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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

Basic Principles of Eddy Current Inspection

Eddy current inspection is one of several NDT methods that use the principal of
electromagnetism as the basis for conducting examinations. Several other methods such as
Remote Field Testing (RFT), Flux Leakage and Barkhausen Noise also use this principle.

Eddy currents are created through a process called electromagnetic induction. When
alternating current is applied to the conductor, such as copper wire, a magnetic field develops
in and around the conductor. This magnetic field expands as the alternating current rises to
maximum and collapses as the current is reduced to zero. If another electrical conductor is
brought into the close proximity to this changing magnetic field, current will be induced in
this second conductor. Eddy currents are induced electrical currents that flow in a circular
path. They get their name from eddies that are formed when a liquid or gas flows in a
circular path around obstacles when conditions are right.

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One of the major advantages of eddy current as an NDT tool is the variety of inspections and
measurements that can be performed. In the proper circumstances, eddy currents can be used
for

Crack Detection
Material Thickness Measurements
Coating Thickness Measurements
Conductivity Measurements For:
o Material Identification
o Heat Damage Detection
o Case Depth Determination
o Heat Treatment Monitoring

Some of the advantages of eddy current inspection include:


Sensitive to small cracks and other defects
Detects surface and near surface defects
Inspection gives immediate results
Equipment is very portable
Method can be used for much more than flaw detection
Minimum part preparation is required
Test probe does not need to contact the part
Inspects complex shapes and sizes of conductive materials

Some of the limitation of eddy current inspection includes:


Only conductive materials can be inspected
Surface must be accessible to the probe
Skill and training required is more extensive than other techniques
Surface finish and roughness may interfere
Reference standards needed for setup
Depth of penetration is limited
Flaws such as delaminations that lie parallel to the probe coil winding and probe scan
direction are undetectable

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Present State of Eddy Current Inspection


Eddy current inspection is used in a variety of industries to find defects and make
measurements. One of the primary uses of eddy current testing is for defect detection when
the nature of the defect is well understood. In general the technique is used to inspect a
relatively small area and the probe design and test parameters must be established with a
good understanding of the flaw that is trying to be detected. Since eddy currents tend to
concentrate at the surface of a material, they can only be used to detect surface and near
surface defects.
In thin materials such as tubing and sheet stock, eddy currents can be used to measure the
thickness of the material. This makes eddy current a useful tool for detecting corrosion
damage and other damage that causes a thinning of the material. The technique is used to
make corrosion thinning measurements on aircraft skins and in the walls of tubing used in
assemblies such as heat exchangers. Eddy current testing is also used to measure the
thickness of paints and other coatings Eddy currents are also affected by the electrical
conductivity and magnetic permeability of materials. The eddy current measurements can be
used to sort materials and to tell if a material has seen high temperature been heat treated,
which changes the conductivity of some materials.

Eddy current equipment and probes can be purchased in a wide variety of configurations.
Eddy-scopes and conductivity tester come packaged in very small and battery operated units
for easy portability. Computer systems are also available that provide easy data manipulation
features for the laboratory. Signal processing software has also been developed for trend
removal, background subtraction, and noise reduction. Impedance analyzers are also
sometimes used to allow improved quantitative eddy-current measurements. Some labor has
multidimensional scanning capabilities that are used to produce images of the scan regions. A
few po scanning systems also exist for special applications such as scanning regions of
aircraft fuselage.

Research to Improve Eddy current measurements


A great deal of research continues to be done to improve eddy current measurement
techniques. A few of these activities, which are being conducted at Iowa State University are
described below.

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Photo inductive Imaging (PI)


A technique known as photo-inductive imaging (PI) was pioneered at CNDE and provides a
powerful, high resolution scanning and imaging tool. Microscopic resolution is available
using standard-sized eddy-current sensors. Development of probes and instrumentation for
photo inductive (PI) imaging is based on the use medium-power (5 W nominal power) argon
ion laser. This probe provides high resolution images and has used to study cracks, welds,
and diffusion bonds in metallic specimens. The PI technique is being studied way to image
local stress variations in steel.
Pulsed Eddy Current
Research is currently being conducted on the use of a technique called pulsed eddy current
(PEC) testing technique can be used for the detection and quantification of corrosion and
cracking in multi-layer alumin aircraft structures. Pulsed eddy-current signals consist of a
spectrum of frequencies meaning that, because skin effect, each pulse signal contains
information from a range of depths within a given test specimen. In addition, the pulse
signals are very low-frequency rich which provides excellent depth penetration. Unlike
frequency approaches, the pulse-signals lend themselves to convenient analysis. .

Measurements have been carried out both in the laboratory and in the field. Corrosion trials
have demons how material loss can be detected and quantified in multi-layer aluminum
structures. More recently, study carried out on three- and four-layer structures show the
ability to locate cracks emerging from fasteners. P eddy-current measurements have also been
applied to ferromagnetic materials, recent work has been involve with measuring case depth
in hardened steel samples.
Properties of Electricity
Since eddy current inspection makes use of electromagnetic induction, it is important to know
about the scientific principles of electricity and magnetism. For a review of these principles,
the Science of NDT materials on this Internet site may be helpful. A review of the key
parameters will be provided here.

Electricity
It is well known that one of the subatomic particles of an atom is the electron. Atoms can and
usually do have a number of electrons circling its nucleus. The electrons carry a negative
electrostatic charge and under certain conditions can move from atom to atom. The direction
of movement between atoms is random unless a force causes the electrons to move in one
direction. This directional movement of electrons due to some imbalance of force is what is
known as electricity.

Amperage
The flow of electrons is measured in units called
amperes or amps for short. An amp is the amount of
electrical current that exists when a number of
electrons, having one coulomb of charge, moves past
a given point in one second. A coulomb is the charge
carried by 6.25 x 1018 electrons or
6,250,000,000,000,000,000 electrons.

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Electromagnetic Force
The force that causes the electrons to move in an electrical circuit is called the electromotive
force, or EMF. Sometimes it is convenient to think of EMF as electrical
pressure. In other words, it is the force that makes electrons move in a
certain direction within a conductor. There are many sources of EMF; the
most common being batteries and electrical generators.

The Volt
The unit of measure for EMF is the volt. One volt is defined as the electrostatic difference
between two points when one joule of energy is used to move one coulomb of charge from
one point to the other. A joule is the amount of energy that is being consumed when one watt
of power works for one second. This is also known as a watt-second. For our purposes, just
accept the fact that one joule of energy is a very, very small amount of energy. For example,
a typical 60-watt light bulb consumes about 60 joules of energy each second it is on.

Resistance
Resistance is the opposition of a body or substance to the flow of electrical current through it,
resulting in a change of electrical energy into heat, light, or other forms of energy. The
amount of resistance depends on the type of material. Materials with low resistance are good
conductors of electricity. Materials with high resistance are good insulators.
Insulator:
Anything that insulates, esp., a nonconductor, usually a device of glass or porcelain for
insulating and supporting electric wires.
Conductor:
A substance or thing that conducts electricity, heat, sound, etc.

Current Flow and Ohms Law


Ohms law is the most important, basic law of electricity. It defines the relationship between
the three fundamental electrical quantities: current, voltage, and resistance. When a voltage is
applied to a circuit containing only resistive elements (i.e. no coils), current flows according
to Ohms Law, which is shown below.

Where:
I = Electrical Current (Amperes)
V= Voltage (Voltage)
R= Resistance (Ohms)
I=V/R

Ohms law states that the electrical current (I) flowing in an circuit is proportional to the
voltage (V) and inversely proportional to the resistance . Therefore, if the voltage is
increased, the current will increase provided the resistance of the circuit does not change.
Similarly, increasing the resistance of the circuit will lower the current flow if the voltage is
not changed. The formula can be reorganized so that the relationship can easily be seen for all
of the three variables.

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The Java applet below allows the user to vary each of these three parameters in Ohms Law
and see the effect on the other two parameters. Values may be input into the dialog boxes, or
the resistance and voltage may also be varied by moving the arrows in the applet. Current and
voltage are shown as they would be displayed on an oscilloscope with the X-axis being time
and the Y-axis being the amplitude of the current or voltage. Ohms Law is valid for both
direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). Note that in AC circuits consisting of purely
resistive elements, the current and voltage are always in phase with each other.
Exercise: Use the interactive applet below to investigate the relationship of the variables in
Ohms law. Vary the voltage in the circuit by clicking and dragging the head of the arrow,
which is marked with the V. The resistance in the circuit can be increased by dragging the
arrow head under the variable resister, which is marked R. Please note that the vertical scale
of the Oscilloscope screen automatically adjusts to reflect the value of the current.
See what happens to the voltage and current as the resistance in the circuit is increased. What
happens if there is not enough resistance in a circuit? If the resistance is increased, what must
happen in order to maintain the same level of current flow?

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Induction and Inductance

Induction

In 1824 Oersted discovered that current passing though a coil created a magnetic field capable of shifting a
compass needle. Seven years later Faraday and Henry discovered just the opposite. They noticed that a
moving magnetic field would induce current in an electrical conductor. This process of generating
electrical current in a conductor by placing the conductor in a changing magnetic field is called
electromagnetic induction or just induction. It is called induction because the current is said to be
induced in the conductor by the magnetic field.

