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Most standards and codes that are widely used in different industries lag behind the technology they

govern. This is often the case with several codes affiliated with the non-destructive testing of welds.
Fortunately, todays code now allows phased-array ultrasonic inspection to be used in lieu of
radiography for the inspection of several variations of welds under several codes. Phased-array is a
beneficial discipline that often supersedes radiography by providing more useful information, at a lower
cost, in a safer and faster manner.

Both radiographic (RT) and phased-array ultrasonic (PAUT) inspection give a permanent record of the
inspection. With the advent of digital radiography, both can be produced in electronic format; however,
RT is still more commonly produced as a physical piece of film. A permanent digital image that can be
incorporated into a physical report is standard with PAUT.

The empirical problem with RT is that it only produces a two-dimensional image. Depth information is
not included with the report, and thus one cannot definitively identify the exact location of the flaw.
Another troubling issue is that planar laminations might not be visible to RT. In contrast, PAUT provides
a visual reference to the flaw, a known depth and spot discontinuities with various planar orientations
(as shown in Figure 1).

Purpose of inspection

The purpose of performing RT or PAUT is to evaluate the entire volume of a weld for the detection of
potentially detrimental discontinuities in a weld in accordance with written procedures, guidelines,
standards and codes. ASME B31.3 contains code requirements for piping typically found in petroleum
refineries, as well as chemical, pharmaceutical and other related processing plants and terminals. It
covers the materials and components, design, fabrication, assembly, erection, examination, inspection
and testing of piping.

This code applies to piping for all fluids, as well as piping that interconnects pieces or stages within a
packaged equipment assembly. It serves as a companion to ASMEs B31.1 Code for Power Piping, as well
as to the other codes in ASMEs B31 series.

Careful application of these B31 codes can help users achieve operational, cost and safety benefits by
implementing the best industry practices.

Change of code

Within the past decade, numerous industry codes and standards have begun to incorporate ultrasonic
testing as a viable means of volumetrically inspecting welds. UT in lieu of RT is either in the process of
becoming, or is currently, established in the following codes and standards:


o B31.1 Code Case 168

o B31.3 Code Case 181

o Section III Code Case N-659

o Section I & VIII Code Case 2235

o Section XI Code Case N-713

API 650

o Appendix U


o E2491-06

Phased array

Phased array ultrasonic testing is based on principles of wave physics. The term phased refers to the
timing, and the term array refers to the multiple elements. The PA probe consists of many small
elements, each of which can be pulsed separately. One element is pulsed first and emits a pressure
wave that spreads out like a ripple on a pond (largest semicircle). The next element is pulsed, and emits
a ripple that is slightly smaller than the first because it was started later. The process continues down
the line until all the elements have been pulsed. The multiple waves add up to one single wave front
travelling at a set angle. Beam steering and focusing capabilities are key in enhancing resolution, which
results in faster inspection time and increased probability of detection.

Unlike conventional and automated ultrasonic testing, which is performed for fixed angles of 45, 60 and
70 degrees, phased array testing can cover all angles in this range simultaneously. This is significant
since a single phased array inspection can cover all angles from 40-75 degrees and displays the image in
real time. The real time image is a direct superimposition of the ultrasonic illumination on the test piece
and is easy to interpret. Using swept angle S-scans, PAUT requires smaller surface distance for
inspection compared to AUT or manual UT. PAUT can cover a large cross-section of the test piece from a
single probe location. Through the testing of sample plate and pipe sections, PAUT has proven its ability
to detect weld flaws such as: toe cracks, center line cracks, lack of fusion, lack of penetration, slag and
porosity. Additionally, the ability of PAUT to minimize the focal spot size at a defect location has allowed
for increased accuracy of flaw sizing.

History of phased array

Phased Array Ultrasonic technology was first developed and put into use in the medical industry in the
1970s. As its use became more prominent, portable battery-powered units were developed and used in
industrial applications as early as the 1990s. As the advancement of technology continued, the 2000s
began to see several national industrial standards and codes recognize PAUT as an acceptable or
alternative inspection method. Today, PAUT is a common non-destructive testing method that has an
almost endless variety of equipment manufacturers for countless different applications.

Disadvantages of radiography

Inherent danger

There have always been valid concerns about using radioactive sources and radiation creating devices to
conduct internal inspections, but there have not really been any workable alternatives until ultrasonic
technology advanced to what it is today. Thus, the tolerance for the deficiencies of RT is decreasing and
eventually it will be used only in the rare circumstances when there is no other alternative.

RT is often unable to detect delicate flaws, especially in thick sections of material. These flaws can prove
costly and dangerous. Lack of penetration and lack of sidewall fusion are two of the most dangerous
defects, and they are sometimes hard to distinguish with RT. These defects are mostly planar, and
detection of planar defects by RT is applicable only when the defect planes are not perpendicular to
radiation direction. In contrast, PAUT has the ability to detect and locate defects not visible to RT

Efficiency and cost

RT requires multiple shots at varying intensity levels.

Results are not obtained until the film is developed and interpreted.

The area must be cleared of personnel while shots are taken.

The law requires a minimum crew of two.

Access to both sides of the part is necessary.

Radiography requires access to two sides at a minimum, placement of a source, film and Image Quality
Indicators (IQI). Once everything is in place, the operator has a timed shot. Once the shot is made, the
film is taken into the mobile dark room for development, while another operator sets up for the next
shot. While all of this is taking place, you have no idea what is in the weld. It is not until the film is
developed and interpreted that the results are obtained. All of this is time consuming, and while the
shots are taken, the area must be cleared of personnel. In contrast, with Phased Array technology, two
transducers can be used at the same time, shooting each weld from two directions simultaneously,
orbiting around the pipe weld in less than a minute. The scan is in real time, so the operator can see
potential problems as soon as the transducer(s) crosses over it. No personnel are moved out of the area
and the entire inspection is over before you know it.

PAUTs advantages

More information about a defects characteristics



Ease of set-up


Easy to interpret

Compatible software that can export measurements into spreadsheets.

A 3-D image that provides the exact location of defects.

Ultrasonic waves successfully interact with planar defects.

Real-time scanning, so the operator can see potential problems as soon as the transducer(s)
crosses over it.
A flaw can be immediately examined without additional setup or development.

There is no radiation/inherent hazard.

It is not necessary to clear an area for testing, nor is it necessary to stop production.

Only one inspector is required.


Whether the client is concerned with cost, accuracy of inspection, speed, data storage or safety, phased
array ultrasonic inspection is superior to radiographic inspection.