Thermal compensation of ultrasonic transmit and receive data for steel welded plates at the point of manufacture

Foster, Euan A. and Sweeney, Nina E. and Nicolson, Ewan and Singh, Jonathan and Rizwan, Muhammad K. and Lines, David and Pierce, Gareth and Mohseni, Ehsan and Gachagan, Anthony and Tant, Katherine M.M. and MacLeod, Charles N. (2023) Thermal compensation of ultrasonic transmit and receive data for steel welded plates at the point of manufacture. NDT and E International, 137. 102812. ISSN 0963-8695 (

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On modern manufacturing production lines, Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) is frequently a bottleneck which could greatly be alleviated by integrating the inspection of components as they are manufactured. By moving inspection to the point of manufacture, greater economic and productivity benefits are realised in terms of reduced rework and schedule slippage, however, new technical challenges emerge. For welded components, high temperatures and the resulting thermal gradients, present challenges when performing ultrasonic inspection at the point of manufacture. The thermal gradients introduce positional misalignment due to “beam bending” effects arising from refraction as the material properties change with temperature. This paper presents for the first time, through simulation and practical experiments, a novel thermal compensation strategy to mitigate for thermal effects when performing ultrasonic inspection of welded components at the point of manufacture. To understand the thermal gradients experienced during standard Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, 3-dimensional thermal simulations were developed and experimentally-validated with an average error of 1.80%. The output from the thermal simulations in combination with material properties that vary over temperature, allowed for generalised time of flight maps to be created via the Multi-Stencils Fast Marching Method (MSFMM) and the ultrasonic data to be imaged by the Total Focusing Method (TFM). The thermal compensation strategy was initially proved on synthetically generated finite element Full Matrix Capture (FMC) datasets, and it was shown that reflector positional accuracy could be increased by ∼ 3 mm. Experimental results also showed marked improvements with reflector positional accuracy also being increased by ∼3 mm. Over both simulated and experimental datasets, the SNR was shown to be negligibly altered between uncompensated and compensated images. The results show how high-quality ultrasonic images can be generated in-process and help bring inspection closer to the point of manufacture.