Faraday also noticed that the rate at which the magnetic field changed also had an effect on the amount of
current or voltage that was induced. Faradays Law for an uncoiled conductor states that the amount of
induced voltage is proportional to the rate of change of flux lines cutting the conductor. Faradays Law for

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a straight wire is shown below.

d
VL =
dt
Where:
VL = the induced voltage in volts
d/dt = the rate of change in magnetic flux in webers/second

Induction is measured in unit of Henries (H) which reflects this dependence on the rate of change of
the magnetic field. One Henry is the amount of inductance that is required to generate one volt of
induced voltage when the current is changing at the rate of one ampere per second. Note that current is
used in the definition rather than magnetic field. This is because current can be used to generate the
magnetic field and is easier to measure and control than magnetic flux..

Inductance
When induction occurs in an electrical circuit and affects the flow of electricity it is called inductance, L.
Self-inductance, or simply inductance is the property of a circuit whereby a change in current causes a
change in voltage in the same circuit. When one circuit induces current flow in a second nearby circuit, it
is known as mutual-inductance. The image to the right shows an example of mutual-inductance. When an
AC current is flowing through a piece of wire in a circuit, an electromagnetic field is produced that is
constantly growing and shrinking and changing direction due to the constantly changing current in the
wire. This changing magnetic field will induce electrical current in another wire or circuit that is brought
close to the wire in the primary circuit. The current in the second wire will also be AC and in fact will look
very similar to the current flowing in the first wire. An electrical transformer uses inductance to change the
voltage of electricity into a more useful level. In nondestructive testing, inductance is used to generate
eddy currents in the test piece.

It should be noted that since it is the changing magnetic field that is responsible for inductance, it is
only present in AC circuits and that high frequency AC will result in greater inductive reactance
since the magnetic field is changing more rapidly. Self-inductance and mutual-inductance will be

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discussed in more detail in the following pages.

Self-Inductance and Inductive Reactance

The property of self-inductance is a particular form of electromagnetic induction. Self inductance is


defined as the induction of a voltage in a current-carrying wire when the current in the wire itself is
changing. In the case of self-inductance, the magnetic field created by a changing current in the circuit
itself induces a voltage in the same circuit. Therefore, the voltage is self-induced.

The term inductor is used to describe a circuit element possessing the property of inductance and a coil of
wire is a very common inductor. In circuit diagrams, a coil or wire is usually used to indicate an inductive
component. Taking a closer look at a coil will help understand the reason that a voltage is induced in a
wire carrying a changing current. The alternating current running through the coil creates a magnetic field
in and around the coil that is increasing and decreasing as the current changes. The magnetic field forms
concentric loops that surrounds the wire and joins up to form larger loops that surround the coil as shown
in the image below. When the current increases in one loop the expanding magnetic field will cut across
some or all of the neighboring loops of wire, inducing a voltage in these loops. This causes a voltage to be
induced in the coil when the current is changing.

By studying this image of a coil, it can be seen that the number of turns in the coil will have an effect on
the amount of voltage that is induced into the circuit. Increasing the number of turns or the rate of change
of magnetic flux increases the amount of induced voltage. Therefore, Faradays Law must be modified
for a coil of wire and becomes the following.

d
VL = N
dt
Where:

VL = the induced voltage in volts N = the number of turns in the coil d/dt = the rate of
change in magnetic flux in webers per second

The equation simply states that the amount of induced voltage (VL) is proportional to the number of turns
in the coil and the rate of change of the magnetic flux (d/dt). In other words, when the frequency of the
flux is increased or the number of turns in the coil is increased, the amount of induced voltage will also
increase.

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In a circuit, it is much easier to measure current than it is to measure magnetic flux so the following
equation can be used to determine the induced voltage if the inductance and frequency of the current are
known. This equation can also be reorganized to allow the inductance to be calculated when the amount of
inducted voltage can be determined and the current frequency is known.

di
VL = L
dt
Where:
VL = the induced voltage in volts
L = the value of inductance in henries
di/dt = the rate of change in current in amperes per second

Lenzs Law
Soon after Faraday proposed his law of induction, Heinrich Lenz developed a rule for determining the
direction of the induced current in a loop. Basically, Lenzs law states that an induced current has
a direction such that its magnetic field opposes the change in magnetic field that induced the
current. This means that the current induced in a conductor will oppose the change in current that is
causing the flux to change. Lenzs law is important in understanding the property of inductive
reactance, which is one of the properties measured in eddy current testing.

Inductive Reactance
The reduction of current flow in a circuit due to induction is called inductive reactance. By taking a closer
look at a coil of wire and applying Lenzs law, it can be seen how inductance reduces the flow of current in
the circuit. In the image below, the direction of the primary current is shown in red, and the magnetic field
generated by the current is shown in blue. The direction of the magnetic field can be determined by taking
your right hand and pointing your thumb in the direction of the current. Your fingers will then point in the
direction of the magnetic field. It can be seen that the magnetic field from one loop of the wire will cut
across the other loops in the coil and this will induce current flow (shown in green) in the circuit.
According to Lenzs law, the induced current must flow in the opposite direction of the primary current.
The induced current working against the primary current results in a reduction of current flow in the
circuit.

It should be noted that inductive reactance will increase if the number of winds in the coil is increased
since the magnetic field from one coil will have more coils to interact with.

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Since inductive reactance reduces the flow of current in a circuit, it appears as an energy loss just like
resistance. However, it is possible to distinguish between resistance and inductive reactance in a circuit by
looking at the timing between the sine waves of the voltage and current of the alternating current. In an AC
circuit that contains only resistive components, the voltage and the current will be in-phase, meaning that
the peaks and valleys of their sine waves will occur at the same time. When there is inductive reactance
present in the circuit, the phase of the current will be shifted so that its peaks and valleys do not occur at
the same time as those of the voltage. This will be discussed in more detail in the section on circuits.

Mutual Inductance (The Basis for Eddy Current Inspection)


The magnetic flux through a circuit can be related to the current in that circuit and the currents in
other nearby circuits, assuming that there are no nearby permanent magnets. Consider the following
two circuits.

The magnetic field produced by circuit 1 will intersect the wire in circuit 2 and create current
flow. The induced current flow in circuit 2 will have its own magnetic field which will
interact with the magnetic field of circuit 1. At some point P on the magnetic field consists of
a part due to i1 and a part due to i2. These fields are proportional to the currents producing
them.
Self Inductance: The property of an electric circuit or component that caused an e.m.f. to be
generated in it as a result of a change in the current flowing through the circuit.
Mutual Inductance: The property of an electric circuit or component that caused an e.m.f. to
be generated in it as a result of a change in the current flowing through a neighboring circuit
with which it is magnetically linked.

The coils in the circuits are labeled L1 and L2 and this term represents the self inductance of
each of the coils. The values of L1 and L2 depend on the geometrical arrangement of the
circuit (i.e. number of turns in the coil) and the conductivity of the material. The constant M,
called the mutual inductance of the two circuits and it is dependent on the geometrical
arrangement of both circuits. In particular, if the circuits are far apart, the magnetic flux
through circuit 2 due to the current i1 will be small and the mutual inductance will be small. L2
and M are constants.

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We can write the flux, B through circuit 2 as the sum of two parts.
B2 =Li + iM
2 2 1

An equation similar to the one above can be written for the flux through circuit 1.
B1 =Li + iM
1 1 2

Though it is certainly not obvious, it can be shown that the mutual inductance is the same for
both circuits. Therefore, it can be written as follows:
M =M
1,2 2,1

How is mutual induction used in eddy current inspection?


In eddy current inspection, the eddy currents are generated in the test material due to mutual
induction. The test probe is basically a coil of wire through which alternating current is
passed. Therefore, when the probe is connected to an eddy scope instrument, it is basically
represented by circuit one above. The second circuit can be any piece of conductive material.
Eddy Current: A current induced in a conductor situated in a changing magnetic field or
moving in a fixed one.
When alternating current is passed through the coil, a magnetic field is generated in and
around the coil. When the probe is brought in close proximity to a conductive material, such
as aluminum, the probes changing magnetic field generates current flow in the material. The
induced current flows in closed loops in planes perpendicular to the magnetic flux. They are
named eddy currents because they are thought to resemble the eddy currents that can be seen
swirling in streams.
The eddy currents produce their own magnetic fields that interact with the primary magnetic
field of the coil. By measuring changes in the resistance and inductive reactance of the coil,
information can be gathered about the test material. This information includes the electrical
conductivity and magnetic permeability of the material, the amount of material cutting
through the coils magnetic field, and the condition of the material (i.e. whether it contains
cracks or other defects.) The distance that the coil is from the conductive material is called
liftoff, and this distance affects the mutual-inductance of the circuits. Liftoff can be used to
make measurements of the thickness of nonconductive coating such as paint that hold the
probe a certain distance from the surface of the conductive material.
Magnetic Permeability: The ratio of the magnetic flux density, B, in a substance to the
external field strength.
Ferromagnetic: A term used to describe materials, such as iron, nickel, and cobalt, which
have a high magnetic permeability.
It should be noted that if a sample is ferromagnetic, the magnetic flux is concentrated and
strengthened despite opposing eddy current affects. The increase inductive reactance due to
the magnetic permeability of ferromagnetic materials makes it easy to distinguish these
materials from nonferromagnetic materials.
In the applet below, the probe and the sample are shown in cross-section. The boxes represent
a the cross-sectional area of a group of turns in the coil. The liftoff distance and the drive
current of the probe can be varied to see the effects of the shared magnetic field. The liftoff
value can be set to 0.1 or less and the current value can be varied from 0.01 to 1.0. The
strength of the magnetic field is shown by the darkness of the lines.

