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When flaw sizing one must consider attenuation

Some Causes of Attenuation
Attenuation of sound occurs in all materials and can be influenced in a significant
way by several factors. The main factors which affect it are:1. Grain size and orientation.
and 2. The presence of small discontinuities such as
micro-shrinkage, flake or spheroidal graphite which
are able to scatter the energy.
Crystalline structures such as those in metals and alloys can undergo extensive
modifications for example by heat treatment, which produces wide variations in
We have already described how the minimum size of defect which can be detected is
directly related to the wavelength b used thus as the wavelength decreases small
discontinuities become increasingly effective in scattering and attenuating the sound
energy. We therefore find that greater penetration in a medium will be achieved with
lower rather than higher frequency probes.
Materials such as cast irons often contain free carbon in the form of graphite flakes
or spheroids which act effectively as small flaws and cause extensive scattering and
absorption. In such materials penetration is severely restricted, often to a few
centimetres even at low test frequencies.
Grain size also has a significant effect on attenuation and the large grain boundaries
associated with large grains act as effective energy scatterers.
Some austenitic steels, large steel castings, cast copper etc. are prone to have large
grain sizes and can prove very difficult to examine with ultrasonic methods.
Fortunately, in many instances, it is possible to refine grain size by a suitable heat
treatment and make the component more amenable to ultrasonic inspection.
Grain refining can also be achieved during hot working by rolling or forging and thus
it can be the case that a product such as an ingot is impossible to test ultrasonically,
but when cogged to bloom it can be tested with difficulty yet when finally rolled to
billet or bar it can be easily examined.

12.2 Measurement of Attenuation (Apparent)

A simple method can be employed to assess attenuation within a medium provided

that a pulse echo technique is employed, several backwall reflections can be
achieved and the equipment includes an attenuator calibrated in the dB scale.
The probe is placed on a known thickness of the material and the time base and
sensitivity adjusted to display several successive backwall echoes.
Using the calibrated attenuator the third of fourth backwall echo amplitude is set to a
fixed height on the screen. The attenuator reading is noted. The attenuator is then
adjusted so that the backwall echo following the reference one is raised to the same
fixed height. The new reading is noted. The difference between the readings gives
the apparent attenuation for a known thickness of material. The apparent
attenuation per unit length can be determined. This value includes the natural loss
due to distance and if the true attenuation is required due allowance must be made
for distance.
There are instances where ultrasonic tests are made purely as a means of locating
certain types of defect. This is often the case with pipe defects or hydrogen cracking
and in these instances it is sufficient for the operator merely to establish whether
such defects exist and how much materia is affected.
In many instances however location is not sufficient and an operator will be required
to make and report an assessment of the size of a flaw in order that the fitness of the
material to satisfy customer requirements can be assessed.
There are several methods which may be used, the one selected will depend on the
size of the flaw, i.e., whether it is larger or significantly smaller than the probe being
used, the nature of the flaw, i.e., whether it is a lamination or porosity but also on the
requirements of any testing specification which is imposed by the customer.
The methods may be listed as follows:

The backwall method.

The 6dB drop method.
The 20dB drop method.
Use of reference blocks.
The D.G.S. Method.
The Maximum Amplitude Technique.

12.1 The Backwall Method

This is a simple method which can be used to provide a rough assessment of flaw
size in which the ratio of the flaw echo amplitude to the backwall echo amplitude is

It cannot be used to assess flaws which are larger than the cross-section of the
ultrasonic beam because there will be total extinction of the backwall echo. Nor is it
suitable for assessing very small flaws from which the ratio of flaw to backwall echo
would be very small. The method can be adapted to take some account of the
attenuating effect of depth by reference to a predetermined beam profile but this is
not normally done.
Despite these limitations the method is widely used to assess flaws as in the case of
porosity levels in semi products such as blooms intended for forging applications.
The method is applied by first locating the flaw and optimising the probe position to
give the maximum flaw echo. The detector sensitivity is then adjusted to bring the
back wall echo to a predetermined level, usually 80% or 100% of the full screen
height. The ratio of the flaw echo amplitude to the backwall echo amplitude is
determined as shown in Fig. 1 (a).
relies on

