Ultrasound abounds, improving maintenance practices and outcomes

July 9, 2020
Sheila Kennedy says new ultrasonic tech enables inspection, monitoring, and cleaning to improve maintenance best practices.

Inaudible high-frequency sound waves can provide clues about the condition of an asset. They can also be purposely generated to induce agitation in liquids for cleaning purposes. Technology developments for these ultrasonic applications are improving maintenance practices and outcomes.

Technology Toolbox

This article is part of our monthly Technology Toolbox column. Read more from Sheila Kennedy.

Portable ultrasonic inspection

Detecting compressed air leaks acoustically and presenting them visually is the goal of the Fluke Industrial ii900 Sonic Industrial Imager. The device detects sounds in both the sonic and ultrasonic range, even in extremely noisy environments. Its SoundSight technology lets users scan large areas and look for visual indications of air leaks on an LCD touchscreen, then isolate the sound frequency of the leak and capture an image or video of its location.

The ability to see sound on a digital screen is “a game changer in compressed air leak detection,” says Javier Irazola, global product manager for industrial imaging at Fluke Corp. “Using the ii900, equipped with an array of ultra-sensitive microphones, maintenance teams can quickly and accurately locate air, gas, and vacuum leaks in compressed air systems.”

Terra Inspectioneering specializes in using drones to perform inspections inside of confined spaces, such as storage tanks. The company has developed a complete ultrasonic testing (UT) portfolio for tank wall thickness measurements, including the vertical walls, roof plates, and construction beams. Its drones also perform visual and thermal inspections and serve applications where people can’t go, such as in chimneys as high as 160 meters.

“We are working to reduce the time people spend in confined spaces. Ideally, we would like to see confined-space work eliminated because of its safety and cost issues,” says Marien van den Hoek, co-founder and co-owner of Terra Inspectioneering. “Traditionally, inspectors have to climb scaffolding and take measurements by hand. Using drones instead improves safety, reduces UT time, and increases tank availability.”

To improve pipeline structural integrity, testing and inspection service provider Applus+ RTD developed its own non-destructive UT technology with ultrasonic imaging called IWEX. It is a full matrix capture (FMC) technique used to detect and image pipeline flaws and predict the probability of failure for specific types of defects. “The potential IWEX offers with 2D and 3D digital images as inspection results opens up possibilities ready for the 4th industrial revolution,” says Niels Pörtzgen, technical authority at Applus+ RTD.

Advanced (post) processing strategies for improved visualization, pattern recognition, and software-assisted interpretation through machine learning can be combined with ongoing developments in robotics and computer technology, suggests Pörtzgen. He believes these benefits will be evident in the near future, helping to make the inspection safer, more accurate, and cost efficient.

The SDT340 ultrasound system from SDT Ultrasound Solutions, distributed in the United States by Ludeca, detects lubrication and bearing issues, air leaks, electrical faults, and supports mechanical inspections of steam traps, chain drives, couplings, and more — all from one result. “Not only does it provide the current condition, but it also displays the previously saved one, allowing for better field analysis by the inspector,” says Alex Nino, applications engineer at Ludeca.

Nino believes one of SDT340’s major advantages is what he likes to call the first line of defense for asset condition management: The Four Condition Indicators (4CIs), which include RMS, Max RMS, Peak, and Crest Factor. “The 4CIs can provide an incredible view of what is happening to any asset, rotating or non-rotating,” he explains.

Online ultrasonic monitoring

Based on the success of the UE 4Cast 24/7 Mechanical Condition Monitoring system from UE systems, the company released the product’s twin, the UE 4Site Electrical Monitoring system. The new ultrasonic remote monitoring system is ideal for enclosed electrical apparatus, says Doug Waetjen, vice president of global operations at UE Systems.

After installation, the system continuously listens for an electrical problem, immediately sending out an alert by email and text when an alarm is reached. “The system is literally never off; it’s like having a technician sitting inside your electrical switchgear, waiting to sound the alarm if a problem rears its head,” adds Waetjen.

Ultrasonic cleaning systems

Ultrasonic cleaning technologies from Ultrasonic Power Corporation use cavitation to remove contaminants from parts, including areas where brushes and sprayers cannot reach. Its new 39-gallon ultrasonic cleaning system with Sonic Touch II includes a patented cavitation meter and wireless control and is suited for cleaning of titanium, aluminium, and steel parts. The company offers additional large systems up to 204 gallons.

About the Author: Sheila Kennedy
About the Author

Sheila Kennedy | CMRP

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected] or

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