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Advanced Simulation of Ultrasonic Non-Destructive Testing for Composites

By Jeff Dobson 19 March 2019

Acoustic wave propagation through unidirectional CFRP laminate

Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) composite components pose a challenge for ultrasonic Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) inspections due to their anisotropic material properties and often complex morphologies. Both aspects can detrimentally affect inspection performance due to ultrasonic waves being scattered, refracted and mode-converted as they pass through the component. A numerical modeling approach is required in order to capture the complete ultrasonic wave behavior and the variation of material elastic properties spatially and axially. These numerical models can prove challenging due to the highly detailed structure and are often very computationally expensive. Ultrasonic NDT modelling typically requires multiple simulations to recreate scanning methods used in practice. For real-world applications, such as the inspection of aerospace or automotive composite materials, these types of simulations can be computationally demanding, which can be impractical to run and restrict the scope of the modelling.


OnScale provides a solution to the challenges of ultrasonic NDT inspection of CFRP components

OnScale offers a platform for accurate and efficient simulations of CFRP components in an economical time frame. Highly efficient solvers allow for the simulation of large models that capture the highly detailed component microstructure. The advent of cloud computing allows 1000s of simulations to be executed in parallel, enabling full ultrasonic scans to be simulated in a rapid time frame.

The model geometry can be constructed from a range of data sources including component design specifications, 3rd party textile modelling software and images taken from micrographs or X-Ray CT data. These model geometries can capture the highly complex structure of CFRP components including the thin interplay resin layers. The variation of the CFRP ply layer material properties due to in-plane and out-of-plane fiber orientations is also captured in OnScale simulation to ensure simulations can accurately predict the practical behavior of acoustic waves travelling through the component.

OnScale models capture the complete geometry representation by including (left) individual tows in woven fabrics and (right) individual ply layers in laminate structures


Complete ultrasonic inspections can be simulated to include defects that are representative of those found in practice, such as porosity and delamination’s.  This allows the performance of the inspection to be investigated and can identify any limitations. Further simulations can be utilized to explore new inspection set ups or study the effect manufacturing tolerances and material property variability has on inspections. OnScale’s ability to run hundreds of simulations in parallel enables the ability to perform these parametric studies that are impractical or impossible to run using legacy CAE tools.

Example: OnScale derived results for the ultrasonic NDT inspection of a tapered CFRP component: (left) Acoustic beam profile demonstrating the refraction due to the internal structure and anisotropic material properties and (right) B-scan inspection capable of identifying defects in the structure and the locations individual plies terminate (ply drops) to ensure the component has been correctly manufactured


Through OnScale simulations, ultrasonic inspections of complex CFRP components can be evaluated and optimized in a reduced time frame when compared to other legacy CAE tools. This simulation capability allows for new insights to be gained to streamline the development and validation of current and new inspection techniques. Developments to the inspections can provide a reduction in the overall cost of the NDE on composite materials. Better inspections can also heighten safety by providing a more reliable defect detection capability to help avoid catastrophic failures that can lead to fatal consequences.

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Jeff Dobson
Jeff Dobson

Jeff Dobson is a senior application engineer at OnScale and has recently completed an Engineering Doctorate at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, focused on NDT simulation. Jeff is an experienced FEA engineer with an expertise in advanced NDT simulations, such as modeling ultrasonic inspections of composite components. Jeff has over 7 years experience with OnScale and supports activity across current and future applications, whilst also managing consultancy projects and providing technical support.