Solving issues with wedge and part coupling failure in phased array inspections
During phased array testing, element dropout can be a problem. Common causes include dead elements in the transducer or a failure of the wedge-to-transducer or wedge-to-inspection-part coupling.
Let’s look at each of these coupling failures in detail before offering some solutions for each of these PA testing issues.
Wedge-to-transducer coupling failure is often partial and typically involves multiple adjacent elements. While minimal phased array element dropout at the edges of the array can often be tolerated, failure of transducer coupling where multiple adjacent elements are not coupled into the wedge, particularly away from the array edge, will impact inspection quality, reproducibility and reliability. This dropout is often not detected, and the technician continues scanning unaware of increased side lobes (or grating lobes) and altered beam steering characteristics.
The couplant used between the transducer and the wedge is critical to reproducible inspections. When the couplant is exposed to water or to the couplant used on the parts being inspected, leaching of the wedge couplant can occur. Heating and cooling can cause thermal expansion and contraction of the couplant, tearing apart sections of the wedge coupling film. Some wedge couplants can partially evaporate over time, resulting in progressive failure of the coupling film.
To prevent problems with transducer-to-wedge coupling in phased array inspections, you need a wedge couplant with the following properties:
- impervious to water and other couplants, to prevent leaching of the wedge couplant around the perimeter;
- strong film former, to prevent isolated air pockets due to localized coupling film separation;
- high viscosity (over 3,000 cps), to ensure uniform coating and thickness independent of the surface and the mating characteristics of the wedge and transducer;
- resistant to evaporation or vaporization over the temperature range in which the PA transducer will be used and stored;
- thermal stability to prevent expansion and then contraction of the coupling film, resulting in film separation;
- compatibility with materials used in phased array transducer construction and wedge materials;
- long lasting so that it does not need to be replaced for the life of the wedge; and
- promotes easy replacement of wedges, without sticking or bonding between wedge and transducer, regardless of storage conditions.
Wedge-to-test-object coupling failure caused by couplant film failure results in acoustic reflection into the wedge, generating false reflections and noise. Couplant film failures of this nature are usually partial and continually change in location and configuration as the transducer assembly moves.
Failure of the couplant between the wedge and the test piece is most often due to low strength and fragile film formation. One example is gel couplants of the acrylic polymer (Carbopol) type. These polymers, which were originally developed for the hairstyling industry, have weak film-forming characteristics and are subject to collapse of the coupling film when exposed to corrosion or marine salts.
Couplants that have a water component in the formulation also may have weak film-forming properties. While water solubility is a desired feature in many applications, water incorporated into the couplant formulation serves mainly to lower cost. It does not promote coupling film strength. Couplants that contain water also can be subject to film failures from vaporization or the formation of ice crystals on the test site.
Echo Ultrasonics offers solutions to problems with both wedge coupling and inspection-object coupling in phased array inspections.
- Forever Wedge Couplant addresses failure in coupling the PA transducer to the wedge. Forever Wedge Couplant will remain in place for the life of the wedge and is impervious to water, other couplants, heat, thermal expansion and contraction, and evaporation. It also can overcome mechanical issues, such as mating or surface roughness of the wedge-to-transducer interface.
- EchoPure is a water-free couplant that provides a strong, uniform coupling film that eliminates dry spots between the wedge and the part being inspected. EchoPure also meets the water-free-couplant requirements for inspecting P91 steel prior to heat treatment.
Free samples of EchoPure and Forever Wedge Couplant are available for your evaluation.