Pulse Echo

Flaws are detected by measuring the amplitude of signals reflected and the time required for these signals to travel between specific surfaces and the discontinuity. [Figure 8-7]

The time base, which is triggered simultaneously with each transmission pulse, causes a spot to sweep across the screen of the cathode ray tube (CRT). The spot sweeps from left to right across the face of the scope 50 to 5,000 times per second, or higher if required for high speed automated scanning. Due to the speed of the cycle of transmitting and receiving, the picture on the oscilloscope appears to be stationary.

A few microseconds after the sweep is initiated, the rate generator electrically excites the pulser, and the pulser in turn emits an electrical pulse. The transducer converts this pulse into a short train of ultrasonic sound waves. If the interfaces of the transducer and the specimen are properly oriented, the ultrasound will be reflected back to the transducer when it reaches the internal flaw and the opposite surface of the specimen. The time interval between the transmission of the initial impulse and the reception of the signals from within the specimen are measured by the timing circuits. The reflected pulse received by the transducer is amplified, then transmitted to and displayed on the instrument screen. The pulse is displayed in the same relationship to the front and back pulses as the flaw is in relation to the front and back surfaces of the specimen. [Figure 8-8]

Pulse-echo instruments may also be used to detect flaws not directly underneath the probe by use of the anglebeam testing method. Angle beam testing differs from straight beam testing only in the manner in which the ultrasonic waves pass through the material being tested. As shown in Figure 8-9, the beam is projected into the material at an acute angle to the surface by means of a crystal cut at an angle and mounted in plastic.

The beam or a portion thereof reflects successively from the surfaces of the material or any other discontinuity, including the edge of the piece. In straight beam testing, the horizontal distance on the screen between the initial pulse and the first back reflection represents the thickness of the piece; while in angle beam testing, this distance represents the width of the material between the searching unit and the opposite edge of the piece.

Through Transmission

Through transmission inspection uses two transducers, one to generate the pulse and another placed on the opposite surface to receive it. A disruption in the sound path will indicate a flaw and be displayed on the instrument screen. Through transmission is less sensitive to small defects than the pulse-echo method.


This system differs from the pulse method in that the frequency of transmission may be continuously varied. The resonance method is used principally for thickness measurements when the two sides of the material being tested are smooth and parallel and the backside is inaccessible. The point at which the frequency matches the resonance point of the material being tested is the thickness determining factor.

It is necessary that the frequency of the ultrasonic waves corresponding to a particular dial setting be accurately known. Checks should be made with standard test blocks to guard against possible drift of frequency.

If the frequency of an ultrasonic wave is such that its wavelength is twice the thickness of a specimen (fundamental frequency), then the reflected wave will arrive back at the transducer in the same phase as the original transmission so that strengthening of the signal will occur. This results from constructive interference or a resonance and is shown as a high amplitude value on the indicating screen. If the frequency is increased such that three times the wavelength equals four times the thickness, the reflected signal will return completely out of phase with the transmitted signal and cancellation will occur. Further increase of the frequency causes the wavelength to be equal to the thickness again and gives a reflected signal in phase with the transmitted signal and a resonance once more.

By starting at the fundamental frequency and gradually increasing the frequency, the successive cancellations and resonances can be noted and the readings used to check the fundamental frequency reading. [Figure 8-10]

In some instruments, the oscillator circuit contains a motor driven capacitor which changes the frequency of the oscillator. [Figure 8-11] In other instruments, the frequency is changed by electronic means.

The change in frequency is synchronized with the horizontal sweep of a CRT. The horizontal axis thus represents a frequency range. If the frequency range contains resonances, the circuitry is arranged to present these vertically. Calibrated transparent scales are then placed in front of the tube, and the thickness can be read directly. The instruments normally operate between 0.25 millicycle (mc) and 10 mc in four or five bands.

The resonance thickness instrument can be used to test the thickness of such metals as steel, cast iron, brass, nickel, copper, silver, lead, aluminum, and magnesium. In addition, areas of corrosion or wear on tanks, tubing, airplane wing skins, and other structures or products can be located and evaluated.

Direct reading dial-operated units are available that measure thickness between 0.025 inch and 3 inches with an accuracy of better than ±1 percent.

Ultrasonic inspection requires a skilled operator who is familiar with the equipment being used as well as the inspection method to be used for the many different parts being tested. [Figure 8-12]

 ©AvStop Online Magazine                                                                                                                                                      Contact Us              Return To Books

AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator