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Guidelines for Automated Ultrasonic Inspection

Austenitic Welds
Michael Moles and Sebastien Rigault
Austenitic welds present major inspection problems due to their large grain
structure. Radiography does not work well, so ultrasonics is the main choice for
inspecting austenitic welds, LNG tank welds, cladding and centrifugally-cast
stainless steel pipe. For ultrasonics, the large austenitic grains cause beam
skewing, splitting and attenuation. This paper will review the R&D results on
austenitics (including stainless steel welds, cladding, dissimilar metal welds, 9%
nickel LNG welds, and centrifugally-cast stainless pipe). The R&D results, and
practical experience, show that longitudinal waves are significantly less affected
by the large austenitic grains than shear waves, and are generally used.
However, ultrasonic inspections are further complicated by mode conversion
(from longitudinal to shear waves) on reflecting surfaces, so only half skip
procedures are practical. There is a hierarchy of approaches that can be used for
developing inspection techniques, starting with shear waves and ending with dual
matrix phased array probes. Phased array approaches are the "high end" of the
inspection process, and are now competitive economically and technically.
Typical techniques use phased array S-scans for multiple coverage, often with
multiple passes. The actual inspection approach will depend on the material
thickness, amount of weld/clad material, defects to be detected, structural
requirements, rejectable defect size, time available, budget - and above all, on
the grain size of the weld or cladding. The paper will give some specific
recommendations on ultrasonic inspection strategies. In addition, the paper will
make recommendations to improve inspectability.

Cladding, dissimilar metal welds, austenitics all present similar ultrasonic
inspection problems due to beam steering, splitting, refraction and absorption.
Most of the published ultrasonic inspection work has been performed within the
nuclear industry, as expected. Nuclear was the first industry to establish the
source of problems from cast stainless steel pipes (specifically, large, oriented
grains), and the first to model and analyze it. In general, they have shown that

Shorter ultrasonic wavelengths but slightly larger than the grain size work best;
Longitudinal waves penetrate better than shear waves;
SH waves work (but EMAT devices have low signal-to-noise resolution); and
Dual (or twin) probes are the best ways to inspect. (Dual probes pulse on one
side of the array, and receive on the other to minimize near-surface reflections).

this is not a surprise as any information is typically considered commercial and proprietary. unlike better controlled welding processes. procedure etc. To a large extent. dissimilar metal welds) as the problems are the same. large. position in the pipe. with associated inspection issues. so there are distinct limits to the application. though actual results will . the large grains cloud the image. . Experimental trials showed here that the probability of defect detection was very low. which produces a quasi-random body-centered cubic structure. non-magnetic -Coarse-grain structure (up to several mm) -Anisotropic: physical characteristics of the material (sound velocity. Typical results are shown in Figure 1. these results apply to Inconel and related welds (cladding. Developments to Date Nuclear: The nuclear industry has performed a significant amount of R&D on austenitic materials. Cast stainless steel grains tend to be significantly larger than other austenitics. There is little published on pipeline cladding and dissimilar metal welds. on the other hand. beam skewing) depend on crystal orientation. the microstructure dictates inspectability for austenitics. including extensive modeling (1).is a different issue. which have huge grains. The petrochemical industry also a large user of CRA (Corrosion Resistant Alloys) . that refract. Another problem with CCSS is that the grain size varies with cooling rate. The problem can be summarized as follows: ferritic materials undergo a phase transformation on cooling. the problem with modeling is that the microstructure can vary. absorb and reflect the ultrasound. Radiography suffers from similar problems to ultrasonics. making defect detection very difficult. Austenitic welds.again .The nuclear industry has been primarily interested in cast stainless steels. oriented austenite grains.depend heavily on microstructure. In practice. attenuation. so the austenitic microstructure is: -γ-Fe (cubic face centered). do not transform. The main target was centrifugally cast stainless steels (CCSS)..

g. or even less. and fixed angles. The TRL PA probe uses a limited matrix to provide some focusing and some lateral beam steering to adjust the focal depth. This reduces sensitivity. In the early days. Probes typically consist of a dual array. More recently with the arrival of phased arrays. TRL (Transmit-Receive Longitudinal) arrays have been developed (4.Figure 1: Sampled model beam propagation in austenitic welds for different wave modes. 3). Figure 2: Schematic showing multiple pass scanning on weld. and a multiple S-scan approach is used (see Figure 2). The nuclear inspection techniques typically uses a low frequency L-wave transducer (or array). as per ASME. 5). Conventional probes suffer from the limitations of a limited focal zone. longitudinal wave raster inspections were used at fixed angles. More recently. A typical TRL PA . with two rows in each side and a variable number of elements defining the length. the nuclear interest in phased array S-scans has taken over. e. 1 MHz for walls up to 50 mm (2.

