Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) News

SUTARS Nondestructive Evaluation System

San Antonio, Texas -- Sept. 21, 1978 -- An advanced system for ultrasonic nondestructive inspection, developed by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), has been selected to receive an I-R 100 award.

Known as SUTARS, an acronym for Search Unit Tracking and Recording System, the development was chosen as a winner in the 1978 I-R 100 Competition sponsored by Industrial Research magazine, officials of the publication announced in Chicago. The awards honor the 100 most significant new technical products of the year.

The use of SUTARS cuts time and cost while improving accuracy in the use of ultrasonics for the manual inspection of welds, said Allen Whiting, executive director of the SwRI Quality Assurance Systems and Engineering Division.

A significant point for ultrasonic inspections in nuclear power plants is that operator exposure to radiation is also reduced.

The new system automates the recording of all inspection data, Whiting explained.

This eliminates the need for laboratorious manual measurements of ultrasonic search unit position and recording of inspection data, tasks which account for a good part of the effort of a conventional ultrasonic examination.

Electronic recording of data also facilitates computer evaluation of inspection results.

Savings in inspection costs through use of SUTARS can amount to as much as 50 percent, Whiting said.

A patent has been applied for, he said.

Leading figures in the group that developed SUTARS are T.L. Allen, senior research engineer serving as program manager, and J.L. Jackson, senior research scientist.

The Institute developed the new system in connection with its extensive international program of preservice and inservice inspections of nuclear power plants. Complex undertakings, these inspections can involve examinations of more than 2,000 welds in the various components of a single plant.

In addition to nuclear facility inspections, Whiting said, SUTARS has a wide range of potential applications, wherever ultrasonics probes are manipulated to examine equipment and materials to determine whether they meet service standards. These methods use sound beyond the range of human hearing to detect hidden flaws by means generally similar to radar.

SUTARS includes: A data acquisition control unit used jointly with an ultrasonic instrument modified slightly for the purpose.

A hand-guided search unit module which can hold any desired orientation of send-and-receive ultrasonic signal transducer, as well as two special transmitting beacons used by the automatic positioning system.

A linear array of position measurement sensors, assembled on a flexible strap designed to be placed on or near a weld to be examined.

A digital magnetic tape recorder for storage of tracking data and ultrasonic signal data for later computer processing.

An optional display unit which presents on a screen the position and track of the search unit.

A data processing system consisting of a minicomputer and peripheral equipment capable of producing a printout data sheet and coverage plot for each weld inspected.

An unusual aspect of SUTARS is its ability to measure and record multiple reflection sites in a weld zone and adjacent heat-affected areas, unlike conventional systems which measure only peak amplitude and time-location of a single signal in a selected region.

This ability results from SUTARS' capability of recognizing and recording every echo signal within a selected area, known as a "gated zone."

SUTARS accomplishes this by measuring and recording signal amplitude at closely spaced points (intervals of approximately 0.02 inch in steel) within the gated zone, thus capturing the complete video waveform.

Once this waveform is recorded, the computer can e used to analyze data within any portion of the selected gate, and at any wave amplitude above a preselected recording level.

For more information about the SUTARS Nondestructive Evaluation System, contact Joe Fohn, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas, 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-4630, Fax (210) 522-3547.

SwRI News separate.gif (834 bytes) SwRI Home