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Ultrasonics. 2016 May;68:71-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ultras.2016.02.012. Epub 2016 Feb 21.

Applying a nonlinear, pitch-catch, ultrasonic technique for the detection of kissing bonds in friction stir welds.

Author information

1
Wave Propagation and Signal Processing Research Group, KU Leuven Kulak, E. Sabbelaan 53, 8500 Kortrijk, Belgium. Electronic address: Steven.Delrue@kuleuven-kulak.be.
2
Wave Propagation and Signal Processing Research Group, KU Leuven Kulak, E. Sabbelaan 53, 8500 Kortrijk, Belgium.

Abstract

Friction stir welding (FSW) is a promising technology for the joining of aluminum alloys and other metallic admixtures that are hard to weld by conventional fusion welding. Although FSW generally provides better fatigue properties than traditional fusion welding methods, fatigue properties are still significantly lower than for the base material. Apart from voids, kissing bonds for instance, in the form of closed cracks propagating along the interface of the stirred and heat affected zone, are inherent features of the weld and can be considered as one of the main causes of a reduced fatigue life of FSW in comparison to the base material. The main problem with kissing bond defects in FSW, is that they currently are very difficult to detect using existing NDT methods. Besides, in most cases, the defects are not directly accessible from the exposed surface. Therefore, new techniques capable of detecting small kissing bond flaws need to be introduced. In the present paper, a novel and practical approach is introduced based on a nonlinear, single-sided, ultrasonic technique. The proposed inspection technique uses two single element transducers, with the first transducer transmitting an ultrasonic signal that focuses the ultrasonic waves at the bottom side of the sample where cracks are most likely to occur. The large amount of energy at the focus activates the kissing bond, resulting in the generation of nonlinear features in the wave propagation. These nonlinear features are then captured by the second transducer operating in pitch-catch mode, and are analyzed, using pulse inversion, to reveal the presence of a defect. The performance of the proposed nonlinear, pitch-catch technique, is first illustrated using a numerical study of an aluminum sample containing simple, vertically oriented, incipient cracks. Later, the proposed technique is also applied experimentally on a real-life friction stir welded butt joint containing a kissing bond flaw.

KEYWORDS:

Comsol; Friction stir welding; Kissing bonds; Non-destructive testing; Nonlinearity

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