You are on page 1of 6

06_49_66_TPs_18pgs:08_1071_1090_TPs_20pgs copy 12/11/08 3:14 PM Page 60

Submitted October 2008

Ultrasonic Phased Array Testing Simulations of

Welded Components at NASA
by D.J. Roth,* R.P. Tokars, R.E. Martin, R.W. Rauser, J.C. Aldrin** and E.J. Schumacher

A skin-to-flange test sample of the variety used in pressure vessels

was fabricated. The skin and flange portions were approximately 12
Comprehensive and accurate tests of welded components have become

and 25 mm thick, respectively. The skin portion was double-

increasingly important as NASA develops new hardware, such as Ares

beveled at one end, 45 on each side, and butted to the thicker

rocket segments, for future exploration missions. Simulation and mod-

flange. Flux core arc welding was performed to attach the skin to
eling will play an increased role in the future of nondestructive testing

the flange the interior and exterior areas flanking the bevels of
in order to better understand the physics of the testing process and help

the skin were filled with weld metal of a similar composition to that
explain the experimental results. It will also help to prove or disprove

of the base steel. The external weld was shaved to make the transi-
the feasibility of a test technique or scenario, help optimize testing, and

tion from skin-to-flange flat. Figure 1 shows the interior of an Ares

allow, to a first approximation, determination of limits of detectability.

upper-stage simulator segment and a solid model of the test part. A

This study presents simulation and experimental results for ultrasonic
phased array testing of a critical welded structure important for NASA
future exploration vehicles.
Keywords: nondestructive testing, computational simulation, ultrason-
ics, weld, modeling, phased array, probability of detection.

As NASAs Constellation Program proceeds to develop new

crew and launch vehicles, many nondestructive testing challenges
will be encountered. Ultrasonic techniques will play a role in the
testing of space flight hardware such as beams, welds, lugs and
other critical structures. The NASA Glenn Research Center is in-
volved in building the upper-stage simulator for the Ares 1-X test
rocket, scheduled to launch in 2009. The upper-stage is composed
of multiple upper-stage simulator segments that will be stacked
and attached to each other. The upper-stage simulator segments
have critical welds that attach the skin half-cylinders, flange por-
tions and the skin to the flange. In this study, the skin-to-flange
weld is of concern.
The skin-to-flange weld is required to pass a handheld ultrason-
ic A-scan test for certification. Here, the modeling and use of (a)
phased array ultrasonics to perform such a test is addressed as an
alternative to A-scan testing. Phased array testing is gaining wide
acceptance and has many advantages over conventional A-scan
testing, including the ability to perform scanning with no mechani-
cal movement, the ability to perform angular (sectorial) scans and
dynamic focusing, greater ability to test complex shapes and diffi-
cult to test areas, and two-dimensional visualization of results. Sim-
ulation and modeling will play an increased role in the future for
nondestructive testing in order to better understand the physics of
the test process and help explain the experimental results. It will
also help to prove or disprove the feasibility for a testing technique
or scenario, help optimize tests, and allow, to a first approximation,
determination of the limit of detectability (Aldrin and Knopp,

* NASA Glenn Research Center, Optical Instrumentation and NDE

Branch, 21000 Brookpark Rd., Cleveland, OH 44135; (216) 433-6017; fax
(216) 977-7150; e-mail <>.
NASA Glenn Research Center, Optical Instrumentation and NDE
Branch, 21000 Brookpar Rd., Cleveland, OH 44135. (b)
Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115.
University of Toledo, 2801 W. Bancroft, Toledo, OH 43606.
** Computational Tools, Inc., 4275 Chatham Ave., Gurnee, IL 60031.
Magsoft Corporation, 20 Prospect St., Ballston Spa, NY 12020.
Figure 1 Interior of an Ares upper-stage simulator segment: (a) the
skin-to-flange specimen; (b) solid model of the skin-to-flange sample.