Figure 1
component under test having a plane back surface lying parallel to the entry surface
to produce a backwall echo. It can be undertaken with longitudinal or shear wave
probes, although with most component shapes the absence of a back wall echo from
shear wave probes makes it more suited for use with longitudinal wave probes.
The 6dB Drop Method

This is a relatively simple method which can be used to delineate a large flaw such
as a lamination or cavity. It is best undertaken using a detector equipped with a
calibrated attenuator.
The method is based on the fact that a 50% drop in the energy received by a probe
is equivalent to a 6dB drop in sensitivity. Imagine a lamination which is larger than
the beam width. When the probe is located fully over the flaw as in Fig. 2 (a) then
the CRT display shows only an echo from the flaw.

Figure 2
As the probe is moved over the edge of the flaw some of the energy travels past the
flaw to the backwall. The flaw echo height falls and a backwall echo rises. A position
is achieved where half the energy is reflected from the flaw and half from the
backwall. At this position shown in 2 (b) the probe centre should coincide with the
edge of the defect. This position can be achieved in one of two ways by observation
of the CRT display.
In the first procedure the probe is positioned fully over the flaw and the flaw echo
height adjusted to a selected height i.e., 50% or 80% of full screen deflection. Using
the calibrated attenuator the sensitivity is increased by 6dB. The probe is then
moved off the defect until the flaw echo falls to the previously selected height. The
probe centre is then over the edge of the defect.
In the second procedure the flaw echo height is set initially to 80% of the full screen
deflection. The probe is then moved off the defect until the flaw echo falls to 40% of
the full screen deflection.

The second procedure is useful when a calibrated attenuator is not available, but in
order to achieve good accuracy the amplifier must be linear over the screen
deflection range used.
12.3.3 The 20dB Drop Method
This method is similar to that described in 12 3.2 And can be used to delineate large
The method is based on the suggestion that as the probe is moved off the defect to a
position where a 20dB drop occurs in the flaw echo amplitude then the edge of the
probe is coincident with the edge of the defect, as shown in Fig. 3.
The method is applied by Initially
locating the probe fully over the defect
(at a). The sensitivity is Adjusted such
that the flaw echo amplitude is at a
preselected height on the CRT screen,
eg., 50%. The sensitivity is increased by
20dB using the calibrated attenuator
and the probe is then moved off the
defect to a position (b) at which the flaw
echo returns to the preselected height
on the
CRT. The
trailing edge of the probe is then
considered to be coincide with the edge
the defect.
When using this method it is preferable to check the probe beam profile prior to
testing and confine the probes used to those with the large diameter and higher
frequencies to reduce beam spread.
The use of the 6dB and 20dB methods is not restricted to flaw sizes greater than the
probe diameter but can be used to assess smaller defects provided there is a
measurable probe movement but as defect size decreases the inaccuracy becomes
12.4 Methods using Reference Blocks
The use of reference blocks containing artificial reflectors to provide comparisons for
natural flaws is becoming more widespread. There are certain advantages in using
such blocks as they can be manufactured from material similar in composition, heat
treatment, thickness and surface condition to that of the components to be tested.
Artificial flaws can be introduced into these blocks as and where required to simulate
the size of natural defects which would be harmful in the component under test.

They will normally take the form of drilled holes, parallel or normal to the beam axis.
Those normal to the beam axis will most frequently have flat ends.
A block is usually prepared with the artificial reflectors located at different depth
levels in order that a test sensitivity can be set and a distance amplitude curse
(D.A.C.) established to calibrate the equipment for attenuation losses in the material
and the characteristics of the probe being used.
This is not strictly a true defect sizing method but a method of excluding
unacceptable defect sizes.
Alternatively the block may be prepared with holes of different diameters and depths
to allow a family of D.A.C. to be established. An estimate of defect sizes can then be
12.5 The AVG Method (D.G.S. Method)
This is a universally established method of describing the response of natural flaws
in terms of the size of equivalent circular reflectors.
Although it is seldom possible to describe the true size of a natural flaw because of
the several unknown variables which affect its response this method has the
advantage of being able to provide reproducible results amongst different operators
and therefore creates confidence and credibility in the test.
The basis of the method is the A.V.G. diagram as illustrated in Fig. 4 which shows
graphically the dependence on distance of the echo amplitudes from a series of
perfectly orientated circular reflectors in an attenuation free medium.
A - the reduced distance to the flaw is related to V - the gain and G - the reduced
flaw dimension so that the diagram can be applied to various probes having different

Figure 4


The unit for measuring the ratio of sound intensities is the bel. In practice this unit is
too large so it is divided by 10 to give the decibel. The bel is the logarithm of the ratio
of two intensities, so a decibel is a tenth of the logarithm. The difference between
two sound intensities is the gain measured in dB.