relative to linear arrays. Third. The TRL PA probe using multiple S-scans produces much better detection results than conventional UT or a single linear array (see Figure 4). and will be tailored to the application. the matrix TRL probe can provide variable depth focusing. The TRL PA probe also offers the best lateral sizing due to its controlled beam shaping. as shown schematically in Figure 3. Second. Fourth. the noise level near the surface is significantly reduced. However. The TRL PA probes offer significant advantages over single transducers: • • • • First.probe might consist of 4x15 elements in two pairs of rows. showing dual array and angled beams. phased arrays can perform S-scans at a variety of angles and positions. TRL-PA probes are difficult to calibrate and use. Figure 3: Schematic of TRL-PA probes. . the dead zone at the surface is minimized.

even though the basic physics is well defined. using a proprietary phased array calibration technique with the reflectors through the weld material. pipelines. As such. By and large. Figure 6 shows a clad plate with embedded notches for reference. LNG tanks and dissimilar metal welds. Notch above cladding is clearly visible (arrowed). Again. The notches are clearly visible with low noise level. Figure 5 shows an example of a dissimilar metal weld inspection. they tend to be relatively straightforward compared with castings. Cladding presents similar issues. these are more recent applications. Time-Of-Flight Diffraction does not offer good inspection capabilities as the grain size tends to be too large for satisfactory defect detection (6). Combined shear and longitudinal waves are used in this procedure. Figure 5: DSM weld inspection using phased array S-scan. . Reflections from the clad surface are clearly visible in Figure 5 (7). Almost all the applications are "proprietary". Petrochemical Applications: These include cladding. a combination of S-scans with either shear waves or longitudinal waves is recommended.Figure 4: TRL-PA probe results on 5 mm SDH on cast stainless steel In contrast. as beams cannot be skipped due to mode conversion. and tend to use more controlled grain sizes with automated welding procedures.

though typically the weld crowns would need to be removed. Figure 7: Strip chart technique for LNG tank inspection Courtesy of CB&I. which is similar to pipeline approaches (8). Figure 7 shows an example of a (patented) zone discrimination approach for LNG tanks.5. Again.Figure 6: Clad plate with notches of 0. Liquid Natural Gas tanks use 9%-nickel austenitic steels for low temperature toughness. . and 1. the same physics applies: L-waves work better than S-waves. 1.5 mm depth Being able to inspect through the weld is a major asset.

switch to phased arrays using the same wave mode. as shown in Figure 8. and they are generally known. AIT uses an E-scan approach with weld overlay for positioning. there is a simple approach that any capable AUT inspection company can follow. As for an inspection strategy. 1. Reduce the frequency from. the more recent petrochemical applications tend to be a lot more inspectable than the older. If noise levels permit. For example. 5. 7. a TRL-PA). Recommended Ultrasonic Inspection Strategy As hopefully is clear from this paper.g. In that respect. obtain a longitudinal wave wedge. and try that. Figure 8: E-scan and A-scan (left) of lack of sidewall fusion in LNG weld. try a dual probe approach When suitable wave and frequency have been determined from conventional UT. Superaustenitic weld inspections performed at EWI came to similar conclusions on inspectability (11). frequency and aperture Develop a procedure using encoded arrays and S-scans to give full coverage at multiple angles. 6. 4. Applus RTD uses a similar zone discrimination approach to 7 (9). Try inspecting the weld with "off the shelf" conventional shear waves If these don't work. say. Note that this comprehensive approach may be unnecessary if the grain size is small. there are techniques available for inspecting austenitics. The dominating feature is grain size. Courtesy of AIT (7). 2. 5 MHz to 2 MHz or 1 MHz (depending on thickness) If near surface noise is high.Other companies are also developing unique techniques for inspection. Figure 9 shows phased array S-scans from a thin austenitic . splitting and attenuation problems. large grains present skewing. 3. The new PipeWIZARD v4 can drive a dual matrix array (e. Recent developments in more advanced systems will permit everyday inspections of pipeline welds under the usual demanding in-service conditions (10). The zone discrimination approaches tend to be more rapid. merge the data to optimize interpretation. nuclear CCSS pipes. though give poorer imaging.

3. Overall. The cooling rate was high. Voltage has only a minor effect. smaller wires could present a problem. and maybe increase the probability of producing defects like LOF (lack of fusion) (11). preheat. They should provide better fracture toughness. Any of the higher intensity processes like plasma or PGMAW will be better than.pipe welded using autogenous welding.and traditional shear waves were adequate for the inspection. say. Smaller Diameter Wire: Smaller wires will also provide smaller grains due to lower heat input. current and travel speed are the most likely parameters to control if reduced grain size is of interest. preheat is not a practical issue to control austenite grain size. but will take longer to weld. Lower Heat Input: The key issues on heat input are current and travel speed. Vary the Weld Metal Composition: More ferritic metal produces smaller grain sizes. The big effects on cooling rate are heat input. 4. It seems that heat input. This must have implications for corrosion resistance. However. If . 2. 1. and in particular. any of the techniques suggested below are likely to increase costs. The grain size is dependent on cooling rate. PGMAW uses pulsing to reduce heat input while still maintaining good fusion capabilities. Figure 9: S-scan shear wave inspection of austenitic SS weld (11) Possibilities for Reducing Grain Sizes Reducing grain size is obviously the key for improved inspectability of austenitics. plate thickness. so the grains were small . if not for strength. TIG. If time is a critical factor. Change the Welding Process: Apparently some processes produce smaller grains than others.

5. Kruzic. and there may never be one. Endal and O. 337. "Ultrasonic Inspection of Austenitic and Dissimilar Welds". P. Kröning and F. S. R. New Zealand. Seeding: Since grain size is really a function of nucleation and growth. G. No. "Developments in the USA: Looking to the Future". Budapest. M. "Design and Application of LowFrequency Twin Side-by-Side Phased Array Transducers for Improved UT Capability on Cast Stainless Steel Components". it's doubtful that any ferritic will be a suitable substitute. Ogilvy. Materials Evaluation. 10. Bulavinov. seeding should offer some potential for reducing grain sizes. New Orleans. Berlin. R. Buenos Aires October 2007. J Berlanger. N. Portzgen. 11. 7. Selby. "PipeWIZARD Version 4 . References 1. FabTech 2008 J. A. 3. 5. Walte. Verspeelt. No. 12th Asia-Pacific Conference on NDT. N. April 2006. van der Ent.A New. G Maes.A. Vol. B (boron) has been suggested. 2nd International Conference on NDE in Relation to Structural Integrity for Nuclear and Pressurized Components. Viggianiello and A. Lozev et al. European Conference on NDT 2006. 4.. though apparently it can lead to cracking. Maes and austenitic was chosen in the first place. Moles. The current solution is to try several techniques in a hierarchy. 10 November 2006. This is an unlikely solution. Delaide. Martinez-Oña. 2. 1986. 446461RP. "On Qualification of TOFD Technique for Austenitic Stainless Steel Welds Inspection". "Inspection of Superaustenitic Stainless Steel Welds using Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing". M. O. Bleuze. G. Halley and M. "Appendix VIII qualification of manual phased array UT for piping". April 2003. G. J Landrum and M Dennis. 6. Nupen. Findlay. 4. "Automatic Ultrasonic inspection of Pipeline CRA Layer". Forli. J. J. 2. 8. if the grains are large and oriented. IVth Pan-American Conference on NDT. October 2007. Auckland. G. Moles. "Ultrasonic Examination of 9% Ni Inner Shells of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Storage Tanks". M. Summary 1. EWI Project No. there will be problems. 6. 9. Hungary. The key is the microstructure of the welds. 24. "Advances in the NDT of Dissimilar Metal Welds". May 2000. Maes and D. cladding and dissimilar metal welds. There does not seem to be a single "perfect" solution for austenitics. Australia M. S.PWZ v4. P. "Ultrasonic Beam Profiles and Beam Propagation in Austenitic Weld using a Theoretical Ray Tracing Model". Insight Vol. December 2008. p. 240. Verspeelt. 6th International Conference on NDE in Relation to Structural Integrity for Nuclear and Pressurized Components. 48. Improved Pipeline . 1241. Rigault and M. Delaide. and chose the most appropriate technique. 3. Ultrasonics.

. Fairchild. private communication.12. August 2009. Materials Australia. D. Australia. Surfer's Paradise. AUT Girth Weld Inspection System".