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Circuits and Phase

A circuit can be thought of as a closed path in which current flows through the components that make up
the circuit. The current (i) obeys Ohms Law, which is discussed in section 2.1. The simple circuit below
consists of a voltage source (in this case an alternating current voltage source) and a resistor. The graph
below the circuit diagram shows the value of the voltage and the current for this circuit over a period of
time. This graph shows one complete cycle of an alternating current source. From the graph, it can be seen
that as the voltage increases so does the current. The voltage and the current are said to be in-phase since
their zero, peak, and valley points occur at the same time. They are also directly proportional to each other.

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In the circuit below, the resistive component has been replaced with an inductor. When
inductance is introduced into a circuit, the voltage and the current will be out-of-phase,
meaning that the voltage and current do not cross zero, or reach their peaks and valleys at the
same time. When a circuit has an inductive component, the current (iL) will lags the voltage
by one quarter of a cycle. One cycle is often referred to as 360 degree, so it can be said that
the current lags the voltage by 90 degrees.

The resistive and inductive components are of primary interest in eddy current testing since
the test probe is basically a coil of wire, which will have both resistance and inductive
reactance. However, for the sake of completeness, capacitance also needs to be mentioned.
This simple circuit below consists of an alternating current voltage source and a capacitor.
Capacitance in a circuit caused the current (ic) to lead the voltage by one quarter of a cycle
(90 degrees current lag).

When there is both resistance and inductive reactance (and/or capacitance) in a circuit, the
combined opposition to current flow is known as impedance. Impedance will be discussed
more on the next page.

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Impedance
Electrical Impedance (Z), is the total opposition that a circuit presents to alternating current.
Impedance is measured in ohms and may include resistance , inductive reactance (XL), and
capacitive reactance (XC). However, the total impedance is not simply the algebraic sum of
resistance, inductive reactance, and capacitive reactance. Since the inductive reactance and
capacitive reactance are 90 degrees out of phase with the resistance and, therefore, their
maximum values occur at different times, vector addition must be used to calculate
impedance.
In the image below, a circuit diagram is shown that represents an eddy current inspection
system. The eddy current probe is a coil of wire so it contains resistance and inductive
reactance when driven by alternating current. The capacitive reactance (XC) can be dropped
as most eddy current probes have little or no capacitive reactance. The solid line in the graph
below shows the circuits total current, which is affected by the total impedance of the circuit.
The two dashed lines represent the portion of the current that is affected by the resistance and
the inductive reactance components individually. It can be seen that the resistance and the
inductive reactance lines are 90 degrees out of phase, so when combined to produce the
impedance line, the phase shift is somewhere between zero and 90 degrees. The phase shift is
always relative to the resistance line since the resistance line is always in-phase with the
voltage. If more resistance than inductive reactance is present in the circuit then the
impedance line will move toward the resistance line and the phase shift will decrease. If more
inductive reactance is present in the circuit then the impedance line will shift toward the
inductive reactance line and the phase shift will increase.

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The relationship between impedance and its individual components (resistance and inductive
reactance) can be represented using vector as shown below. The amplitude of the resistance
component is shown by a vector along the x-axis and the amplitude of the inductive reactance
is shown by a vector along the y-axis. The amplitude of the impedance is shown by a vector
that stretches from zero to a point that represents both the resistance value in the x-direction
and the inductive reactance in the y-direction. Eddy current instruments with impedance
plane displays present information in this format.

The impedance in a circuit with resistance and inductive reactance can be calculated using the
following equation. If capacitive reactance was present in the circuit, its value would be
added to the inductance term before squaring.

Phase Angle:
The difference in phase between two sinusoidally varying quantities.
The phase angle of the circuit of the circuit can be calculated using the equation below. If
capacitive reactance was present in the circuit, its value would be subtracted from the
inductive reactance term.

The applet below, can be used to see how the variables in the above equation are related on
the vector diagram (or the impedance plane display.) Values can be entered into the dialog
boxes or the arrow head on the vector diagram can be dragged to a point representing the
desired values. Note that the capacitive reactance term has been included in the applet but as
mentioned before, in eddy current testing this value is small and can be ignored.

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Impedance and Ohms Law:


In previous pages, Ohms Law was discussed for a purely resistive circuit. When there is inductive
reactance or capacitive reactance also present in the circuit, Ohms Law must be written to include the
total impedance in the circuit. Therefore, Ohms law becomes:

I=V/Z

Ohms law now simply states that the current (I), in amperes, is proportional to the voltage (V), in volts,
divided by the impedance (Z), in ohms.

The applet below can be used to see how the current and voltage of a circuit is affected by impedance. The
applet allows the user to vary inductance (L), resistance , voltage (V) and the current (I). Voltage and
current are shown as they would be displayed on an oscilloscope. Note that the resistance and/or the
inductive reactance values must be changed to change the impedance in the circuit.

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Also note that when there is inductance in the circuit, the voltage and current are out of phase. This is
because the voltage across the inductor will be a maximum when the rate of change of current is greatest.
For a sinusoidal wave form like AC, this is at the point where the actual current is zero. Thus the voltage
applied to an inductor reaches its maximum value a quarter-cycle before the current does - the voltage is
said to lead the current by 90 degrees.

Depth of Penetration & Current Density

Eddy currents are closed loops of induced current circulating in planes perpendicular to the
magnetic flux. They normally travel parallel to the coils winding and flow is limited to the
area of the inducing magnetic field. Eddy currents concentrate near the surface adjacent to an
excitation coil and their strength decreases with distance from the coil as shown in the image.
Eddy current density decreases exponentially with depth. This phenomenon is known as the
skin effect.

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Skin effect arises when the eddy currents flowing in the test object at any depth produce
magnetic fields which oppose the primary field, thus reducing net magnetic flux and causing
a decrease in current flow as depth increases. Alternatively, eddy currents near the surface
can be viewed as shielding the coils magnetic field, thereby weakening the magnetic field at
greater depths and reducing induced currents.
The depth that eddy currents penetrate into a material is affected by the frequency of the excitation
current and the electrical conductivity and magnetic permeability of the specimen. The depth of
penetration decreases with increasing frequency and increasing conductivity and magnetic
permeability. The depth at which eddy current density has decreased to 1/e, or about 37% of the
surface density, is called the standard depth of penetration (). The word standard denotes plane
wave electromagnetic field excitation within the test sample (conditions which are rarely achieved in
practice). Although eddy currents penetrate deeper than one standard depth of penetration they
decrease rapidly with depth. At two standard depths of penetration (2), eddy current density has
decreased to 1/e squared or 13.5% of the surface density. At three depths (3) the eddy current density
is down to only 5% of the surface density.

Since the sensitivity of an eddy current inspection depends on the eddy current density at the defect
location, it is important to know the strength of the eddy currents at this location. When attempting to
locate flaws, a frequency is often selected which places the expected flaw depth within one standard
depth of penetration. This helps to assure that the strength of the eddy currents will be sufficient to
produce a flaw indication. Alternately, when using eddy currents to measure the electrical
conductivity of a material, the frequency is often set so that it produces three standard depths of
penetration within the material. This helps to assure that the eddy currents will be so weak at the back
side of the material that changes in the material thickness will not affect the eddy current
measurements.
The applet below illustrates how eddy current density changes in a semi-infinite conductor. The applet
can be used to calculate the standard depth of penetration. The equation for this calculation is

1
=
f

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Where:
= Standard Depth of Penetration (mm)
= 3.14
f = Test Frequency (Hz)
= Magnetic Permeability (H/mm)
= Electrical Conductivity (% IACS)
(Note, however, that the applet uses the relative permeability so
there is a permeability of free space term in the equation. i.e.
relative permeability multiplied by the permeability of free
space puts the material permeability in to H/mm units.)

One should also note that although the currents are restricted to flow within specimen boundaries, the
magnetic field extends into the air space beyond. This allows the inspection of multilayer components
separated by an air space.

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Phase Lag

Phase lag is a parameter of the eddy current signal that makes it possible to obtain information about
the depth of a defect within a material. Phase lag is the shift in time between the eddy current
response from a disruption on the surface and a disruption at some distance below the surface. The
generation of eddy currents can be thought of as a diffusion process meaning that the eddy currents
below the surface take a little longer to form than those at the surface. Therefore, subsurface defects
will be detected by the eddy current instrument a little later in time than surface defects. Both the
signal voltage and current will have this phase shift or lag with depth, which is different from the
phase angle discussed earlier. (With the phase angle, the current shifted with respect to the voltage.)

Phase lag is an important parameter in eddy current testing because it makes it possible to estimate the
depth of a defect and with proper reference specimens, determine the rough size of a defect. The
signal produced by a flaw depends on both amplitude and phase of the eddy currents being disrupted.
A small surface defect and large internal defect can have a similar effect on the magnitude of test coil
impedance. However, because of the increasing phase lag with depth, there will be a characteristic
difference in the test coil impedance vector.

At one standard depth of penetration, the phase lag is 57 degrees or one radian. This means that the
eddy currents flowing at one standard depth of penetration () below the surface, lag the surface
currents by 57 degrees. At two standard depths of penetration (2) they lag the surface currents by 114
degrees. Therefore by measuring the phase lag of a signal, the depth of a defect can be estimated.

In the applet below, the relationship between the depth of penetration and the phase lag is explored.
The equation at the bottom of the applet can be used to calculate the depth of penetration by choosing
an inspection frequency (f), and, the magnetic permeability (u) and electrical conductivity for the test
material. These values may also be selected for a particular material by selecting one of the set
materials in the dialog box.

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Eddy Current Instruments


The most basic eddy current testing instrument consists of an alternating current source, a
coil of wire connected to this source, and a voltmeter to measure the voltage change across
the coil. An ammeter could also be used to measure the current change in the circuit instead
of using the voltmeter.