If intensity I1 is compared to intensity I2

GAIN = log I1 Bels
= 10 log I1 dB
As sound intensity is proportional to the square of the reflector area.
GAIN = 10 log (Area 1)2 dB
(Area 2)2
= 20 Iog (Area 1)2 dB
(Area 2)2
GAIN = 40 Db



Equivalent Flat Bottomed Hole (FBH) Method

This method is used where defects are smaller than beam diameter. If the amplitude
of a defect signal is compared with the amplitude of an equivalent FBH the formula
(see Para 3) can be used to estimate the size of the defect. To give accurate results
the following conditions of defect and reference FBH must apply:
a. The reflectors must be at the same range.
b. The surface finish of the reflectors must be the same.
c. The reflectors must be identically orientated with respect

to the probe.

d. Material characteristic impedance must be the same.

e. Reflector area must be small compared to the cross section
ultrasonic beam.

of the

f. Probe coupling should be uniform.

It is most unlikely that all of these conditions will apply when comparing, for
example, an inclusion in a forging with a FBH in a reference block, so the method is
only an approximate one. In practice forgings are scanned in a water immersion
tank and inclusions are compared with similar sized FBHs in a set of calibrated
reference blocks.
Standard FBH Reference Blocks
ASTM give details of a set of reference blocks for use in immersion testing of
forgings. These blocks have FBHs of 3/64", 8/64"> an diameter at ranges of 1/4" to
7" from the top surface of the block.

Find the difference in gain between 3/64" and 5/64" Dia FBH
GAIN = 40 log D1 dB

= 40 log 5 dB
= 9dB approx

CHAPTER #______
Tutor Assessed Assignment

Personal Number_____12______
Number of Pages____________
Answer the questions on the adjoining
pages then,
Return this assignment to TSC&A.


Large grains in a metallic test specimen usually result in:

a) Decrease or loss of back surface reflection
b) Large "hash" or noise indications
c) Decrease in penetration
d) All of the above


The total energy losses occurring in all materials is called:

a) Attenuation
b) Scatter
c) Beam spread
d) Interface


When conducting a contact ultrasonic test, the "hash" or

irregular signals that appear in the CRT display of the
area being inspected could be caused by:
a) Fine grains in the structure
b) Dirt in the couplant
c) Coarse grains in the structure
d) A thick, but tapered, back surface

The scattering of the rays of an ultrasonic beam due to reflection
highly irregular surface is called:


a) Angulation
b) Dispersion
c) Refraction
d) Rarefaction
In general, which of the following modes of vibration would
greatest penetrating power in coarse grained material
if the frequency of the waves are the same?


a) Longitudinal
b) Shear
c) Transverse
d) All of the above waves would have the same penetrating
Which of the following frequencies would probably result in
ultrasonic attenuation losses?
a) 1.0 MHZ




b) 2.25 MHZ
c) 10 MHZ
d) 25 MHZ
When inspecting a rolled or forged surface with a thin scale
that is generally tightly adhering to the part, what is
before testing the part?
a) Clean the surface of loose scale
b) Have all scale removed
c) Rough machine the surface
d) Caustic etch the surface
Which ultrasonic test frequency would probably provide the
penetration in a 12 inch thick specimen of coarse
grained steel?
a) 2.25 MHZ
b) 1 MHZ
c) 5 MHZ
d) 10 MHZ

Inspection of castings is often impractical because of:

a) Extremely small grain structure
b) Coarse grain structure
c) Uniform flow lines
d) Uniform velocity of sound


Heat conduction, viscous friction, elastic hysteresis, and

scattering are four different mechanisms which lead to:
a) Attenuation
b) Refraction
c) Beam spreading
d) Saturation