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Proceedings Paper

Ultrasonic flaw detection in a monorail box beam
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Paper Abstract

A steel box beam in a monorail application is constructed with an epoxy grout wearing surface, precluding visual inspection of its top flange. This paper describes a sequence of experimental research tasks to develop an ultrasonic system to detect flaws (such as fatigue cracks) in that flange, and the results of a field test to demonstrate system performance. The problem is constrained by the fact that the flange is exposed only along its longitudinal edges, and by the fact that permanent installation of transducers at close spacing was deemed to be impractical. The system chosen for development, after experimental comparison of alternate technologies, features angle-beam ultrasonic transducers with fluid coupling to the flange edge; the emitting transducers create transverse waves that travel diagonally across the width of the flange, where an array of receiving transducers detect flaw reflections and flaw shadows. The system rolls along the box beam, surveying (screening) the top flange for the presence of flaws. In a first research task, conducted on a full-size beam specimen, we compared waves generated from different transducer locations, either the flange edge or the web face, and at different frequency ranges. At relatively low frequencies, such as 100 kHz, we observed Lamb wave modes, and at higher frequency, in the MHz range, we observed nearlylongitudinal waves with trailing pulses. In all cases we observed little attenuation by the wearing surface and little influence of reflection at the web-flange joints. At the conclusion of this task we made the design decision to use edgemounted transducers at relatively high frequency, with correspondingly short wavelength, for best scattering from flaws. In a second research task we conducted experiments at 55% scale on a steel plate, with machined flaws of different size, and detected flaws of target size for the intended application. We then compared the performance of bonded transducers, fluid-coupled transducers, and angle-beam (wedge) transducers; from that comparison we made the design decision to use wedges, which beam the wave to increase the scattering from flaws. We also compared the performance of wired transducers using fluid coupling to that of wireless (inductively coupled) transducers mounted permanently. Although the wireless transducers achieved flaw detection, the necessary spacing (determined experimentally) would have required an impractical number of transducers. Therefore, we made the design decision to use wedge transducers with fluid coupling. In a third research task we developed and tested a rolling system with a water channel for acoustic coupling, including a study of its sensitivity to misalignment, and in a fourth task we devised a data display to create a pattern of reflections or shadows that could be easily interpreted as evidence of a flaw. Finally, we conducted a field test on the full-size system in a region containing bolt holes, which act as a physical simulation of a flaw, and show successful detection of reflections and shadows from those holes.

Paper Details

Date Published: 30 March 2009
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 7292, Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2009, 729211 (30 March 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.815515
Show Author Affiliations
Peng Zheng, Carnegie Mellon Univ. (United States)
David W. Greve, Carnegie Mellon Univ. (United States)
National Energy Technology Lab. (United States)
Irving J. Oppenheim, Carnegie Mellon Univ. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7292:
Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2009
Masayoshi Tomizuka, Editor(s)

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