While it might actually be possible to detect some types of defects with this type of an
equipment, most eddy current instruments are a bit more sophisticated. In the following
pages, a few of the more important aspects of eddy current instrumentation will be discussed.

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Resonant Circuits
Every circuit containing capacitance and inductance has a resonant frequency that is inversely
proportional to the square root of the product of the capacitance and inductance.

1
f resonant =
2 LC
Circuits not containing discreet components for resistance, capacitance, and inductance can
still exhibit their effects. For example, a coaxial cable used to interconnect pieces of
electronic equipment or equipment to probes, has some capacitance and inductance. These
capacitances and inductances distributed throughout the cable are very small, but not
negligible in sensitive circuits.
The applet represents an eddy current probe with a default resonant frequency of about 1.0
kHz. An ideal probe might contain just the inductance, but a realistic probe has some
resistance and some capacitance. The applet initially shows a single cycle of the 1.0 kHz
current passing through the inductor.

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Exercise 1: Using your mouse, adjust the resistance by sliding the slide bar. Does the
frequency change?

Exercise 2: Note that changing the inductance and/or the capacitance changes the resonant
frequency of this resonant circuit. Can you find several combinations of capacitance and
inductance that resonate at 1.0 kHz?

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Bridges
The bridge circuit shown in the applet below is known as the Maxwell-Wien bridge (often
called the Maxwell bridge), and is used to measure unknown inductances in terms of
calibrated resistance and capacitance. Calibration-grade inductors are more difficult to
manufacture than capacitors of similar precision, and so the use of a simple symmetrical
inductance bridge is not always practical. Because the phase shifts of inductors and capacitors
are exactly opposite each other, a capacitive impedance can balance out an inductive
impedance if they are located in opposite legs of a bridge, as they are here.
Unlike this straight Wien bridge, the balance of the Maxwell-Wien bridge is independent of
source frequency, and in some cases this bridge can be made to balance in the presence of
mixed frequencies from the AC voltage source, the limiting factor being the inductors
stability over a wide frequency range.
Exercise: Using the equations within the applet, calculate appropriate values for C and R2
for a set of probe values . Then using your calculated values, balance the bridge. The
oscilloscope trace representing current (brightest green) across the top and bottom of the
bridge should be minimized (straight line).
In the simplest implementation, the standard capacitor (Cs) and the resistor in parallel with it
are made variable, and both must be adjusted to achieve balance. However, the bridge can be
made to work if the capacitor is fixed (non-variable) and more than one resistor is made
variable (at least the resistor in parallel with the capacitor, and one of the other two).
However, in the latter configuration it takes more trial-and-error adjustment to achieve
balance as the different variable resistors interact in balancing magnitude and phase.
Another advantage of using a Maxwell bridge to measure inductance rather than a
symmetrical inductance bridge is the elimination of measurement error due to mutual
inductance between two inductors. Magnetic fields can be difficult to shield, and even a small
amount of coupling between coils in a bridge can introduce substantial errors in certain
conditions. With no second inductor to react within the Maxwell bridge, this problem is
eliminated.

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Display - Complex Impedance Plan


(eddy scope)
Electrical Impedance (Z), is the total opposition that a circuit
presents to an alternating current. Impedance, measured in ohms,
may include resistance , inductive reactance (XL), and capacitive
reactance (XC). Eddy current circuits usually have only R and XL
components. As discussed in the page on impedance, the
resistance component and the reactance components are not in
phase so vector addition must be used to relate them with
impedance. For an eddy current circuit with resistance and
inductive reactance components, the total impedance is calculated
using the following equation.

Z = R 2 + X L2
You will recall that this can be graphically displayed using the impedance plane diagram as
seen to the right. Impedance also has an associated angle, called the phase angle of the
circuit, which can be calculated by the following equation.

XL
= tan 1
R

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The impedance plane diagram is a very useful way of displaying eddy current data. As shown
in the figure below, the strength of the eddy currents and the magnetic permeability of the test
material cause the eddy current signal on the impedance plane to react in a variety of different
ways.

If the eddy current circuit is balanced in air and then placed on a piece of aluminum, the
resistance component will increase (eddy currents are being generated in the aluminum and
this takes energy away from the coil and this energy loss shows up as resistance) and the
inductive reactance of the coil decreases (the magnetic field created by the eddy currents
opposes the coils magnetic field and the net effect is a weaker magnetic field to produce
inductance). If a crack is present in the material, fewer eddy currents will be able to form and
the resistance will go back down and the inductive reactance will go back up. Changes in
conductivity will cause the eddy current signal to change in a different way.
When a probe is placed on a magnetic material such as steel, something different happens.
Just like with aluminum (conductive but not magnetic) eddy currents form which takes
energy away from the coil and this shows up as an increase in the coils resistance. And, just
like with the aluminum, the eddy currents generate their own magnetic field that opposes the
coils magnetic field. However, you will note for the diagram that the reactance increase. This
is because the magnetic permeability of the steel concentrates the coils magnetic field this
increase in the magnetic field strength completely overshadows the magnetic field of the
eddy currents. The presence of a crack or a change in the conductive will produce a change in
the eddy current signal similar to that seen with aluminum.
In the applet below, liftoff curves can be generated for several nonconductive materials with
various electrical conductivities. With the probe held away from the metal surface, zero and
clear the graph. Then slowly move the probe to the surface of the material. Lift the probe
back up, select a different material and touch it back to the sample surface.

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The impedance calculations in the above applet are based on codes by Jack Blitz from
Electrical and Magnetic Methods of Nondestructive Testing, 2nd ed., Chapman and Hill.

Display - Analog Meter


In order to use a DC-style meter movement, such as the DArsonval design pictured in the
applet below, the alternating current must be rectified into DC. This is most easily
accomplished through the use of devices called diodes. Without going into elaborate detail
over how and why diodes work as they do, remember that they each act like a one-way valve
for electrons to flow. They act as a conductor for one polarity and an insulator for another.
Arranged in a bridge, four diodes will serve to steer AC through the meter movement in a
constant direction.
An analog meter can easily measure just a few microamperes of current and is well suited for
use in balancing bridges.

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Exercise: Using the equations within the applet, calculate appropriate values for C and R2
for a set of probe values. Then balance the bridge using your calculated values. The analog
meter should swing close to the left end if its scale indicates little or no current across the
bridge. Across the bridge should be minimized (straight line).

Probes - Mode of Operation


Eddy current probes are available in a large variety shapes and sizes. In fact, one of the major
advantages of eddy current inspection is that probes can be custom designed for a wide
variety of applications. Eddy current probes are classified by the configuration and mode of
operation of the test coils. The configuration of the probe generally refers to the way the coil
or coils are packaged to best couple to the test area of interest. An example of different
configurations of probes would be bobbin probes, which are inserted into a piece of pipe to
inspect from the inside out, versus encircling probes, in which the coil or coils encircle the
pipe to inspect from the outside in. The mode of operation refers to the way the coil or coils
are wired and interface with the test equipment. The mode of operation of a probe generally
falls into one of four categories: Absolute, differential, reflection and hybrid. Each of these
classifications will be discussed in more detail below.

Absolute Probes
Absolute probes generally have a single test coil that is used to generate the eddy currents and
sense changes in the eddy current field. As discussed in the physics section, AC is passed
through the coil and this sets-up a expanding and collapsing magnetic field in and around the
coil. When the probe is positioned next to a conductive material, the changing magnetic field
generate eddy currents within the material. The generation of the eddy currents take energy
from the coil and this appears as an increase in the electrical resistance of the coil. The eddy
currents generate their own magnetic field that opposes the magnetic field of the coil and this
changes the inductive reactance of the coil. By measuring the absolute change in impedance
of the test coil, much information can be gained about the test material.

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Absolute coils can be used for flaw detection, conductivity measurements, liftoff
measurements and thickness measurements. They are widely used due to their versatility.
Since absolute probes are sensitivity to things such as conductivity, permeability liftoff and
temperature, steps must be taken to minimize these variables when they are not important to
the inspection being performed. It is very common for commercially available absolute
probes to have a fixed air loaded reference coil that compensates for ambient temperature
variations.

Differential Probes
Differential probes have two active coils usually wound in opposition, although they could be
wound in addition with similar results. When the two coils are over a flaw-free area of test
sample, there is no differential signal developed between the coils since they are both
inspecting identical material. However, when one coil is over a defect and the other is over
good material, a differential signal is produced. They have the advantage of being very
sensitive to defect yet relatively insensitive to slowly varying properties such as gradual
dimensional or temperature variations. Probe wobble signals are also reduced with this probe
type. There are also disadvantages to using differential probes. Most notably, the signals may
be difficult to interpret. For example, if a flaw is longer than the spacing between the two
coils, only the leading and trailing edges will be detected due to signal cancellation when
both coils sense the flaw equally.

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Reflection Probes
Reflection probes have two coils similar to a differential probe, but one coil is used to excite
the eddy currents and the other is used to sense changes in the test material. Probes of this
arrangement are often referred to as driver/pickup probes. The advantage of reflection probes
is that the driver coil can be made so as to produce a strong and uniform flux field in the
vicinity of the pickup coil. The pickup coil can be made very small so that it will be sensitive
to very small defects.