60 Materials Evaluation/January 2009

06_49_66_TPs_18pgs:08_1071_1090_TPs_20pgs copy 12/11/08 3:14 PM Page 61

side-drilled hole approximately 40 mm in length and 1.61 mm in di- 1973; Achenbach, 1992; Cinquin et al., 2007; Darmon et al., 2003;
ameter was located at one end of the part, simulating lack of fusion Gengembre, 2003; Lonne et al., 2006; Raillon and Lecoeur-Tabi,
in the weld. 2000; Rose, 1999). The software has many options available, includ-
ing the ability to compute delay laws for phased array ultrasonic se-
tups (Chaffai-Gargouri et al., 2007; Mahaut et al., 2004) and the abil-
A portable ultrasonic flaw detector was used for the actual test- ity to overlay resulting beam profiles and beam/discontinuity
ing. Ultrasonic phased array transducers are made of multiple crys- responses onto the model of the part. Components requiring dis-
tals that are electronically pulsed in a sequence using a specified continuity response predictions need to be either imported as two-
delay between pulses to create linear scanning, beam steering or fo- dimensional DXF files or drawn in two-dimensional profile in the
cusing capability. Phased array probes generally consist of a trans- computer aided design (CAD) facility included in the software.
ducer and wedge. The transducer employed was a 32 crystal ele- After the two-dimensional profile is created or imported, it is sub-
ment linear phased array type with 5 MHz flat focus. The total sequently extruded to create the three-dimensional solid model.
aperture was 16 by 10 mm. The element width was approximately Three-dimensional solid models can be imported into the software,
0.45 mm and the gap between elements was approximately but currently only for beam field predictions. A reasonable two-
0.05 mm. Only 16 of the 32 elements are active at any one time as 16 dimensional profile facsimile of the skin-to-flange test part was
pulser/receivers are available in the instrument. The active aper- drawn using dimensions from the actual test part in the CAD facil-
ture area was thus 8 by 10 mm. The transducer was attached to a ity (Figure 3). For the CAD model, all sides were color coded as
wedge made of Rexolite plastic with an incidence angle of approxi- front, back, side and interface, so that the ultrasonic probe attached
mately 36 and subsequent shear wave refraction angle into steel of itself properly, and the beam field and discontinuity response pre-
approximately 54. Note that an incidence angle of 36 results in a dictions were calculated correctly. The four zones shown in the two-
setup beyond the critical angle for longitudinal waves; therefore, dimensional profile consisted of two base steel zones and two weld
longitudinal waves are not of concern in this study. Figure 2 shows zones. Each was assigned the appropriate ultrasonic velocity as
the probe sitting on the external skin portion of the skin-to-flange measured for the base and weld steels. The software has interface
test sample. This is the single-sided test scenario for an actual test of screens for the user to describe the transducer crystal element char-
the welds, whether using A-scan or phased array techniques. A sec- acteristics and geometry, phased array crystal assembly, test/scan
torial scan with a range of 40 to 75 was performed. The probe was parameters, wedge material and geometry, test sample material
moved manually along the exterior surface of the skin in order to and geometry, discontinuity material, and geometry and computa-
determine whether an indication related to the side-drilled hole in tion parameters. The model parameters selected matched closely
the interior weld was observed. with actual experimental parameters. The side-drilled hole was
modeled as a cylindrical discontinuity.
The half-skip sound path interaction with the discontinuity
was chosen in the computation parameters. When the half-skip op-
tion is chosen, beam/discontinuity interactions that are in the direct
sound path from the probe to the discontinuity and vice versa are
considered. Additionally, waves incident on discontinuities after re-
flection off the bottom surface are also taken into account. Reflec-
tions off the bottom surface from the probe toward discontinuities
are in this case considered, as well as reflections off the bottom sur-
face from the discontinuities toward the probe. This option enables
the computation of corner echoes or, more generally, echoes result-
ing from the inward or outward reflection off discontinuities via the
bottom surface. Therefore, for the half-skip option, the echoes taken
into account can include the specular reflections, tip diffractions
and corner-like echoes.
Backwall echoes were included in the computation (surface
echoes were not). At the 40 to 75 sector in steel, shear waves are the
active wave mode and thus were selected as the wave mode for
modeling. A computation zone was selected that encompassed the
weld area. Computation accounted for mode conversion, but did
Figure 2 Ultrasonic phased array probe positioned on the external

not account for material noise, attenuation or shadowing from dis-

side of the skin of the skin-to-flange test part.

continuity over geometry. These are all options that can be mod-
eled, but increase computation time. The computed delay laws con-
trolling the sector scan were not compared with the actual delay
5 MHz shear wave ultrasonic velocity and attenuation coeffi- laws for the instrument because they are not readily exportable
cient measurements were performed on the test sample skin (base from the instrument. The overall discontinuity response calculation
steel) and also on a flat sample of the weld steel using a precision computes the signal received by the probe as the summation of in-
contact ultrasonic technique (Roth et al., 1995). The shear wave ve- dividual contributions for the various resulting wave modes. The
locity values for the base and weld steel were measured to be computation mode was two-dimensional the side-drilled hole
3.25 and 3.28 mm/s, respectively, the difference of which is close was meshed along its profile vertically perpendicular to the sound
to the measurement uncertainty for the velocity measurement tech- beam projection. Figure 3 shows the two-dimensional profile of the
nique. The velocity value for the base steel was used as a setup pa- skin-to-flange test sample drawn in the CAD facility, the subse-
rameter in the ultrasonic flaw detector, and the velocity values for quent three-dimensional solid model extrusion and the addition of
both base and weld steels were used in the ultrasonic model, as de- discontinuity, probe and ultrasonic setup parameters.
scribed below. The Kirchhoff approximation (Schmerr, 1998) was used in the
discontinuity response calculations. The Kirchhoff approximation
assumes that the elastic wave is entirely scattered by the disconti-
In this investigation, software developed by the French Atomic nuity. The discontinuity is meshed and the wave scattered by the
Ultrasonic Modeling

Energy Commission was utilized to model the phased array ultra- discontinuity is the product of amplitude and time dependent func-
sonic test. The software allows bulk wave beam field predictions tions of incident wave and complex scattering coefficient at each
using the elastodynamics pencil technique and discontinuity re- meshed location. The Kirchhoff approximation relies on the as-
sponse predictions using Kirchhoff, geometric theory of diffraction sumption that each point at the discontinuity surface contributes as
or Born models for beam/discontinuity interaction (Achenbach, if it were part of an infinite plane (no interaction with neighboring

Materials Evaluation/January 2009 61

06_49_66_TPs_18pgs:08_1071_1090_TPs_20pgs copy 12/11/08 3:14 PM Page 62

points). The Kirchhoff approximation is assumed to give accurate (the discontinuity diameter is significantly greater than the wave-
results for discontinuities providing specular or near specular re- length). In this case, the weld steel has a shear wave velocity around
flection over planar or volumetric discontinuities. Quantitative 3.28 mm/s, and at a frequency of 5 MHz, the wavelength is ap-
error is expected to increase when the scattered direction moves proximately 0.65 mm (using wavelength = velocity/frequency).
away from the specular direction. Then,
The Kirchhoff approximation is a high frequency approxima-
tion, valid when = 15.5

2a (with a side-drilled hole diameter about three times larger than the
ultrasonic wavelength), which satisfies the Kirchhoff criterion.

The probe was ultimately positioned so that the front of the probe

wedge was about 5 mm away laterally from the discontinuity. Figure

4b shows the experimental sector scan results obtained at the probe
position shown in Figure 4a. The large amplitude indication shown
in Figure 4b at the lower right portion of the sector image is from the
direct path reflection off the side-drilled hole. The center of this indi-
cation, where the highest amplitude occurs, is located at the 66
angle. Moving the probe laterally away from the side-drilled hole
(which is 40 mm in length and extends about two-fifths of the way
across the weld) results in the disappearance of the indication. The
ultrasonic flaw detector shows a display that indicates that the side-
drilled hole is located about 4 mm from the front of the wedge and is
12.67 mm in depth, which agreed well with the actual location.





Figure 3 Simulation steps: (a) two-dimensional profile of the skin-to-

flange test sample is drawn in the CAD facility; (b) the profile is
extruded to create a three-dimensional solid model; (c) the material, setup (b)
and discontinuity parameters are defined to create the test simulation;
(d) test simulation. Beam computation can proceed after extrusion.
Discontinuity response can proceed after the discontinuity is defined and Figure 4 Ultimate probe positioning: (a) probe location; (b) 40 to 75
inserted into the structure. sector scan results.

62 Materials Evaluation/January 2009

06_49_66_TPs_18pgs:08_1071_1090_TPs_20pgs copy 12/11/08 3:14 PM Page 63

angles in the sectorial scan. These profiles indicate the ray paths,
taking into account mode conversion and backwall reflection over
the angular sector scan. Examining the profiles, one can see the var-
ious reflections in addition to the direct mode path.
Figure 7 shows the discontinuity response ultrasonic modeling
results. In the simulation, the direct and indirect reflections (the re-
flections that travel to the fillet, then to the side-drilled hole and
back to the probe or to the hole, then to the fillet and back to the
probe) are superimposed due to the positioning of the hole with re-
spect to the fillet. By changing the positional relationship between
the side-drilled hole and the fillet in other model iterations, a sepa-
ration between direct and indirect reflections could be observed.
The actual experiment revealed greater separation between direct

Figure 5 Ray paths for direct reflection from side-drilled hole (black)
and interactions with fillet and side-drilled hole (red).

