Ultrasonic phased array systems can potentially be employed in almost any test where conventional ultrasonic flaw detectors have traditionally been used. Weld inspection and crack detection are the most important applications, and these tests are done across a wide range of industries including aerospace, power generation, petrochemical, metal billet and tubular goods suppliers, pipeline construction and maintenance, structural metals, and general manufacturing. Phased arrays can also be
effectively used to profile remaining wall thickness in corrosion survey applications.
The benefits of phased array technology over conventional UT come from its ability to use multiple elements to steer, focus and scan beams with a single transducer assembly. Beam steering, commonly referred to sectorial scanning, can be used for mapping components at appropriate angles. This can greatly simplify the inspection of components with complex geometry. The small footprint of the transducer and the ability to sweep the beam without moving the probe also aids inspection of such components in situations where there is limited access for mechanical scanning. Sectorial scanning is also typically used for weld inspection. The ability to test welds with multiple angles from a single probe greatly increases the probability of detection of anomalies. Electronic focusing permits optimizing the beam shape and size at the expected defect location, as well as further optimizing probability of detection. The ability to focus at multiple depths also improves the ability for sizing critical defects for volumetric inspections. Focusing can significantly improve signal-to-noise ratio in challenging applications, and electronic scanning across many groups of elements allows for C-Scan images to be produced very rapidly.
The potential disadvantages of phased array systems are a somewhat higher cost and a requirement for operator training, however these costs are frequently offset by their greater flexibility and a reduction in the time required to perform a given inspection.