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Rapid Large Area Inspection from a Single Sensor Position: A Guided Shear Wave Phased Array Scan

Being a student and professor of ultrasonics for over 40 years, this author can remember his initial passionate behavior starting 30 years ago with respect to the subject of ultrasonic guided waves. It became possible to inspect large areas of a structure from a single sensor position. Wow! Amazing! Some simple scanning, however, was often necessary. Ultrasonic guided waves did not just replace bulk wave ultrasonics in many inspections, but could now solve some problems that couldn’t even be solved in earlier years. At that time, however, this author envisioned someday that someone would be able to inspect a large area of a structure by simply touching the structure at a single position, and despite having sections hidden or covered with water for example, still being able to carry out a reliable inspection. The guided wave phased array (GWPA) scan discussed in this feature article can indeed inspect large areas of a structure from a single probe position. Obviously several touches are benefi-cial from both a nondestructive testing (NDT) and structural health monitoring (SHM) point of view, but further growth and development is on the horizon. Nondestructive testing and structural health monitoring of large area plate and shell structures is thus an area of opportunity due to the time consuming and costly nature of such inspections. The long-range inspection capability of ultrasonic guided waves makes them excellent candi-dates for addressing this problem. A patent-pending shear ring phased array technology has been developed that utilizes a range of specialized piezo-electric actuators in conjunction with a phased array electronics platform to facilitate rapid screening of large areas of plates and shells. Examples of large-area NDT include the hulls of ships and submersibles, aircraft fuselages and wings, pressure vessels, and storage containers, among others. Traditional ultra-sonic phased array technology is a well-known and accepted inspection technology that introduced distinct advantages in the realm of bulk wave ultra-sonics. Guided wave phased array technology now becomes the next logical step in the realm of guided wave ultrasonics.

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