inspection systems and instruments
For more than 25 years we have supplied automated and semi-automated ultrasonic testing
systems to meet the requirements of the most demanding customers throughout the
world. These incorporate our highly versatile PC based ultrasonic instruments
with an unrivalled combination of sensitivity, signal to noise ratio and
immunity to external noise sources.
We design and manufacture the complete system, including
mechanical scanning units, electrical / electronic control, ultrasonics and
software. You can rely on us to ensure that whatever system you need, it will
perform quickly and reliably to the highest standards.
can provide equipment designed to solve a specific inspection problem or
suitable for general purpose applications. The systems can be used for
generation of ultrasonic images of components using scanning mechanisms coupled
with data acquisition electronics, or they can automatically sort materials into
accept or reject categories.
on the "products" link at the top of this page to see a selection of
the products we manufacture. The systems are divided into specific types - for
example immersion systems, squirter systems and so on. You
can see our latest Newsletter on the Download page. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phone on + 44 (0)1252 350550.
LATEST NEWS SEPTEMBER 2013
Following the recent news that Midas NDT
has ceased trading, hinted at by our news item below, existing MIDAS customers
are looking for support. USL is in a unique position to help because for
many years we have been upgrading old Midas / Meccasonics inspection systems.
More recently we have "upgraded" new systems from Midas that have
been installed at customer sites but which have never worked - see also the
news item below. For those companies seeking help with old or new Midas
systems we are only too happy to help. Please telephone +44 (0)1252 350550,
fax +44 (0)1252 350445 or e-mail to email@example.com.
Factory acceptance tests on two major new
systems have been completed in the first two weeks of June. The first is the
latest USL 10 axis complex geometry squirter system similar to the systsm
shown below. This is destined for the BAE Systems manufacturing site in
Lancashire and will be the 4th such system installed there. In common with the
others this has 10 scanning axes, 5 motorised fixture axes, with simultaneous
through transmission logarithmic and pulse echo linear data acquisition.
The second is an immersion tank with two
scanning bridges, each with a 5 axis manipulator and 8 channel ultrasonics.
The tank is divided into two separate scanning areas, each 3 x 1.5 metres. The
system is configured so that both tanks can be used independently, or a
central divider can be removed to produce a single scan area of 6 x 1.5 metres,
with one of the scanning bridges parked. The scanner is shown below left being
loaded for delivery.
This scanner will be the 4th USL system installed on this
customer site - the first two in 1997 and a third in 2005. All these have been
in continuous use inspecting titanium plate to the critical standards
specified by aero engine manufacturers. To achieve these standards highly
sensitive focussed probes are required, mounted in an 8 probe holder with each
one slightly offset from its neighbour. Each probe scans a narrow band of
material on a single pass and the results are combined to generate a single C
scan image, compensating for the offset of each probe in the X and Y
directions. Setting up the probes in this way can be a laborious task and we
have designed a special probe holder which greatly simplifies the task. The
probe holder is shown in the picture, above right.
For many years USL has carried out upgrades
of outdated scanning systems to bring them up to a modern standard. This
usually involves new PC based ultrasonics, digital data acquisition and
scanner control using existing mechanical scanning units. This continues but
has also been extended more recently into fixing new systems supplied by third
parties where the machines have never reached the operational stage. A common
cause is where separate parts of a system are supplied by different companies,
with consequent failure to accept responsibility. In these cases, replacement
of the ultrasonics, motion control and software from a single supplier such as
USL will usually solve the problem. Other reasons range from excessive
electronic noise to a simple inability to get multiple scanning axes working
together. Sometimes there is more than one reason for a defective product and
manufacturers attempts to correct one problem only make another problem worse.
recent example is a USL upgrade of a 10 axis squirter system supplied
in 2012 to a composite manufacturer. Despite attempts over several months to
get the system running the original manufacturer had failed. USL supplied a
replacement ultrasonic and data acquisition system, software for motion
control and imaging together with some other enhancements and the system was
up and running within 7 days of our arrival.
have recently been received for upgrades on several other systems, some
manufactured by other suppliers and some for old USL systems which now require
up-to-date software and hardware.
An old rotary system manufactured by a third party about 10 years ago and used
for inspection of engine fan cowls and similar parts. USL ultrasonics, data
acqusition and software will be installed.
