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NDT&E International 36 (2003) 5763 www.elsevier.


A small 2D ultrasonic array for NDT applications

neza,*, Mostafa Akhnakb, Luis G. Ullatea, F. Montero de Espinosab O. Mart

tica Industrial (CSIC), Ctra. de Campo Real, Km.0,200. La poveda, Apartado 56, 28500 Arganda del Rey, Madrid, Spain Instituto de Automa b stica (CSIC), C/Serrano 144, 28006 Madrid, Spain Instituto de Acu Received 12 June 2002; revised 23 September 2002; accepted 24 September 2002

Abstract A prototype of two-dimensional transducer array with reduced number of elements, based on segmented annular distribution is presented. The capability of this array to produce volumetric imaging is compared to the equivalent conventional 2D squared matrix array. The comparison between both apertures is made for the cases of the full-array emission/reception mode and SAFT mode. From the analysis it is deduced that the segmented annular arrays produce lower grating lobes than squared arrays, improving the image contrast. The fabrication process of a segmented annular array of 64 elements and the experimental work made with this array transducer is also presented in this paper. q 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PACS: 43.38.Hz; 43.35; 43.35.Bc; 43.60 Keywords: 3D ultrasonic imaging; 2D segmented annular array; Volumetric NDE

1. Introduction Although in the last years the interest on 3D ultrasonic imaging applications is increasing, the development of volumetric imaging systems based on 2D array transducers has been limited mainly to R&D laboratories. Conventional 2D arrays are formed by square elements distributed in a matrix grid. This element distribution shows high periodicity level, producing grating lobes of high intensity. In order to suppress grating lobes the inter-element spacing is maintained near l/2 [1]. From this condition, three drawbacks arise limiting the development of volumetric imaging systems based on 2D arrays. The requirement for many hundreds of channels increases the cost and complexity of the imaging system. The electrical connections have severe fabrication difculties. The small size of elements is associated to low signal-tonoise ratios (SNR). Some of these problems have been investigated [2]. In fact different thinning strategies have been developed to
* Corresponding author. Tel.: 34-91-871-1900; fax: 34-91-871-7050. nez). E-mail address: (O. Mart

reduce the number of active elements, maintaining, at the same time, good eld characteristics [3]. However, SNR for such solutions can become low in excess. As an alternative to these solutions segmented annular arrays have been proposed [4]. These apertures have two advantages compared to squared arrays. First, their axial symmetry provides regularity in the radiated eld and, second, their geometry entails a reduction of the periodicity level and therefore of the intensity of the grating lobes. This fact allows applying inter-element spacing higher than l/2 in the array, and this reducing the number of arrays elements. Our main objective is to design 2D ultrasonic arrays, which can be integrated in conventional imaging systems for NDT applications. In this sense a prototype of segmented annular array with 64 elements and 20 mm diameter (Fig. 1(a)) with a vibrating frequency of 1.5 MHz has been fabricated. This array has been designed for volumetric evaluation of solid parts (plastic and/or metallic). Experiments were addressed to show the ability of the array for generating volumetric images.

2. Ultrasonic eld modelling In order to simulate the ultrasonic eld of SA arrays, several tools based on the well-known convolution-impulse

0963-8695/03/$ - see front matter q 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 9 6 3 - 8 6 9 5 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 0 7 2 - 5


nez et al. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 5763 O. Mart

Fig. 1. (a) 2D annular segmented array SA-64 N 64; (b) 2D square matrix array SQ-68 N 68; and (c) array geometry.

response (IR) have been developed. In this method, the pressure at a given point (given in spherical coordinates) is obtained by convolution of the source acceleration and the array IR, which is computed by superposition of the impulse response of the array elements. The received signal due to a reector point in ~ xr ; f; u is S ~ x; t

r d2 vt p hE ~ x; t p hR ~ x; t c dt 2 N X x; t hi ~ x ; t 2 TE i hE ~
i1 N X i1

1 2 3

hR ~ x; t

hi ~ x ; t 2 TR i

where p indicates temporal convolution; v(t ) is the excitation wave; hE() and hR() are the array impulse responses in emission and reception, respectively; r is the medium density and c is the sound velocity of the propagation medium; hi() is the spatial impulse response function of the ith array element located at ~ xi ri ; fi ; p=2 (a closed-form expression of this function can be found in Ref. [5]); TRi and TEi are the time delays for focusing the beam at the focus ~ xF r F ; fF ; uF in reception (F ; R) and in emission (F ; E), respectively: cTiF l~ xF l 2 l~ xF 2 ~ xi l 4

size is 1.6 1.6 mm2, and are spaced by 2 2 mm2 in the tangential and radial directions. This array is compared to the squared array of equivalent dimensions (SQ-68): 20 mm of diameter and 68 squared elements of size 1.6 1.6 mm2, and inter-element spacing of 2 2 mm2 (Fig. 1 right). To evaluate the performances of both arrays several simulations in pulse-echo mode have been done considering that both arrays radiate the same ultrasonic pulse, with a central frequency of 1.5 MHz and a relative bandwidth of 70%, into a homogeneous solid medium: acrylic with a sound velocity c 2700 m/s, the wavelength is therefore l 1:8 mm: Both arrays have been focused at the same point in emission and in reception: r F 30 mm; fF 08; and the elevation angle u F has been varied from 0 to 308 in steps of 108. Fig. 2 shows the lateral proles for the different steering angles.

3. A comparison of squared arrays and segmented annular arrays A segmented annular array, with 64 elements distributed in three concentric rings (SA-64) has been designed and fabricated (Fig. 1 left). The array diameter is 20 mm, and its elements are annular segments of unitary aspect ratio whose

Fig. 2. Emitreceive point spread function for the cases of SQ-68 array (top) and SA-64 array (bottom), for the following steering conditions: X F 30 mm; uF ; being from uF 0 to 308, in steps of 108.

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Several points should be remarked: The upper part of the main lobe (above 2 20 dB) of SA64 is narrower than in the SQ-68 case (8.5 and 10.58, respectively, at 2 20 dB). However, SA-64 has greater side lobes, then worsening its lateral resolution at the lower part of the main lobe (20 and 158, respectively, at 2 30 dB). This is due to the empty part of the SA-64 aperture. For both arrays, steering causes that the peak value of the main beam falls slowly and monotonically with the steering angle (2 6 dB from uF 0 to 308). In both cases, grating lobes are located around 2 458 from the focal elevation. In the case of SA-64, the amplitude of grating lobes varies with steering from 2 55 to 2 40 dB. This level is relatively low considering the reduced number of elements, and can be considered acceptable for numerous imaging applications. However, SQ-68 produces higher grating lobes than SA-64 varying from 2 35 to 2 20 dB for uF 308: In this case, the image contrast is more conditioned by the steering angle. 3.1. Ultrasonic eld for synthetic aperture focusing technique Although synthetic aperture focusing technique (SAFT) images are worse of quality than in the full-array mode (i.e. in terms of signal-to-noise ratio and image contrast). This technique has become very popular in non-destructive testing applications because it requires simple hardware, reducing therefore the cost of the imaging system [6]. SAFT is based on the post-processing of the raw data collected from every array element (A-scan), which operate independently as stand-alone transducers. When all the Ascan has been collected, the raw data are processed, delaying and adding the signals, to apply focusing and steering by digital processing. In order to evaluate the capability of the SAFT mode, Eq. (1) has been modied to compute the pressure eld of both apertures. P ~ x; t
N r d2 vt X p hi ~ x; t 2 TEi p hi ~ x ; t 2 TR i c dt 2 i1

Fig. 3. Synthetic aperture focusing technique. Emitreceive point spread function for the cases of the SQ-68 array (top) and SA-64 array (bottom), for different steering conditions: X F (30 mm, u F), being from uF 0 to 308, with steps of 108.

As in the full-array mode, steering causes that the peak of the main beam falls slowly and monotonically with the steering angle in both arrays. But SAFT causes signals to decay more slowly with steering (i.e. for the SA-64 the focal amplitude is maintained above 2 20 dB). The differences on grating lobes are also signicative. In position grating lobes of SQ-68 are at least 88 nearer the main lobe than in the SA-64 case. In amplitude SA-64 shows better response than SQ-68, in fact its lobes are at least 2 20 dB below the main lobe. From the comparison of Figs. 2 and 3 it is deduced that the contrast capability using SAFT is poorer than in the case of full-array. Grating lobes are higher, and at least 108 nearer to the focus than in full-array operation. The lateral resolution is slightly increased, but the side lobes are wider and higher.

4. Array fabrication One to three piezoelectric composite is used as basis material to manufacture segmented annular arrays, due to its low planar coupling, high electromechanical coupling and, consequently, high sensitivity and bandwidth [7]. The composite is made of PZ27 ceramic pillars (Ferroperm) embedded in Araldite D-polymer-(Ciba & Geigy) following standard manufacturing procedures. In addition, a backing material is used to reduce the pulse width of the ultrasonic pulses. Sensitivity and bandwidth have also been improved by using a matching layer. Smith model [8] was previously used to simulate the piezoelectric composite properties. The composite parameters were determined experimentally and are given in Table 1. As usually, some balance must be studied to select the composite structure. Firstly, high electromechanical coefcient kt should be attained to

As can be seen in Fig. 3 also in SAFT mode, SA-64 produces better results than SQ-68. Several points can be remarked. Although, the upper part of the main lobe (above 2 15 dB) produced by SA-64 is narrower than in the SQ-68 case, SA-64 generates higher side lobes, then worsening its lateral resolution at the lower part of the main lobe. At 2 20 dB, the lateral resolution is 188 for SQ-68, and near 248 for SA-64. As can be observed in the gure, the progressive degradation of lateral resolution is increased with the steering.

60 Table 1 Composite parameters Parameter Thickness (mm) Ceramic vol. fraction (%) Max (R ) (MHz) Max (G ) (MHz) (kg/m3) VL (m/s) kt

nez et al. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 5763 O. Mart

Value 1.03 69 1.856 1.525 5156 3620 0.61

have good efciency and bandwidth. The kt in 1 3 composites have maximum value between 30 and 70% of ceramic percent. Low ceramic percents imply low specic acoustic impedance, which is good if direct contact with liquid media is used. The ceramic percent chosen, 69%, gives high electromechanical coefcient and a relatively high specic acoustic impedance value 5 MRayl; which permits the use of loaded polymers to fabricate the matching layers. The other parameters of Table 1 are a direct consequence of the composite design chosen. The thickness corresponds to the desired frequency, 1.5 MHz, and the electrical impedance at resonance of the array elements are a function of their size and the composite dielectric and piezoelectric parameters. For a conventional transducer, the electrodes at the back face and at the front face of the piezoelectric material are deposited by sputtering (1 mm thickness). In case of a SA array transducer (Fig. 4), a exible circuit (kevlar cooper sheet, kevlar thickness 0.04 mm and cooper thickness 0.01 mm) is used, in which the geometrical distribution of array elements and tracks for electric connections have been drawn. The exible circuit is glued carefully on the composite back face using an adhesive epoxy. This technique requires the area of the array elements to be bigger than the size of the piezocomposite ceramic rods so that the electrode covers enough ceramics to obtain good

approximation of each element. In the case of SA-64, where the element size is 1.6 1.6 mm2 with gaps of 0.4 mm, the piezocomposite is formed by squared rods 0.23 mm of side, and the inter-rods distance is 0.3 mm. We have previously reported that the thickness of the glue epoxy creates a spurious capacity between the exible circuit and the composite, which degrades the transduction performances [9]. So, during the bonding process a stress is applied to reduce as much as possible the glue layer thickness. Low impedance backing (approximately 2.5 Mrayls acoustic impedance) at the backside of the array transducer has been used. A thin ground silver electrode was sputtered over the composite emitting surface. The use of one matching layer at the transducer front acoustic port is indispensable due to the large mismatch between the acoustic impedance of the composite and the impedance of the material under experiments. As a nal step the entire array was introduced into a metallic housing (Fig. 4).

