Correction of B-scan distortion for optimum ultrasonic imaging of back walls with complex geometries

Davì, S and Mineo, C and MacLeod, C and Pierce, S G and Gachagan, A and Paton, S and Munro, G and O'Brien-O'Reilly, J and McCubbin, C (2020) Correction of B-scan distortion for optimum ultrasonic imaging of back walls with complex geometries. Insight: The Journal of the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing, 62 (4). pp. 184-191. ISSN 1354-2575 (

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Ultrasound undergoes refraction and reflection at interfaces between media of different acoustic refractive indices. The most common ultrasonic method (pulse-echo) monitors the reflected energy to infer the presence of flaws, whereas the lower amplitude of refracted signals is ignored. When the reflector is orientated normally with respect to the ultrasonic beam, the received echo signal shows the maximum amplitude. The pulse-echo method also relies on monitoring the amplitude of the backwall echo to identify or confirm the presence of defects. This works well for parts with constant thickness and with planar backwalls. Unfortunately, parts with complex backwalls are common to many industrial sectors. For example, applications such as aerospace structures often require parts with complex shapes. Assessing such parts reliably is not trivial and can cause severe downtime in the aerospace manufacturing processes or during in-service inspections. This work aims to improve the ultrasonic inspectability of parts with complex backwalls, through sending ultrasonic beams from the frontwall side. Ultrasonic phased array probes and state-of-the-art instrumentation allow ultrasonic energy to be sent into a part at wide ranges of focusing depths and steering angles. This allows for tracking of the backwall profile, thus hitting it normally and maximising the amplitude of the reflected echo at any point. However, this work has shown that a cross-sectional scan resulting from multiple ultrasonic beams, which are sent at variable incidence angles, can present significant geometrical distortion and cannot be of much use for accurate defect visualisation and sizing. This paper introduces a generalised algorithm developed to remove geometric distortions and the effect that variable refraction coefficients have on the transmitted and received amplitudes. The algorithm was validated through CIVA simulations for two example parts with complex backwalls, considering isotropic materials.