Other major indications include one just to the right and one
to the lower right. These correspond to a creeping wave reflec-
tion (Aldrin and Knopp, 2008) and indirect reflection(s) that trav-
el to the fillet, then to the side-drilled hole and back to the probe
or to the hole, then to the fillet and back to the probe. The direct
and indirect ray paths are indicated in Figure 5. Creeping waves
are not taken into account by the Kirchhoff approximation. Other
smaller amplitude indications are likely due to skip reflections
off the various surfaces.

The model probe was positioned so that the front of the probe
wedge was about 5 mm away laterally from the discontinuity in the
test model to match with the final experimental setup. Figure 6
shows the beam profile ultrasonic modeling results for several
Figure 7 Ultrasonic modeling results for phased array ultrasonic
testing of skin-to-flange test sample.

(a) (b)


Figure 6 Beam profile ultrasonic modeling results at several angles in the sectorial scan: (a) shot 11; (b) shot 21; (c) shot 31.

Materials Evaluation/January 2009 63

06_49_66_TPs_18pgs:08_1071_1090_TPs_20pgs copy 12/11/08 3:14 PM Page 64

and indirect reflections (Figure 4). If the simulation is done only reflections off the various surfaces and back to the transducer. These
with direct path reflections selected, the large indication will show less major indications are also demarcated in Figures 4 and 7, which
less structure at its lower portion, which provides evidence for the show magnified views of the experimental and simulation results,
existence of the indirect reflection when the half-skip option is se- respectively.
lected as a computation parameter. The 60 angle (shot 21) gave the
highest reflection response amplitude related to the direct reflection
from the side-drilled hole. Although modeling tools can provide the measurement re-
Figure 8 shows the ultrasonic results overlaid onto the model of sponse for varying the discontinuity size, several factors must be
the skin-to-flange test sample at a model probe position. Figure 9 considered in evaluating the true detection capability of a nonde-
shows a direct comparison of the experimental and modeling re- structive testing technique. In this simulation, the direct reflection
sults for the phased array ultrasonic test of the skin-to-flange test waveform (A-scan) off the side-drilled hole was obtained at 60
sample with a side-drilled hole in the interior weld. The qualitative (shot 21), which was the angle predicted to provide a maximum re-
discontinuity response for the experiment is in excellent agreement sponse in the sector scan for the phased array testing simulations.
with that predicted from the model, except that the angle where the Figure 10 shows the simulation results as the side-drilled hole di-
strongest reflection response occurs differs in location by 6. It is ameter is reduced from 1.5 to 0.19 mm using identical simulation
likely that geometrical differences between the drawn model and and computation parameters. The reflected amplitude of the
actual test part were responsible for the difference in angle of A-scan is predicted to be reduced; this trend is shown clearly in Fig-
strongest response. Additionally, the creeping wave indication can- ure 10b. The finite element mesh size used in the discontinuity re-
not be modeled in the software. Looking carefully, other smaller sponse calculation will affect the predicted response.
amplitude indications are also present in the simulation and To quantitatively evaluate the detection limits of a nondestruc-
experiment that correspond to each other. These indications appear tive technique for a given test, a signal to noise analysis is required.
prior in time to the large indication and are probably related to skip Noise in nondestructive testing measurements can be attributed to
many sources: the measurement hardware, surface conditions and
couplant, material related noise, and superimposed signals reflect-
ed from the part geometry. Often, experimental studies are per-
formed to get a handle on the background noise in the measure-
ment device for a known calibration sample. Calibration runs can
also be simulated in the software, and signal levels of the experi-
mental and simulated results can be matched. Then, the noise mea-
surement from the experimental data can be used to set a threshold
of detection in the simulation results for small discontinuities. In
addition to experimental data, noise models, including grain noise,
can be simulated in the software. Additionally, attention must be
paid to all of the model assumptions like the Kirchhoff high fre-
quency limit when evaluating the nondestructive testing measure-
ment response (Achenbach, 1973; Achenbach, 1992; Rose 1999). Fu-
ture work is proposed to explore the accuracy of the model
predictions with experimental data over the range of simulated
side-drilled hole sizes and test the detection capability using both
experimental noise data and noise models run in the software.
Figure 8 Ultrasonic modeling results overlaid onto model of skin-to-
flange test sample.

