Ultrasonic Sciences Ltd
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World leading ultrasonic 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. 

We 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.

Click 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 info@ultrasonic-sciences.co.uk or by phone on + 44 (0)1252 350550.

 

 

 

 

LATEST NEWS SEPTEMBER 2013

 

  •    MIDAS ceases trading - USL is best placed to help you

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 info@ultrasonic-sciences.co.uk.

 

    

  •    Completion and delivery of two major systems

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.

 

  • System upgrades - USL applies the Midas touch to old or defective systems

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.

One 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.

Orders 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.

a) 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.

b) 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.

c) A USL 7 axis immersion tank will be updated with the latest data acquisition and software.

 

  •    New order for immersion system in Singapore

USL 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.

  •    New order for immersion systems from China and UK

An 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. 

  •   Another successful installation

USL's 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?

 

 

 

  •     New order - squirter system for India

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.

 

  •     A good start to 2013 with delivery of a major system

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 and transport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 part.  

 

 

  • 2012 - A RECORD YEAR FOR USL

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 months are:

  •     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. 

 

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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.

  •     Other deliveries A small 3 axis immersion unit has been installed at Dynex Semiconductor in UK for inspection of power semiconductor devices and assemblies. 

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 acquisition system.

 

 

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.

 

  •     A 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 following capabilities:

    1. Very accurate alignment of structural assemblies during construction.

    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 site.

    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.

 

 

 

 

  • Immersion tanks

A 4 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 varying length.

A 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.  

 

 

  • Robotic systems

We 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.

 

 

  • Record orders in the first half of 2012

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.

 

 

 

  • Installation in India

 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.

 

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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.