Hybrid Probes
An example of a hybrid probe is the split D, differential probe shown to the right. This probe
has a driver coil that surrounds two D shaped sensing coils. It operates in the reflection mode
but additionally, its sensing coils operate in the differential mode. This type of probe is very
sensitive to surface cracks. Another example of a hybrid probe is one that uses a conventional
coil to generate eddy currents in the material but then uses a different type of sensor to detect
changes on the surface and within the test material. An example of a hybrid probe is one that
uses a Hall effect sensor to detect changes in the magnetic flux leaking from the test surface.
Hybrid probes are usually specially designed for a specific inspection application.

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Probes - Configurations
As mentioned on the previous page, eddy current probes are classified by the configuration
and mode of operation of the test coils. The configuration of the probe generally refers to the
way the coil or coils are packaged to best couple to the test area of interest. Some of the
common classifications of probes based on their configuration include surface probes, bolt
hole probes, ID probes, and OD probes.

Surface Probes
Surface probes are usually designed to be handheld and are intended to be used in contact
with the test surface. Surface probes generally consist of a coil of very fine wire encased in a
protective housing. The size of the coil and shape of the housing are determined by the
intended use of the probe. Most of the coils are wound so that the axis of the coil is
perpendicular to the test surface. This coil configuration is sometimes referred to as a
pancake coil and is good for detecting surface discontinuities that are oriented perpendicular
to the test surface. Discontinuities, such as delaminations, that are in a parallel plane to the
test surface will likely go undetected with this coil configuration.
Wide surface coils are used when scanning large areas for relatively large defects. They
sample a relatively large area and allow for deeper penetration. Since they do sample a large
area, they are often used for conductivity tests to get more of a bulk material measurement.
However, their large sampling area limits their ability to detect small discontinuities.
Pencil probes have a small surface coil that is encased in a long slender housing to permit
inspection in restricted spaces. They are available with a straight shaft or with a bent shaft,
which facilitate easier handling and use in applications such as the inspection of small
diameter bores. Pencil probes are prone to wobble due to their small base and sleeves are
sometimes used to provide a wider base.

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Bolt Hole Probes


Bolt hole probes are a special type of surface probe that is designed to be used with a bolt
hole scanner. They have a surface coil that is mounted inside a housing that matches the
diameter of the hole being inspected. The probe is inserted in the hole and the scanner rotates
the probe within the hole.
ID or Bobbin Probes
ID probes, which are also referred to as Bobbin probes or feed-through probes, are inserted
into hollow products, such as a pipe, to inspect from the inside out. The ID probes have a
housing that keep the probe centered in the product and the coil(s) orientation somewhat
constant relative to the test surface. The coils are most commonly wound around the
circumference of the probe so that the probe inspects an area around the entire circumference
of the test object at one time.
OD or Encircling Coils
OD probes are often called encircling coils. They are similar to ID probes except that the
coil(s) encircle the material to inspect from the outside in. OD probes are commonly used to
inspect solid products, such as bar.

Bobbin Coil OD Coil

Probes - Shielding & Loading


One of the challenges of performing an eddy current inspection, is getting sufficient eddy
current field strength in the region of interest within the material. Another challenge is
keeping the field away from nonrelevant features of the test component. Features that could
produce a response that complicates the desired signal information. Probe shielding and
loading are sometimes used to limit the spread and concentrate the magnetic field of the coil.
Of course, if the magnetic field is concentrated near the coil, the eddy currents will also be
concentrated in this area.

Probe Shielding
Probe shielding is used to prevent or reduce the interaction of the probes magnetic field with
nonrelevant features in close proximity of the probe. Shielding could be used to reduce edge
effects when testing near dimensional transitions such as a step or an edge. Shielding could
also be used to reduce the effects of conductive or magnetic fasteners in the region of testing.

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Eddy current probes are most often shielded using magnetic shielding or eddy current
shielding. Magnetically shielded probes have their coil surrounded by a ring of ferrite or
other material with high permeability and low conductivity. The ferrite creates and area of
low magnetic reluctance and the probes magnetic field is concentrated in this area rather
than spreading beyond the shielding. This concentrates the magnetic field into tighter area
around the coil.
Eddy current shielding uses a ring of highly conductive but nonmagnetic material, usually
copper, to surround the coil. The portion of the coils magnetic field that cuts across the
shielding generates eddy currents in the shielding material rather than in the nonrelevant
features outside of the shielded area. The higher the frequency of the current used to drive the
probe, the more effective the shielding with be due to skin effect in the shielding material.

Probe Loading with Ferrite Cores


Sometimes coils are wound around a ferrite core. Since ferrite is ferromagnetic, the magnetic
flux produced by the coil prefers to travel through the ferrite than through air. Therefore, the
ferrite core concentrates the magnetic field near the center of the probe. This, in turn,
concentrates the eddy currents near the center of the probe. Probes with ferrite cores tend to
be more sensitive than air core probes and less affected by probe wobble and liftoff.

Un-Shielded Shielded Loaded


Coil (Probe) Design - Diameter
The most important feature in eddy current testing is the way in which the eddy currents are
induced and detected in the material under test. This depends on the design of the probe,
which can contain either one or more coils. A coil consists of a length of wire wound in a
helical manner around the length of a cylindrical tube or rod, called a former. The winding
usually has more than one layer so as to increase the value of inductance for a given length of
coil.
It is desirable with eddy current testing that the wire is made from copper or other nonferrous
metal to avoid magnetic hysteresis effects. The main purpose of the former is to provide a
sufficient amount of rigidity in the coil to prevent distortion. Formers used for coils with
diameters greater than a few millimeters, e.g. encircling and pancake coils, generally take the
form of tubes or rings made from dielectric materials.
The region inside the former is called the core, which can consist of either a solid material or
just air. Small-diameter coils are usually wound directly on to a solid core, which acts as the
former. The higher the inductance L of a coil, at a given frequency, the greater the sensitivity
of eddy current testing. It is essential that the current through the coil is as low as possible.
Too high a current may produce

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a rise in temperature, hence an expansion of the coil, which increases the value of L.
magnetic hysteresis, which is small but detectable when a ferrite core is used.
ferromagnetic materials, which are excessive magnetic hysteresis accompanied by
non-linearity of the output signal. This leads to the appearance of harmonic
frequencies.
The simplest type of probe is the single-coil probe, which is in widespread use. The following
applet may be used to calculate the effect of the inner and outer diameters of a simple probe
design on the probes self inductance. Dimensional units are in millimeters.
The higher the inductance L of a coil, at a given frequency, the greater the sensitivity of eddy
current testing. A more precise value of L is given by

L = Kn2 pi [ (ro2 - rc2) - rrc2] o/l


ro is the mean radius of the coil.
rc is the radius of the core
l is the length of the coil.
n is the number of turns.
r is the relative magnetic permeability of the core.
o is 4 pi x 10-7 H/m (i.e. the permeability of free space which is effectively equal to
the permeabilities of the materials of both the wire and the former).
K is a dimensionless constant characteristic of the length and the external and internal
radii.

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Coil (Probe) Design - Turns


As mentioned in the previous section, an important feature in eddy current testing is the way
in which the eddy currents are induced and detected in the material under test.
The winding usually has more than one layer so as to increase the value of inductance for a
given length of coil. It is desirable with eddy current testing that the wire is made from
copper or other nonferrous metal to avoid magnetic hysteresis effects. The main purpose of
the former is to provide a sufficient amount of rigidity in the coil to prevent distortion.
Formers used for coils with diameters greater than a few millimeters, e.g. encircling and
pancake coils, generally take the form of tubes or rings made from dielectric materials.
The region inside the former is called the core, which can consist of either a solid material or
just air. Small-diameter coils are usually wound directly on to a solid core, which acts as the
former. The higher the inductance L of a coil, at a given frequency, the greater the sensitivity
of eddy current testing.
The simplest type of probe is the single-coil probe. The following applet may be used to
calculate the effect of the number of turns in the coil on the probes self inductance.

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Impedance Matching
Eddy current testing requires us to determine the components of the impedance of the
detecting coil or the potential difference across it. Most applications require the determination
only of changes in impedance, which can be measured with a high degree of sensitivity using
an AC bridge. The principles of operation of the most commonly used eddy current
instruments are based on Maxwells inductance bridge, in which the components of the
impedance of the detecting coil, commonly called a probe, are compared with known variable
impedances connected in series and forming the balancing arm of the bridge. Refer back to
Sec.3.3 Bridges

The input to the bridge is an AC oscillator, often variable in both frequency and amplitude.
The detector arm takes the form of either a meter or a storage cathode-ray oscilloscope, a
phase-sensitive detector, a rectifier to provide a steady indication, and usually an attenuator to
confine the output indication within a convenient range. Storage facilities are necessary in the
oscilloscope in order to retain the signal from the detector for reference during scanning with
the probe.

The highest sensitivity of detection is achieved by properly matching the impedance of the
probe to the impedance of the measuring instrument. Thus, with a bridge circuit which is
initially balanced, a subsequent but usually small variation in the impedance of the probe
upsets the balance, and a potential difference appears across the detector arm of the bridge.

Although the Maxwell inductance bridge forms the basis of most eddy current instruments,
there are several reasons why it cannot be used in its simplest form (e.g. Hague, 1934),
including the creation of stray capacitances, such as those formed by the leads and leakages
to earth. These unwanted impedances can be eliminated by earthing devices and the addition
of suitable impedances to produce one or more wide-band frequency (i.e. low Q) resonance
circuits. Instruments having a wide frequency range, e.g. from 1 kHz to 2 MHz, may possess
around five of these bands to cover the range. The value of the impedance of the probe is
therefore an important consideration in achieving proper matching and, as a result, it may be
necessary to change the probe when switching from one frequency band to another.

