsatisfactory due to the production of
surface waves and other spurious signals associated with large time differences
of the beam in the wedge or delayline. If contouring probes proves too noisy
then immersion methods or even another NDT method may have to be
Geometry is not only a consideration as a potential source of signal variation
but also of feasibility. Consideration must be given to beam shape when
interaction with a boundary occurs. Formation of unwanted surface waves and
mode converted waves will result due to finite extents of a beam. The single ray
drawn from the probe exit point at the refracted angle is merely a convenient
presentation of the principle of the test. In reality portions of the beam will
impinge at greater and lesser angles due to divergence or side lobes (in the near

Figure 8-8

A beam impinging on a curved surface intended to generate a high refracted angle in

the test piece is most prone to surface wave generation. See Figure 8-8.
This occurs more often for curved surfaces than for flat surfaces because not only
does the beam divergence increase the incident angle but the point of incidence on a
curved surface is always receding so further increase in incident angle results.

Curved surfaces make plotting more difficult than the simple trigonometry for
flat surfaces. Compare similar conditions for a 45 beam in flat and curved
plate. Using a thickness of 20mm the signal obtained at 35mm for an inspection
of a 100mm radius pipe occurs 19.2 mm from the OD test surface and 31.7mm
along the test surface from the exit point to the point over the indication. On a
flat piece this would indicate an indication 15.2mm down and 24.8mm from the
exit point. See Figure 8-9.

Figure 8-9

Geometry can also limit inspections. Again, concentric geometries are a

common problem in this regard. A critical ID/OD ratio exists that will not allow
an angle beam from the OD to intersect with the ID. This is shown in Figure 810.

Figure 8-10

This critical angle occurs when the ray representing the centre of beam is
tangential to the inside surface of the pipe. Two situations may exist; either the
angle is fixed (as in contact testing) and the critical ratio is to be determined or
the ratio of wall thickness to the OD is known and the maximum angle that can
be used is sought.
The equation relating wall thickness t, pipe outside diameter D and refracted
can be written



t is the maximum thickness for which the beam centre will still glance off the
The other parameter being sought, maximum angle, would use the following




Figure 8-11 plots the t/D ratio that satisfies the above equation. When the
thickness increases to one half the diameter this is the same as a solid cylinder
and no ID exists to bounce off.
Figure 8-11

Although the equations and graph indicate that high angles of refraction may be
used to ensure both ID and OD are seen, the actual size of the pipe will limit
the practical maximum angle due to beam width and the resultant surface
waves that occur. For tubular products where wall thickness approaches the
wavelength the wall is flooded with sound and plate waves discussed in
Chapter 5 result.
Some authors have indicated that contact pipe inspection in the circumferential
direction can be accomplished by simply moving the probe over the pipe
surface by a distance equal to one full skip. The principle involved is shown in
Figure 8-12.

Figure 8-12

This draws well for the centre of beam ray but when applied to real conditions
this can supply little more than a go/no-go inspection. Beam spread, mode
conversions and attenuation will not permit accurate locating of any defects
occurring several skips away. In fact attenuation will probably limit
detectability of defects by this method to pipes under 10-20cm diameter. Such a
technique may be useful when access is limited to only half of the
circumference. The presence (but not necessarily the location) of a flaw may be
detected by first scanning in one direction to the obstruction then the other, as
in Figure 8-13.

Figure 8-13

Internal Structure

The final aspect of material variations affecting test results is the structure of
material under test. Material parameters are a function of makeup and
environmental conditions. Makeup is determined by design and processing.
Whether the material under test is steel, aluminium or fibre-composite,
variations can occur by design. Proportion of resin to fibre will vary in
composites and metals may have many alloying variations. In addition, metal
grain structure can be varied by alloy, heat treatment and working. All these
factors will provide differences in the results of ultrasonic tests manifested as
variations in velocity or attenuation. Also, just as temperature and pressures
were noted to change velocity and attenuation in couplants so too will the
material under test be similarly affected by these externally controlled
In cooling molten metals, solidification begins at many sites throughout the
melt. At each site the growth pattern is determined by the surrounding liquid
material and the surrounding temperature gradients. Crystals form as growth
progresses. Eventually the crystals' growth is halted when another crystal is
encountered and all the liquid has been consumed. Although we generally
consider the metal to be homogeneous, on a microscopic scale the boundaries
formed by the edges of the grains make it in-homogenous. For an ultrasonic
wave each crystal presents a different acoustic impedance depending on
orientation and degree of inter grain bonding. As well, there may be pores, gaps
and non-metallic inclusions. All these factors will cause scattering.
Just as with surface roughness, scatter will be a function of wavelength.
Krautkramer points out that for grain sizes up to about 1/100th of a wavelength
scatter can be considered negligible. However, as grain size increases beyond
that, it can become a significant factor adding to decreasing signal amplitudes.
As grain sizes increase to greater than 1/10th the wavelength, inspection may
not be possible by ultrasonics. Austenitic stainless steels are typical of metals
with large grain structures. In the production of austenitic steels manufacturers
often attempt to control or limit grain size. This is done by :
a) introducing small amounts of grain refining elements
b) limiting the temperature the steel is heated to
c) by hot working the steel to break up the austenite grains.
In spite of these effects the stainless steel product is not always consistent in its
grain structure. When testing stainless steel forgings, it is possible to have areas
of higher attenuation than others. In cases such as this it will require observant
operators to recognize the increase in grass level.
Velocity changes with material and condition as well. Contact angle wedges are