5. Experimental work 5.1. Acoustic eld of the SA-64 array The acoustic eld radiated by SA-64 has been studied considering the rings independently and/or combined in different congurations. Although the array has been designed for non-destructive testing in solid materials, the ultrasonic eld measurements have been made in water using a PVDF needle hydrophone. Using the spatial impulse response approach, the acoustic eld was computed for several focussing conditions. Theoretical results for the double ring conguration (only the two inner rings are on active state) are shown in Fig. 5 and compared with the experimental measurements performed with a 32 channels programmable pulser. The pressure amplitude at a plane parallel to the transducer situated at 100 mm from the array are presented for two different elevation angles uF 10 and 158). The gure shows good agreement between simulation and measurements. Side and grating lobes are rather high because the ratio element pitch/ wavelength in water is close to two. 5.2. Volumetric imaging in SAFT mode The volumetric imaging experiments are conditioned because we do not have an imaging system able to control a SA array of 64 elements. Despite that, experimentation on volumetric imaging has been done operating in SAFT mode. The test-piece is an acrylic cube with three holes at the bottom (4 mm diameter), with depths of 15, 17.5 and 20 mm, respectively. In Fig. 6(a) there is a scheme of the test-piece decomposed in three views (lateral proles and top view). The array position over the piece has also been marked.

Fig. 4. Schematic drawing of the array structure.

nez et al. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 5763 O. Mart


Fig. 5. Experimental (top) and simulated (bottom) acoustic eld of the double ring conguration at the plane Z 100 mm; focusing at angles: uF 108 (left side) and 158 (right side).

For every element, an A-scan of 2500 samples at 100 MSamples/s has been captured. Signals for each element can be seen in Fig. 6(b). Then, the volumetric data can be obtained applying to the raw data. Adaptive focusing: with 10 foci uniformly distributed along the A-scan.

Steering delays in order to scan the volume of interest. That means varying the azimuth direction f F from 0 to 3608, and the elevation angle u F from 0 to 17.58 (with a step of 0.78). This process has generated synthetic data for 2500 A-scans in the volume of interest. Signal processing for envelope

Fig. 6. (a) Test-piece, (b) B-class representation of the signal acquired in SAFT mode.


nez et al. / NDT&E International 36 (2003) 5763 O. Mart

Fig. 7. Ultrasonic images: C-san (top-left) and D-scan (bottom-left) SAFT images considering the rst time window; 3D image composed from the integration of the two time windows (right) can be obtained.

detection has nally been done for smoothing the images. To reduce the data volume, the peak value of the new A-scans is obtained and its position and amplitude is stored. In order to avoid the interference of the bottom of the piece two time windows has been chosen (Fig. 6(b)). The results, shown in Fig. 7, can be summarized in the following points. The focusing processing cause an increase of the SNR from 12 dB in the raw data to 25 dB. From the rst window, two images are obtained: * A C-scan image where the three holes are correctly identied, positioned in the XY plane and approximately sized. Around the holes the side lobe effects can be observed as small shadows. * A D-scan image from which the depth position of the holes (Z coordinate). Finally, a volumetric image of the piece has been drawn by composing the data from the two windows (Fig. 7 bottom).

Comparing to conventional 2D squared arrays, segmented annular distributions have several advantages, in particular with respect to grating lobe formation. The manufacture process of SA arrays has also been described. The design key is to use a 1 3 piezocomposite support and a exible circuit with electrodes and tracks, which dene the array geometry. The capability of this aperture to produce ultrasonic images has been analysed, and experimental work has been presented for SAFT operation mode. Future work will be addressed in two directions: rst to evaluating the array in full-mode operation in order to improve the signal-to-noise ratio and second, to developing a new array with higher number of elements with the objective of improving the image properties (resolution, contrast, etc.).

6. Conclusions In this work a two-dimensional array for volumetric imaging applications with a reduced number of elements (64) has been presented. The proposed aperture has been designed following a segmented annular (SA) distribution.

Acknowledgements Support from Post Grant from CAM and UE is acknowledged. Support from CICYT DPI-2001-2043 is acknowledged. Support from CICYT DPI-2001-2156-C0202 is acknowledged.

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