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Ringdown Test for Bond Integrity

Application: Ultrasonically identifying presence or absence of bonding between an

outer layer of high impedance material such as metal or ceramic and an inner layer of
low impedance material such as plastic, composite, or rubber. This technique also
applies to many metal-to-metal glue joints.
Background: When materials of similar acoustic impedance (density multiplied by
sound velocity) are joined to each other, such as metal welded or brazed to metal, or
plastic fused to plastic, the presence or absence of bonding can usually be determined
from the amplitude of the first reflection from the boundary. Typically there will be a
significant difference in reflected signal amplitude between bonded and disbonded
conditions. However, if there is a large difference in the acoustic impedance of the two
materials, as in the case of bonds between metal and polymers, then due to that
acoustic impedance mismatch there will be a significant reflection from the boundary
even if the materials are mechanically bonded. The change in echo amplitude between
bonded and disbonded conditions may be small and hard to detect, especially in
situations where transducer coupling conditions are not uniform. This same situation
often occurs in cases where metal is bonded to metal by means of epoxy or other low
impedance adhesive. Unless the adhesive layer is extremely thin, it will constitute a low
impedance bond line with a significant reflection even from a good joint.
Note that in cases where the low impedance material is on the outside, or part
geometry otherwise permits coupling to the low impedance side of the joint, then the
recommended procedure is a phase shift test. This is described in the Olympus
application note on Phase Shift Test for Bond
In cases where the test must be performed from
the high impedance side of the joint, the
ringdown technique described in this application
note is often the best approach. This involves
observing a series of multiple reflections from
the boundary and looking for a difference in the
rate at which the amplitude of successive
echoes, or the ringdown envelope, changes between bond and disbond conditions. As
the sound wave reverberates in the metal or other high impedance material, the
amplitude change is multiplied at each bounce, so for example a hard-to-see 5%

amplitude drop between disbond and bond conditions at the first echo becomes a 25%
drop at the fifth echo and a 50% drop at the tenth echo. While the change in a single
echo may be small, the collective change across a series of multiple echoes will be
much larger and easier to identify. In a typical joint, bond and disbond conditions will
each produce their own distinctive ringdown pattern.
Equipment: This test can be performed with any standard ultrasonic flaw detector
such as the EPOCH LTC, EPOCH 600, EPOCH 650, or EPOCH 000. Ultrasonic
pulser/receivers can also be employed. The transducer will usually be a common delay
line transducer in the frequency range between 2.25 MHz and 20 MHz, such as a
V207-RB, V206-RB, V202-RM, or V208-RM. The specific transducer for a given test
will be selected based on material thickness, geometry, and acoustic properties.
Procedure: Set gain such that the first backwall echo from a well bonded reference
sample is at 80% screen height, and set screen range large enough to display a series
of backwall echoes. In the first waveform below, the first peak is the delay line interface
echo, and the subsequent peaks are multiple backwall echoes from 0.1 in. (2.5 mm)
steel bonded to a plastic liner. Because the metal is bonded to a backing material, the
bonded polymer on the back side of the steel acts as a mechanical damping
mechanism, and the echoes decay relatively quickly. It is helpful to use the DAC
function to draw a curve marking the ringdown envelope from a known good bond.

Slow ringdown pattern from bonded metal, DAC curve set as reference:

If these two materials are disbonded, the damping effect is removed and the peaks
become larger, rising above the reference curve as seen below.

Ringdown pattern from disbonded metal, peaks rise above reference curve

Notice that the relative amplitude of the multiple echoes increases more rapidly
towards the right side of the screen. The exact variance in the ringdown pattern
between bonded and unbonded conditions will depend on the relative acoustic
impedance of the two materials as well as attenuation factors, but in principle this test
works for any situation involving a high impedance material bonded to one of low
impedance. By recording the two characteristic patterns observed in the reference
standards and comparing them to the waveforms from a test piece, the presence or
absence of bonding in the test piece can be determined.
It is important to remember that this type of test qualifies the presence or absence of
bonding only, not the strength of bonding. Also, the materials must be acoustically
bonded by an adhesive or similar bonding agent. Pressure alone is rarely sufficient to
create an acoustic bond.