Ultrasonic instruments use beams of high frequency, short wave signals to inspect, monitor, and measure materials and components. Ultrasonic energy is introduced into tested materials or components and then retrieved for subsequent analysis. There are several basic types of ultrasonic instruments. Acoustic emissions instruments and fault detectors are used to monitor conditions in a variety of mechanical, electrical and process systems. When a break or deformation occurs, highly-sensitive acoustic emission sensors detect the high frequency bursts emitted during the event. Problems such as electrical shorting, corona discharging and arcing also produce detectable ultrasonic signals. Acoustic emissions instruments are often used to determine the structural adequacy of steam traps, pipes, valves, tanks, and pressure vessels. Fault detectors are used to inspect bearings, gearboxes or other rotating machinery for changes due to wear or load. Other types of ultrasonic instruments include thickness gauges, flaw detectors, corrosion instruments, leak detectors, and material condition testers. Leak detectors are used to detect holes and cracks, defective seals, channel leaks, contaminated materials, or missing closures. Material condition testers are used to evaluate materials properties or conditions such as hardness, residual stress, strength, elasticity or density. 

 

Most ultrasonic instruments consist of a non-contact focusing probe and integral meter. Form factors, mounting styles, and optional features are important specifications to consider. Some devices are designed to sit atop a bench or desktop. Others are designed to be mounted in a rack or cabinet. Printed circuit boards (PCB) that contain ultrasonic instruments attach to enclosures or plug directly into computer backplanes. Complete monitoring systems are used for the continuous measurement of flaws, thickness, or corrosion. Portable, hand held, and mobile products are also available. In terms of features, ultrasonic instruments include sorting gates or sound an alarm if a reading is outside of an acceptable range of values. Handheld or portable devices often provide data logging capabilities and can be interfaced to a computer or other electronic device. The maximum number of channel or probes is an additional consideration when selecting ultrasonic instruments. Specialized products are used for specific applications such as pipeline monitoring and aircraft component inspection.  

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