Although the Maxwell inductance bridge forms the basis of most eddy current instruments,
there are several reasons why it cannot be used in its simplest form (e.g. Hague, 1934),
including the creation of stray capacitances, such as those formed by the leads and leakages
to earth. These unwanted impedances can be eliminated by earthing devices and the addition
of suitable impedances to produce one or more wide-band frequency (i.e. low Q) resonance
circuits. Instruments having a wide frequency range, e.g. from 1 kHz to 2 MHz, may possess
around five of these bands to cover the range. The value of the impedance of the probe is
therefore an important consideration in achieving proper matching and, as a result, it may be
necessary to change the probe when switching from one frequency band to another.

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Surface Breaking Cracks


Eddy current equipment can be used for a variety of applications such as the detection of
cracks (discontinuities), measurement of metal thickness, detection of metal thinning due to
corrosion and erosion, determination of coating thickness, and the measurement of electrical
conductivity and magnetic permeability. Eddy currents inspection is an excellent method for
detecting surface and near surface defects when the probable defect location and orientation
is well known. Defects such as cracks are detected when they disrupt the path of eddy
currents and weaken their strength. The images to the right show an eddy current surface
probe on the surface of a conductive component. The strength of the eddy currents under the
coil of the probe in indicated by color. In the right image, there is a flaw under the right side
of the coil and it can be see that the eddy currents are weaker in this area.

Of course, factors such as the type of material, surface finish and condition of the material,
the design of the probe, and many other factors can affect the sensitivity of the inspection.
Successful detection of surface breaking and near surface cracks requires:

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1. A knowledge of probable defect type, position, and orientation.


2. Selection of the proper probe. The probe should fit the geometry of the part and the
coil must produce eddy currents that will be disrupted by the flaw.
3. Selection of a reasonable probe drive frequency. For surface flaws, the frequency
should be as high as possible for maximum resolution and high sensitivity. For
subsurface flaws, lower frequencies are necessary to get the required depth of
penetration and this results in less sensitivity. Ferromagnetic or highly conductive
materials require the use of an even lower frequency to arrive at some level of
penetration.
4. Setup or reference specimens of similar material to the component being inspected
and with features that are representative of the defect or condition being inspected for.

The basic steps in performing an inspection with a surface probe are the following:
1. Select and setup the instrument and probe.
2. Select a frequency to produce the desired depth of penetration.
3. Adjust the instrument to obtain an easily recognizable defect response using a
calibration standard or setup specimen.
4. Place the inspection probe (coil) on the component surface and null the instrument.
5. Scan the probe over part of the surface in a pattern that will provide complete
coverage of the area being inspected. Care must be taken to maintain the same probe-
to-surface orientation as probe wobble can affect interpretation of the signal. In some
cases, fixtures to help maintain orientation or automated scanners may be required.
6. Monitor the signal for a local change in impedance that will occur as the probe moves
over a discontinuity.

The applet below depicts a simple eddy current probe near the surface of a calibration
specimen. Move the probe over the surface of the specimen and compare the signal responses
from a surface breaking crack with the signals from the calibration notches. The inspection
can be made at a couple of different frequency to get a feel for the effect that frequency has
on sensitivity in this application.

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Surface Crack Detection Using Sliding Probes


Many commercial aircraft applications involve the use of multiple fasteners to connect the
multilayer skins. Because of the fatigue stress that is caused by the typical application of any
commercial aircraft, fatigue cracks can be induced in the vicinity of the fastener holes. In
order to inspect the fastener holes in an adequate amount of time, sliding probes are an
efficient method of inspection.
Sliding probes have been named so because they move over fasteners in a sliding motion.
There are two types of sliding probes, fixed and adjustable, which are usually operated in the
reflection mode. This means that the eddy currents are induced by the driver coil and detected
by a separate receiving coil.
Sliding probes are one of the fastest methods to inspect large numbers of fastener holes. They
are capable of detecting surface and subsurface discontinuities, but they can only detect
defects in one direction. The probes are marked with a detection line to indicate the direction
of inspection. In order to make a complete inspection there must be two scans that are 90
degrees separated from each other.

PROBE TYPES

FIXED SLIDING PROBES


These probes are generally used for thinner material compared to the adjustable probes.
Maximum penetration is about 1/8 inch. Fixed sliding probes are particularly well suited for
finding longitudinal surface or subsurface cracks such as those found in lap joints. Typical
frequency range is from 100 Hz to 100 kHz.
ADJUSTABLE SLIDING PROBES
These probes are well suited for finding subsurface cracks in thick multilayer structures, like
wing skins. Maximum penetration is about inch. The frequency range for adjustable sliding
probes is from 100 Hz to 40 kHz.
Adjustable probes, as the name implies, are adjustable with the use of spacers, which will
change the penetration capabilities. The spacer thickness between the coils is normally
adjusted for the best detection. For tangential scans or 90 degree scanning with an offset from
the center, a thinner spacer is often used.
Adjustable probes, as the name implies, are adjustable with the use of spacers, which will
change the penetration capabilities. The spacer thickness between the coils is normally
adjusted for the best detection. For tangential scans or 90 degree scanning with an offset from
the center, a thinner spacer is often used.
The spacer thickness range can vary from 0 (no spacer) for inspections close to the surface
and small fastener heads to a maximum of about 0.3 inch for deep penetration with large
heads in the bigger probe types. A wider spacer will give more tolerance to probe deviation
as the sensitive area becomes wider but the instrument will require more gain. Sliding probes
usually penetrate thicker materials compared to the donut probes.

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REFERENCE STANDARDS
Reference/calibration standards for setup of sliding probes typically consist of three or four
aluminum plates that are fastened together within a lap joint type configuration. EDM
notches or naturally/artificially- induced cracks are located in the second or third layer of the
standard.
Reference standards used should be manufactured from the same material type, alloy,
material thickness, and chemical composition that will be found on the aircraft component to
be inspected. Sizes and tolerances of flaws introduced in the standards are usually regulated
by inspection specifications.

INSTRUMENT DISPLAY (LIFTOFF)


Liftoff is normally adjusted to be horizontal, but on the CRT liftoff shows up as a curved line
rather than a straight line. Sometimes liftoff can be a steep curve and may have to be allowed
to move slightly upwards before moving downwards. See Figures 1 and 2.

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SCANNING PATTERNS

A typical scan is centralized over the fastener head and moves along the axis of the fastener
holes. This scan is generally used to detect cracks positioned along the axis of the fastener
holes. For detecting cracks located transverse or 90 degrees from the axis of the fastener
holes, a scan that is 90 degrees from the axis of the fastener holes is recommended.

CRACK DETECTION SIGNAL INTERPRETATION


When the probe moves over a fastener hole with a crack, the indication changes and typically
will create a larger vertical movement. The vertical amplitude of the loop depends on the
crack length, with longer cracks giving higher indications.
If the crack is in the far side of the fastener, as the probe moves over it the dot will follow the
fastener line first but will move upwards (clockwise) as it goes over the crack. If the crack is
in the near side, it will be found first and the dot will move along the crack level before
coming down to the fastener level.
If two cracks on opposite sides of the fastener hole are present, the dot will move upwards to
the height by the first crack length and then come back to the fastener line and balance point.
If the second crack is longer than the first one, the dot will move even higher and complete
the loop (clockwise) before going down to the balance point. See figures 3 and 4.

VARIABLES:
PROBE SCAN DEVIATION
Most probes are designed to give a narrow indication for a good fastener hole so that the
loops from the cracks are more noticeable. Some probes and structures can give wider
indications and a similar result can be obtained if the probe is not straight when it approaches
the fastener. It is important to keep the probe centralized over the fastener heads. Doing this
will give you a maximum indication for the fastener and a crack.
If the probe deviates from the center line, the crack indication will move along the loop that
we saw in figure 5 and is now present in figure 6. The crack indication is at a when the
probe is centralized and moves toward b as it deviates in one direction, or c as it deviates
in the opposite direction. Point b gives an important indication even if it loses a small
amount of amplitude it has gained in phase, giving a better separation angle. This is because
we deviated to the side where the crack is located.

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CRACK ANGLE DEVIATION


A reduction in the crack indication occurs when the crack is at an angle to the probe scan
direction. This happens if the crack is not completely at 90 degrees to the normal probe scan
or changes direction as it grows. Both the fixed and adjustable sliding probes are capable of
detecting cracks up to about 30 degrees off angle. See to figures 7 and 8.

ELECTRICAL CONTACT

When inspecting fasteners that have just been installed or reference standards that have
intimate contact with the aluminum skin plate, it is not unusual to obtain a smaller than
normal indication. In some extreme cases, the fastener indication may disappear almost
completely. This is due to the good electrical contact between the fastener and the skin that
allows the eddy currents to circulate without finding the boundary and therefore no obstacle
or barrier. Because of this effect it is recommended to paint the holes before fastener
installation.

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Metal Thinning (Corrosion Damage)


Nondestructive Testing (NDT) methods are used extensively to detect metal thinning due to
corrosion. Corrosion is a natural process and is a result of the inherent tendency of metals to
revert to their more stable compounds, which are usually oxides. Most metals are found in
nature in the form of various chemical compounds called ores. In the refining process, energy
is added to the ore to produce the metal. It is this same energy that provides the driving force
causing the metal to revert back to the more stable compound.
Eddy current inspection is often used to detect corrosion and erosion in tubing such as that
used in heat exchangers. A technique that is often used involves feeding a differential bobbin
probe into the individual tube of the heat exchanger. With the differential probe used, no
signal will be seen on the eddy current instrument as long as no metal thinning is present.
When metal thinning is present, a loop will be seen on the impedance plane as one coil of the
differential probe passes over the flawed area and a second loop will be produced when the
second coil passes over the damage. When the corrosion is on the outside surface of the tube,
the depth of corrosion is indicated by a shift in the phase lag. The size of the indication
provides an indication of the total extent of the corrosion damage.