normally made for steel so the refracted angle indicated on the wedge assumes
it will be used on a steel with a longitudinal velocity of about 5900m/s and a
shear wave velocity of about 3250m/s. When the same wedge is used on
aluminium plate with longitudinal velocity 6320 m/s and shear at 3100 m/s the
'nominal' refracted angle indicated will not indicate the true angle.
But one need not move to a completely different metal to illustrate velocity
changes. Rolled plate for pipeline construction shows variations of 8-10% in
shear wave velocities. This is attributed to rolling and heat treat differences and
the resulting differences in grain elongation and orientation. Even alloys of
steel show marked variation in acoustic velocity; 4340 steel has a shear velocity
of 3240 m/s while in 4150 steel it is 2770 m/s, a difference of nearly 17%.
These variations point out the importance of material specific calibration
Finally, as with couplants, acoustic velocity of a test material varies with
temperature. Most published values will indicate velocities determined at 20C.
For work at much higher or lower temperatures corrections will need to be
made. This will require the temperature dependence for the material to be
established and this will have to be in addition to similar corrections made for
couplant changes.
Defect Variation
The fourth major factor affecting test results is the defect or reflecting surface
of interest. In evaluating a signal an operator will use three items; soundpath,
probe position and amplitude. The change in relationship of these three aspects
is called "echo dynamics". Therefore, investigating the echo dynamics of a flaw
allows the operator to build up an image (mental in manual scanning and
possibly visual if automated) of the shape of the flaw. Four factors are
significant in the response obtained from a defect;
1. size and geometry 2. location with respect to adjacent surfaces 3. orientation
of the major axis 4. type of discontinuity and conditions of reflection.
Defect Size and Geometry

Both defect size and defect shape have a significant affect on signal amplitude.
Principles of the AVG system showed how signal amplitude is a function of the
ratio of reflector area to element area. Generally small defects provide smaller
amplitude signals than larger flaws. However, an irregular flaw shape may

mean not all of the flaw reflects the sound back to the receiver. Irregular facets
of a crack or close proximity of pores in clusters of porosity can result in
sufficient losses due to scatter that very small signals are received in spite of
the fact that a large volume of metal is missing; i.e. signal amplitude is no
guarantee of defect size. Defect sizing using the AVG method can result in
errors of 3:1 to 6:1. With the SAFT method sizing accuracy can be almost
100% (published by IZFP).
Location with Respect to Adjacent Surfaces

Defect position with respect to adjacent surfaces presents several causes of

variable results. Simple attenuation accounts for reduced signal amplitude by
increasing the soundpath (in the far zone) to the flaw. If the flaw is close to
another reflecting surface confusing signals may result or signals may be lost.
Figure 8-14 shows how a mode converted signal may arise due to a reflection
off a planar flaw near a flat surface.
Mode converted wave off defect at 65 strikes radius providing
large amplitude signal that when plotted gives a virtual location of a
defect different from its actual position
Figure 8-14

If the adjacent surface in 8-14 had been flat the reflected shear and mode
converted signals would both have been undetected. Such signals produced by
mode conversion can be differentiated from flaws by using a couplant wetted
finger to rub the test surface. The compressional mode is noticeably damped.
Mode converted longitudinal and re-directed shear waves can be seen when
drawing distance amplitude correction curves on some calibration blocks. The
typical ASME calibration block uses a side drilled hole at quarter thickness
(1/4t). The convex radius of the hole allows both situations to occur (see Figure

Figure 8-15

Orientation of Major Axis

When the major axis of a defect is not exactly perpendicular to the beam
reflection causes the returned signal to be directed away from the simple return
path back to the transmitter. For small angles this will not cause a total loss of

signal as beam dimensions are sufficient that the off-centre portions can still be
detected by the probe. Even small angles off normal(e.g. +/-5) can result in
significant signal reductions. When expected flaws are planar and no
convenient pulse-echo angle can be arranged to ensure the beam will strike the
flaw at right-angles tandem probe arrangements are preferred.
Type of Discontinuity and Conditions of Reflection

To some extent this has been addressed by the other aspects. Defect size and
geometry is usually determined by its type; e.g. porosity is usually small and
spherical, slag is irregular in shape and size, and non-fusion is usually planar.
However, reflectivity of defects is not a simple matter of incident angle. For
very fine porosity there may be no noticeable back reflected signal but the
scatter such a dispersive defect would cause would reduce the transmitted
Maximum reflection occurs off a free boundary. This is effectively the situation
for non-fusion and cracks where the void is air. However, when a dissimilar
material fills the void, as would be the case in a slag inclusion or tungsten
inclusions in a TIG weld or carbide inclusions in castings or forgings, part of
the sound incident on the boundary is transmitted. This will reduce the reflected
signal. Added to the loss due to transmission into the next medium is the
associated losses due to the reflection at any angle other than 0. Reflection and
transmission coefficients discussed earlier show how quickly amplitudes can
change due to boundary material differences and incident angles.
Finally, ambient conditions of pressure can have profound effects on a signal
amplitude. Studies have shown a signal from a surface breaking crack to be
reduced by 20dB when the cracked sample was placed in compression. This
effectively "closed the gap".
/DB:Article /DT:tutor /AU:Ginzel_E_A /IN:MRI /CN:CA /CT:UT /ED:1999-06