A USL multi channel immersion system for inspection of aluminium plate. An
older generation of USL ultrasonics, operating for over 10 years, will be
replaced, together with Windows 7 based software.
A USL 7 axis immersion tank will be updated with the latest data acquisition
currently has 8 immersion systems operating at the Rolls-Royce "Achord"
fan blade manufacturing facility in Singapore. These are used for defect
inspection during the manufacturing stages and then for thickness monitoring
of finished blades. A new order has been received for an additional system to
complement the existing units.
order has been received from an aerospace company in China for a 6 axis
contour following immersion system, for general purpose inspection of a range
of products of both simple and more complex shapes. Also a UK engineering
company has ordered a 5 axis high frequency immersion inspection system
intended for a range of tests on exotic materials.
largest squirter system has been installed at a customer site in Japan, only
30 days after leaving UK. This is in contrast to some of our competitors, who
can take more than 3 months after the system arrives at the end user site to
reach a stage where it is operational. In fact some competitor systems never
reach this stage and require extensive work by a third party such as USL
before they become productive. Why not cut out the middle man and come
directly to us?
A new order has been received for a
squirter C scan inspection system from an aerospace company in India. In
comparison with the system for Japan shown below, this is a small unit with
the minimum number of axes, but it will incorporate the most up-to-date
ultrasonic, data acquisition and software modules.
USL's largest ever squirter system for composites
inspection has been delivered to Asia for installation at the production
site of a composite manufacturer, part of a major engineering group.
The system has a scan volume of 15 x 1.8 x 2.9 metres (X x Y x Z), with 10
scanning axes and 5 motorised fixture axes. This will be re-assembled and
installed in the coming weeks. It is similar to the system shown below (in
China) and will be used for inspection of large complex geometry parts
manufactured for Boeing and other aircraft companies.
The logistics involved in packing and transporting a
system like this are considerable. In this case it involved manufacture of 8
special cases, a large mobile crane, 3 special articulated lorries and 3
aircraft. The pictures below were taken during the initial stages of loading
A hardware and software upgrade has been completed on a
multi channel USL immersion system at VSMPO in Russia. This brings it up to
current specification after operating in continuous production since 2006.
A 6 metre long immersion system has been installed and
commissioned at Fokker Aerostructures in The Netherlands. This includes special
tooling designed for double through transmission inspection of a composite
2012 was the busiest year ever for USL
in terms of orders, deliveries, turnover and profitability. The current order
book suggests that 2013 could exceed this. Some highlights of the past few
Deliveries to China Four large complex geometry squirter
systems have been delivered to customers in China, three to new customers
and another to an existing user of a similar USL machine. Three of these
systems are the traditional USL 10 axis horizontal unit shown below, with
an additional 5 axis fixture. The scan volume ranges from 5 x 1 x 2.9
metres (X x Y x Z) to 8 x 2 x 2.9 metres.
The fourth system is a "hybrid" unit
with one horizontal manipulator and one vertical, bridge mounted manipulator.
This is designed for through transmission inspection of inverted cone-shaped
parts. The configuration of the machine and the manipulators is shown below.
All these machines have multi channel USL ultrasonic units
with logarithmic and linear amplifiers, multiple gates on each channel,
simultaneous pulse echo and through transmission data capture and full waveform
storage when required.
Following installation of a robotic
inspection system at a GE Aerospace company in UK, we have commissioned a
further robot based unit at a UK robot manufacturer This will be installed at
a UK manufacturing company for inspection of the wall thickness on complex
shaped parts. This is part of a manufacturing cell which incorporates
dimensional inspection, linishing and polishing with all manipulation of parts
and tooling carried out by the robot. The wall thickness measurement is done
using an irrigated "bubbler" probe connected to a remote USL pulser
preamplifier (shown in the picture) and a PC based ultrasonic / data
Upgrades have been completed on third party
machines in USA at several sites, including GKN, Goodrich and Ducommun, including the rotary system shown below. These upgrades are
carried out in conjunction with our partners Arcadia Aerospace in Florida, with
USL supplying multi-channel ultrasonic electronics and control software for the
entire system. Other similar upgrades are in progress.