A tube inspection using a bobbin probe is simulated below. Click the null button and then
drag either the absolute of the differential probe through the tube. Note the different signal
responses provided by the two probes. Also note that the absolute probe is much more
sensitive to dings and the build up of magnetite on the outside of the tube, than the
differential probe is.

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Another application where eddy currents is used to characterize corrosion damage is on the
skins of aircraft. Eddy current techniques can be used to do spot checks or scanners can be
used to inspect small areas. Eddy current inspection has an advantage over ultrasound in this
application because no mechanical coupling is required to get the energy into the structure.
Therefore, in multi-layered areas of the structure like lap splices, eddy current can often
determine if corrosion thinning is present in buried layers. Eddy current inspection has an
advantage over radiography for this application because only single sided access is required
to perform the inspection. To get a piece of film on the back side of the aircraft skin might
require removing interior furnishings, panels, and insulation which could be very costly.
Advanced eddy current techniques are being developed that can determine thickness changes
down to about 3 percent of the skin thickness.

Conductivity Measurements
One of the uses of eddy current instruments is for
the measurement of electrical conductivity. The
value of the electrical conductivity of a metal
depends on several factors, such as its chemical
composition and the stress state of its crystalline
structure. Therefore, electrical conductivity
information can be used for sorting metals,
checking for proper heat treatment, and inspecting
for heat damage
The technique usually involves nulling an absolute
probe in the air and placing the probe in contact
with the sample surface. For nonmagnetic materials, the change in impedance of the coil can
be correlated directly to the conductivity of the material. The technique can be used to easily
sort magnetic materials from nonmagnetic materials but it is difficult to separate the
conductivity effects from magnetic permeability effects, so conductivity measurements are
limited to nonmagnetic materials. It is important to control factors that can affect the results
such as the inspection temperature and the part geometry. Conductivity changes with
temperature so measurements should be made at a constant temperature and adjustments
made for temperature variations when necessary. The thickness of the specimen should
generally be greater than three standard depths of penetration. This is so the eddy currents at
the back surface of the sample are sufficiently weaker than variations in specimen thickness
that are not seen in the measurements.
Generally large pancake type, surface probes are used to get a value for a relatively large
sample area. The instrument is usually setup such that a ferromagnetic material produces a
response that is nearly vertical. Then, all conductive but nonmagnetic materials will produce
a trace that moves down and to the right as the probe is moved toward the surface. Think
back to the discussion on the impedance plane and these type of responses make sense.
Remember that inductive reactance changes are plotted along the y-axis and resistance
changes are plotted in the x-axis. Since ferromagnetic materials will concentrate the magnetic
field produced by a coil, the inductive reactance of the coil will increase. The effects on the
signal from the magnetic permeability overshadow the effects from conductivity since they
are so much stronger.

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When the probe is brought near a conductive but nonmagnetic material, the coils inductive
reactance goes down since the magnetic field from the eddy currents and opposes the
magnetic field of the coil. The resistance in the coil increases since it takes some of the coils
energy to generate the eddy currents and this appears as additional resistance in the circuit.
As the conductivity of the materials being tested increases, the resistance losses with be less
and the inductive reactance changes will be greater. Therefore, the signals will be come more
vertical as conductivity increases as shown in the image above.
To sort materials, using an impedance plane device, the signal from the unknown sample
must be compared to a signal from a variety of reference standards.. However, there are
devices available that can be calibrated to produce a value for electrical conductivity which
can then be compared to published values of electrical conductivity in MS/m or percent IACS
(International Annealed Copper Standard). Please be aware that the conductivity of a
particular material can vary significantly with slight variations in the chemical composition
and, thus, a conductivity range is generally provided for a material. The conductivity range
for one material may overlap with the range of a second material of interest so conductivity
alone can not always be used to sort materials. The electrical conductivity values for a variety
of materials can be found in the material properties reference tables.
The following applet is based on codes for nonferrous materials written by Back Blitz from
his book, Electrical and Magnetic Methods of Nondestructive Testing, 2nd ed., Chapman &
Hill (1997). The applet demonstrates how a impedance plane eddy current instrument can be
used for sorting of materials.

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Lift Off effect

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Conductivity Measurements
for the Verification of Heat Treatment
With some materials, such as solution heat treatable aluminum alloys, conductivity
measurements are often made verifying that parts and materials have received the proper heat
treatment. High purity aluminum is soft and ductile, and gains strength and hardness with the
addition of alloying elements. A few such aluminum alloys are the 2000 series (2014, 2024,
etc.), 6000 series (6061, 6063, etc.), and 7000 series (7050, 7075, etc.). The 2xxx series
aluminum alloys have copper, the 6xxx series have magnesium, and the 7xxx have zinc as
their major alloying elements.

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Heat treatment of aluminum alloys is accomplished in two phases - solution heat treatment
and then aging. In the solution heat treatment step, the alloys are heated to an elevated
temperature to dissolve the alloying elements into solution. The metal is then rapidly cooled
or quenched to freeze the atoms of the alloying elements in the lattice structure of the
aluminum. This distorts and stresses the structure making electron movement more difficult
and, therefore, decreases the electrical conductivity. In this condition, the alloys are still
relatively soft but start to gain strength as the alloying elements begin to precipitate out of
solution to form extremely small particles that impede the movement of dislocations within
the material. The formation of the precipitates can be controlled for many alloys by heating
and holding the material at an elevated temperature for a period of time (artificial aging). As
the alloying elements precipitate out of solid solution, the conductivity of the material
gradually increases. By controlling the amount of precipitated particles within the aluminum,
the properties can be controlled to produce peak strength or some combinations of strength
and corrosion resistance. Sometimes the material must be annealed or put into the softest
most ductile condition possible in order to perform forming operations. Annealing allows all
of the alloying elements to precipitate out of solution to form a course widely spaced
precipitate. The electrical conductivity is greatest when the material is in the annealed
condition.
Since solution heat-treated and aged materials are stronger, components that can be made
using less material. A lighter or more compact design is often of great importance to the
designer and well worth the cost of the heat treating process. However, think of the
consequences that could arise if a component that was suppose to be solution heat treated and
aged some how left the manufacturing facility and was put into service unheat-treated or
annealed. This is a real possibility since heat treated aluminum parts look exactly like unheat
treated parts. Consider 2024 aluminum as an example. Select tensile properties and its
electrical conductivity for various heat treatment conditions are given in the following table.

Properties for Alclad 2024 Aluminum


Electrical
Heat Treatment Condition Ultimate Strength Yield Strength
Conductivity
Annealed (O) 26 ksi (180 MPa) 11 ksi (75 MPa) 50 % IACS
Solution Heat Treated and
64 ksi (440 MPa) 42 ksi (290 MPa) 30 % IACS
Naturally Aged (T42)
Solution Heat Treated,
Cold worked and 70 ksi (485 MPa) 66 ksi (455 MPa) 38 % IACS
Artificially Aged (T861)

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It can be seen that the yield strength for the material is 42 kilo pounds / square inch (ksi) (290
MPa) in the solution heat treated and naturally aged condition (T42 condition). The yield
strength can be increased to 66 ksi (455 MPa) when cold worked and artificially aged (T861
condition). But in the annealed condition, the yield strength is reduced to 11 ksi or 75 MPa).
If an annealed part were accidentally used where a part in the T42 or T861 was intended, it
would likely fail prematurely. However, a quick check of the conductivity using an eddy
current instrument of all parts prior to shipping the parts would prevent this from occurring.

Thickness Measurements of Thin Material


Eddy current techniques can be used to perform a number of dimensional measurements. The
ability to make rapid measurements without the need for couplant or, in some cases even
surface contact, make eddy current techniques very use. The type of measurements that can
be made include:
thickness of thin metal sheet and foil, and of metallic coatings on
metallic and nonmetallic substrate
cross-sectional dimensions of cylindrical tubes and rods
thickness of nonmetallic coatings on metallic substrates

Thickness Measurement of Thin Conductive Sheet, Strip and Foil


Eddy current techniques are used to measure the thickness of hot sheet, strip and foil in
rolling mills, and to measure the amount of metal thinning that has occurred over time due to
corrosion on fuselage skins of aircraft. On the impedance plane, thickness variations exhibit
the same type of eddy current signal response as a subsurface defects, except that the signal
represents a void of infinite size and depth. The phase rotation pattern is the same, but the
signal amplitude is greater. In the applet, the lift-off curves for different areas of the taper
wedge can be produced by nulling the probe in air and touching it to the surface at various
locations of the tapered wedge. If a line is drawn between the end points of the lift-off curves,
a comma shaped curve is produced. As illustrated in the second applet, this comma shaped
curve is the path that is traced on the screen when the probe is scanned down the length of the
tapered wedge so that the entire range of thickness values are measured.

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When making this measurement, it is important to keep in mind that the depth of penetration
of the eddy currents must cover the entire range of thickness being measured. Typically, a
frequency is selected that produces about one standard depth of penetration at the maximum
thickness. Unfortunately, at lower frequencies, which are often needed to get the necessary
penetration, the probe impedance is more sensitive to changes in electrical conductivity.
Thus, the effects of electrical conductivity cannot be phased out and it is important to verify
that any variations of conductivity over the region of interest are at a sufficiently low level.