Figure 9 Direct comparison of model results versus experimental results.

64 Materials Evaluation/January 2009

06_49_66_TPs_18pgs:08_1071_1090_TPs_20pgs copy 12/11/08 3:14 PM Page 65

assumptions are required. Future applications of the simulation

techniques will be applied for important structures and testing sce-
narios at NASA.

Achenbach, J.D., Wave Propagation in Elastic Solids, Amsterdam, North Hol-
land Publishing, 1973.
Achenbach, J.D., Measurement Models for Quantitative Ultrasonics, Jour-
nal of Sound and Vibration, Vol. 159, 1992, pp. 385401.
Aldrin, J.C. and J.S. Knopp, Modeling and Simulation for Nondestructive
Testing with Applications to Aerospace Structures, Materials Evaluation,
(a) Vol. 66, 2008, pp. 5359.
Chaffai-Gargouri, S., S. Chatillon, S. Mahaut and L. Le Ber, Simulation and
Data Processing for Ultrasonic Phased-Arrays Applications, Review of
Progress in Quantitative Nondestructive Evaluation, Vol. 26A, D.O Thomp-
son and D.E. Chimenti, eds., Melville, New York, AIP, 2007, pp. 799805.
Cinquin, M., L. Le Ber, S. Lonne and S. Mahaut, Results of 2006 UT Model-
ing Benchmark Obtained with CIVA at CEA: Beam Modeling and Flaw
Signal Prediction, Review of Progress in Quantitative Nondestructive Evalu-
ation, Vol. 26B, D.O Thompson and D.E. Chimenti, eds., Melville, New
York, AIP, 2007, pp. 18701877.
Darmon, M., P. Calmon and C. Bele, Modeling of the Ultrasonic Response
of Inclusions in Steels, Review of Progress in Quantitative Nondestructive
Evaluation, Vol. 22A, D.O Thompson and D.E. Chimenti, eds., Melville,
New York, AIP, 2003, pp. 101108.
(b) Gengembre, N., Pencil Method for Ultrasonic Beam Computation,
Proceedings of the 5th World Congress on Ultrasonics, Paris, available at
<>, 2003, pp. 15331536.
Lonne, S., L. de Roumilly, L. Le Ber, S. Mahaut and G. Cattiaux, Experi-
mental Validation of CIVA Ultrasonic Simulations, International Con-
Figure 10 Simulation results as the side-drilled hole is reduced from
ference on NDE in Nuclear Industry (ICNDE), San Diego, 1012 May,
1.5 to 0.19 mm using identical simulation and computation
parameters: (a) A-scan versus discontinuity diameter for direct
Mahaut, S., S. Chatillon, E. Kerbrat, J. Porr, P. Calmon and O. Roy, New
reflection off side-drilled hole in flange to skin weld (from simulation);
(b) A-scan peak amplitude versus side-drilled hole diameter obtained Features for Phased Array Techniques Inspections: Simulation and Exper-
from A-scans in (a). iments, 16th World Conference on Nondestructive Testing, Montral,
Canada, 30 August 3 September, 2004.
Raillon R. and I. Lecoeur-Tabi, Transient Elastodynamic Model for Beam
Defect Interaction: Application to Nondestructive Testing, Ultrasonics,
Vol. 38, 2000, pp. 527530.
This paper describes simulation/modeling and its comparison
Rose, J.L., Ultrasonic Waves in Solid Media, Cambridge, Cambridge Universi-
to experimental results for phased array ultrasonic testing of a steel ty Press, 1999.
skin-to-flange test sample with a side-drilled hole in the interior Roth, D.J., J.D. Kiser, S.M. Swickard, S. Szatmary and D. Kerwin, Quantita-
weld. Good qualitative agreement was observed between experi- tive Mapping of Pore Fraction Variations in Silicon Nitride Using an Ul-
mental results and modeling predictions with regards to ultrasonic trasonic Contact Scan Technique, Research in Nondestructive Evaluation,
reflection response from the side-drilled hole in the weld. To quan- Vol. 6, 1995, pp. 125168.
titatively test the detection limits of a nondestructive technique Schmerr, L.W., Fundamentals of Ultrasonic Nondestructive Evaluation A
for a given test, a signal to noise analysis and attention to model Modeling Approach, New York, Plenum Press, 1998.

Materials Evaluation/January 2009 65