Ultrasound / Condition Monitoring / Predictive Maintenance / Vibration Analysis / Condition-Based Maintenance

Ultrasound is breaking new ground

Sheila Kennedy says ultrasound specialists adapt to new challenges to data collection and management.

By Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, contributing editor

Ultrasonic technology plays a prominent role for many plants in asset condition monitoring, inspections, and measurement. Use of ultrasound has proved to be reliable and cost-effective for detecting adverse conditions, defects, discontinuities, corrosion, and other risks to asset reliability as well as for measuring liquid flow rates. Elements of the internet of things (IoT) are reflected in many newer solutions.

Upgraded condition monitoring

While ultrasound condition monitoring has traditionally involved collecting readings via handheld devices, the expanded and enhanced use of shielding, guarding, and other safety measures has made those readings harder to collect. Remote sensors allow for readings to be taken in hard-to-access areas, says Adrian Messer, manager of U.S. operations at UE Systems.

“Add to (remote sensors) the option for online continuous monitoring ... and you can now listen to an asset 24/7, with text and email alerts being sent when any point reaches an alarm,” says Messer. Suited for bearings and other applications, UE Systems’ 4Cast ultrasonic monitoring system lets users assign alarm levels, and condition sampling can be scheduled by minutes, hours, days, or weeks.

The multifunction SDT340 data collector from SDT Ultrasound Solutions combines two technologies – ultrasound and vibration – in one instrument. It displays waveform and spectral analysis and offers split screens and high-definition focUS mode to improve defect detection. The SDT340 combined with SDT’s UAS4.0 condition-monitoring software allows users to trend and analyze ultrasound, temperature, vibration, and RPM.

Sampling rates are as high as 256k/s and data acquisition can range from 1–600 seconds to support detection of defects on low-speed machines, says Allan Rienstra, director of international business development at SDT Ultrasound Solutions. “All asset data is managed in UAS4.0, the cloud-connected companion software” designed to help companies eliminate data silos and improve reliability, he says.

Advanced instrumentation

Easily portable wireless solutions are ideal for rope inspections and other challenging applications. For example, the EPOCH 6LT portable ultrasonic flaw detector from Olympus weighs 1.95 pounds and can be held and operated in one hand with minimal wrist fatigue, even while wearing a glove, according to its maker. It is dust- and water-resistant and drop-tested to ensure durability, Olympus notes.

The EPOCH 6LT leverages IoT technology to streamline the inspection and analysis processes and to support direct and immediate data transfers over a wireless LAN connection, says Coleman Flanagan, senior product manager for flaw detection instruments at Olympus. “Connected devices mean faster data transfers, improved data integrity, and improved efficiency,” he says.

Thickness gauges from Extech Instruments, a FLIR company, come in three models. The most advanced is the Extech TKG250, a digital ultrasonic thickness gauge/data logger with color waveform function. Used primarily for steel structures, the rugged handheld device logs as many as 100,000 readings that can be exported to a spreadsheet for further analysis.

“Inspecting storage vessels and tanks for deterioration or corrosion is a vital predictive maintenance priority,” says Brent Lammert, vice president of business development for FLIR Systems’ volume segment. “This is critical to ensure maximum uptime but also to identify potential employee safety hazards from ruptured tanks, for example.” Adds Lammert: “Ultrasonic thickness gauges, particularly with data-logging or graphing capabilities, can make it easier to visualize and document inspections.”

The PosiTector UTG from Defelsko is an ultrasonic thickness gauge that measures wall thickness of materials such as steel or plastic for the effects of corrosion or erosion. Paired with a PosiTector UTG probe, it uses the ultrasonic pulse-echo technique to find defects in structures such as tanks and pipes.

Compatible corrosion probes include the UTG C as well as the UTG CX Xtreme, the newest offering, which adds a braided stainless-steel cable and heavy-duty strain reliefs to the UTG C for added durability. Multiple-echo UTG M Thru-Paint probes measure the thickness of painted walls without users having to remove the coating.

The PanametricsTransPort PT900 from Baker Hughes, a GE Company, is a portable ultrasonic flowmeter that allows users to measure the rate of liquid flow within a pipe without cutting into the pipe or shutting down the process.

The clamp-on system includes rugged transducers, a clamping fixture, a flow transmitter, a carrying case, and accessories. Optional additions include an Android tablet, rechargeable battery pack, spare battery, thickness gauge, and energy measurement kit. Bluetooth communication connects the compact transmitter with a wireless tablet runningthe free TransPort PT900 app, which comes in 15 languages.