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The influence of surface roughness on ultrasonic thickness measurements
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In corrosion assessment, ultrasonic wall-thickness measurements are often presented in the form of a color map. However, this gives little quantitative information on the distribution of the thickness measurements. The collected data can be used to form an empirical cumulative distribution function (ECDF), which provides information on the fraction of the surface with less than a certain thickness. It has been speculated that the ECDF could be used to draw conclusions about larger areas, from inspection data of smaller sub-sections. A detailed understanding of the errors introduced by such an approach is required to be confident in its predictions. There are two major sources of error: the actual thickness variation due to the morphology of the surface and the interaction of the signal processing algorithm with the recorded ultrasonic signals. Parallel experimental and computational studies were performed using three surfaces, generated with Gaussian height distributions. The surfaces were machined onto mild steel plates and ultrasonic C-scans were performed, while the distributed point source method was used to perform equivalent simulations. ECDFs corresponding to each of these surfaces (for both the experimental and computational data) are presented and their variation with changing surface roughness and different timing algorithms is discussed.
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