Systems near completion, in progress and new orders USL's largest
ever squirter inspection system was subjected to a comprehensive
pre-acceptance procedure in December and was approved for delivery. This
system, with a scan volume of 15 x 1.8 x 2.9 metres, will be installed at a
composite component manufacturer in Japan - it s shown under test in the
following section. This will be USL's first machine in this country.
Orders received in the second half of 2012 include 2
complex geometry squirter systems - one for UK and one for China. These join 2
similar units under construction for The Netherlands and China. Immersion
systems are also in progress, the largest being a dual tank system for
inspection of titanium plate material.
new investment We have recently made a near 6 figure
investment in a "Faro" laser tracking device, shown in use on the
complex geometry system destined for Japan. The tracker will be used during
several stages of manufacture and installation of USL systems, enabling us
to achieve a level of accuracy which was previously unobtainable. The system
can track a target reflector which is fixed to a moving axis, recording its
position in three dimensions with micron accuracy. This gives us the
1. Very accurate alignment of structural assemblies
2. Compensation of inherent inaccuracies in motion
systems such as rack/pinion, ballscrew and belt drives. These inaccuracies,
although minute, can build up over several metres of travel so that they can
have a significant effect on scan results.
3. Re-alignment of large machines during re-assembly on
4. An independent means of proving to our customers,
and their customers in turn, that the required levels of accuracy,
repeatability and backlash have been achieved.
axis immersion system with a tank size of 900 x 900 x 400mm has been installed
at a BAE SYSTEMS site for use in trials on inspection of pipes – see the
picture below on the left. It has three linear axes – X, Y and Z and a rotational
axis with one driven centre and one adjustable slave centre to accept pipes of
similar sized system has also been installed at a UK research organisation. This
has 5 motorised axes - X, Y, Z, probe tip and turntable. It is designed for
inspection of roto-symmetrical parts and has a programmable contour following
capability. This is shown below right, with some covers removed.
have commissioned an installation in USA ( shown below) which integrates USL
ultrasonics and software with a Motoman industrial robot. The completed unit
will eventually be installed at a UK aerospace manufacturer. It carries out a
through transmission inspection using a yoke assembly and a pulse echo immersion
inspection in a continuous sequence, with the inspection head being changed
automatically between the two tests.
The strong demand for USL systems has
been maintained. We have had record order intake in the first half of 2012,
which is a continuing trend since the start of the “recession”. Chief among
these is an order for our largest ever composite inspection system, for an end
user in Japan. In 2011 we installed a system in China with a scan volume of 11 x
2 x 3 metres – this new one is even larger at 14 x 2 x 3 metres. It will have
10 scanning axes and 5 programmable fixture axes.
A recent order from a UK customer for a
similar complex geometry system with an X travel of 5 metres will mean that this
particular user will eventually be operating 4 of these sophisticated systems
for use on their complex composite parts.
Finally, manufacture of several
immersion systems is in progress. The smallest of these is destined for a UK
semiconductor manufacturer and will be operating at ultrasonic frequencies
between 15 and 25MHz, for detection of small bonding defects in high power
devices. A three axis system 6 metres long will be supplied to a European
composites manufacturer for inspection of specialist tubes. A repeat order has
been received for a dual bridge system for a UK manufacturer of titanium plate
destined for aero-engine blades, among other applications. Each bridge will be
completely independent, with 5 axes and 8 channels, with the capability to park
one bridge and remove a tank divider so that the full length of the tank (6
metres) can be used for longer product. Currently this customer operates two USL
single bridge machines and one dual bridge, shown below.
A new system has been installed at Hindustan Aeronautics
in Bangalore, India for inspection of complex composite parts. This is our
first system supplied to an aerospace manufacturer in India, although we
have supplied systems to the railway industry in India for many years. The
machine (below) is an 11 axis gantry style squirter system with a scan volume
of 4 x 2 x 2.5 metres (X x Y x Z) and is designed for testing dual curvature
parts using both through transmission and pulse echo techniques.
An upgrade of a 6 axis immersion system has been completed at
BAE Systems in UK to bring it up to current standards in software control and
Machinery Safety. This has been used for many years for inspection of various
titanium alloy components manufactured by the SPFDB process for the
Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.
Another system upgrade at an aluminium plate manufacturer has
been completed, by replacing the original ultrasonic units by a USL 8 channel
ultrasonic and software system.