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Measurement of Cross-sectional Dimensions of Cylindrical Tubes and Rods


Dimensions of cylindrical tubes and rods can be measured with either OD coils or internal
axial coils, whichever is appropriate. The relationship between change in impedance and
change in diameter is fairly constant at all but at very low frequencies. However, the
advantages of operating at a higher normalized frequency are twofold. First, the contribution
of any conductivity change to the impedance of the coil becomes less important and, it can
easily be phased out. Second, there is an increase in measurement sensitivity resulting from
the higher value of the inductive component of the impedance. Because of the large phase
difference between the impedance vectors corresponding to changes in fill-factor and
conductivity (and defect size), simultaneous testing for dimensions, conductivity, and defects
can be carried out.
Typical applications include measuring eccentricities of the diameters of tubes and rods and
the thickness of tube walls. Long tubes are often tested by passing them at a constant speed
through encircling coils (generally differential) and providing a close fit to achieve as high a
fill-factor as possible.

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An important application of tube-wall thickness measurement is the detection and assessment


of corrosion, both external and internal. Internal probes must be used when the external
surface is not accessible, i.e. when testing pipes that are buried or supported by brackets.
Success has been achieved in measuring thickness variations in ferromagnetic metal pipes
with the remote field technique.
Thickness Measurement of Thin Conductive Layers
It is also possible to measure the thickness of a thin layer of metal on a metallic substrate,
provided the two metals have widely differing electrical conductivity, e.g. silver on lead
where sigma = 67 and 10 MS/m, respectively. A frequency must be selected such that there is
complete eddy current penetration of the layer, but not of the substrate itself. The method has
also been used successfully for measuring thickness of very thin protective coatings of
ferromagnetic metals, e.g. chromium and nickel, on non-ferromagnetic metal bases.
Depending on the required degree of penetration, measurements can be made using a single-
coil probe or a transformer probe, preferably reflection type. Small-diameter probe coils are
usually preferred since they can provide very high sensitivity and minimize effects related to
property or thickness variations in the underlying base metal when used in combination with
suitably high test frequencies. The goal is to confine the magnetizing field, and the resulting
eddy current distribution, to just beyond the thin coating layer and to minimize the field
within the base metals.
The thickness of nonmetallic coatings on metal substrates can be determined simply from the
effect of liftoff on impedance. This method has widespread use for measuring thickness of
paint and plastic coatings. The coating serves as a spacer between the probe and the
conductive surface. As the distance between the probe and the conductive base metal
increases, the eddy current field strength decreases because less of the probes magnetic field
can interact with base metal. Thickness between 0.5 and 25 m can be measured to an
accuracy between 10% for lower values and 4% for higher values. Contributions to
impedance changes due to conductivity variations should be phased out, unless it is known
that conductivity variations are negligible, as normally found at higher frequencies.

Fairly precise measurements can be made with a standard eddy current flaw detector and a
calibration specimen. The probe is nulled in air and the direction of the lift off signal is
established. The location of the signal is marked on the screen as the probe is placed on the
calibration specimen in areas of decreasing coating thickness. When the probe is placed on
the test surface, the position of the signal will move from the air null position to a point that
can be correlated to the calibration markings.

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Specialized eddy current coating thickness detectors are also available and are often pocket-
sized with the probe resembling a small pencil. They are usually operated by a small battery
and provide a digital read-out in the appropriate units. Calibration adjustments, some of
which are laid down by standards, e.g. BS EN 2360 (1995) and ASTM B 244 and E 376, may
be assisted by the use of an inbuilt microprocessor.

Remote Field Sensing


Eddy current testing for external defects in tubes when external access is not possible, e.g.
with buried pipelines, is conducted using internal probes. When testing thick-walled
ferromagnetic metal pipes with conventional internal probes, very low frequencies (e.g. 30
Hz for a steel pipe 10 mm thick) are necessary to achieve the through-penetration of the eddy
currents. This situation produces a very low sensitivity of flaw detection. The degree of
penetration can, in principle, be increased by the application of a saturation magnetic field.
However, because of the large volume of metal present, a large saturation unit carrying a
heavy direct current may be required to produce an adequate saturating field.
The difficulties encountered in the internal testing of ferromagnetic tubes can be greatly
alleviated with the use of the remote field eddy current method, which allows measurable
through penetration of the walls at three times the maximum frequency possible with the
conventional direct field method. This technique was introduced by Schmidt in 1958.
Although it has been used by the petroleum industry for detecting corrosion in their
installations since the early 1960s, it has only recently evoked general interest. This interest is
largely because the method highly sensitive to variations in wall thickness, but relative
insensitive to fill-factor changes. The method has the added advantage of allowing equal
sensitivities of detection at both inner and outer surfaces of a ferromagnetic tube. It cannot,
however, differentiate between signals from these respective surfaces.
In its basic form, the probe arrangement consists of an exciting coil and a receiver coil kept at
a rigidly fixed separation along the axial direction. The separation between exciting coil and
receiver coil should be at least twice the inner diameter of the tube, preferably two and a half
times, for the reasons explained below.

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The exciting coil induces a magnetic field in the normal manner; some of the field penetrates
the wall of the tube and the rest remains within the tubes air space. Eddy currents follow
circular paths concentric with the axis of the tube flow within the tube wall and set up a
reverse magnetic field. The reverse field attenuates that part of the field remaining within the
air space, which decreases to zero before reaching receiver coil. The region that is active
where the field induces directly by the exciting coil, is called the direct field zone. This field
can produce a current in any coil suitably placed within the zone. The remote field zone is the
region in which no direct coupling can take place between the exciting coil and any receiver
coil inside it. Coupling can take place only through diffusion of the magnetic flux excited by
the exciting coil into the tube wall and its subsequent spreading lengthwise along the tube,
but with a lower attenuation than the direct field.
The remote field technique has been highly effective in testing tube-wall thinning, but in its
present form it is not suitable for crack detection. However, Atherton et al. (1989) has
achieved some success in increasing the flux penetration through the tube wall by using
saturation windows. Permanent magnets are located in the vicinities of the wall at the two
probe positions, thus increasing the sensitivity of the method and enabling it to detect cracks.
Dubois et al. (1992) reported that working in the transition zone can increase sensitivity in
measuring defects, allowing the probe length to be shorter and enabling a higher degree of
resolution. The resultant field effect becomes a maximum where direct and indirect fields
have equal magnitudes and opposite phases. Small variations in the incident magnetic field
can produce large changes in the resultant field, thus increasing the sensitivity of defect
detection. With a careful choice of frequency it is possible to resolve signals indicating
variations of magnetic permeability from signals indicating the presence and size of defects.

Scanning
Eddy current data can be collected using automated scanning systems to improve the quality
of the measurements and to construct images of scanned areas. The most common type of
scanning is line scanning where an automated system is used to push the probe at a fixed
speed. Line scan systems are often used when performing a tube inspections or aircraft
engine blade slot inspections, where scanning in one dimension is needed. The data is usually
presented as a strip chart recording. The advantage of using a linear scanning system is that
the probe is moved at a constant speed so indication on the strip chart can be correlated to a
position on the part being scanned. As with all automated scanning systems, operator
variables, such as wobble of the probe, are reduced.
Two-dimensional scanning systems are used to scan a two-dimensional area. This could be a
scanning system that scans over a relatively flat area in a X-Y raster mode, or it could be a
bolt hole inspection system that rotates the probe as it is moved into the hole. The data is
typically displayed as a false-color plot of signal strength or phase angle shift as a function of
position, just like an ultrasonic C-scan presentation. Shown below is a portable scanning
system that is designed to work on the skins of aircraft fuselage and wing sections.
Listed below are some automated scanning advantages:
minimizes changes in liftoff or fill factor resulting from probe wobble, uneven
surfaces, and eccentricity of tubes caused by faulty manufacture or denting
accurate indexing
repeatability
high resolution mapping

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Multiple Frequency Techniques


Multiple frequency eddy current techniques simply involve collecting data at several different
frequencies and then comparing the data or mixing the data in some way.

Why the need for multiple frequencies? - Some background information


The impedance of an eddy current probe may be affected by the following factors:
variations in operating frequency
variations in electrical conductivity and the magnetic permeability of a object or
structure, caused by structural changes such as grain structure, work hardening, heat
treatment, etc.
changes in liftoff or fill factor resulting from probe wobble, uneven surfaces, and
eccentricity of tubes caused by faulty manufacture or denting
the presence of surface defects such as cracks, and subsurface defects such as voids
and nonmetallic inclusions
dimensional changes, for example, thinning of tube walls due to corrosion, deposition
of metal deposits or sludge, and the effects of denting
the presence of supports, walls, and brackets
the presence of discontinuities such as edges

Several of these factors are often present simultaneously. In the simple case where interest is
confined to detecting defects or other abrupt changes in geometry, a differential probe can be
used to eliminate unwanted factors, providing they vary in a gradual manner. For example,
variations in electrical conductivity and tube thinning affect both coils of a differential probe
simultaneously. However, if unwanted parameters that occur abruptly are affecting the
measurements, they can sometimes be negated by mixing signals collected at several
frequencies.
An example of where a multi-frequency eddy current inspection is used is in heat exchanger
tube inspections. Heat exchanger assemblies are often a collection of tubing that have support
brackets on the outside. When attempting to inspect the full wall thickness of the tubing, the
signal from the mounting bracket is often troublesome. By collected a signal at the frequency
necessary to inspect the full thickness of the tube and subtracting a second signal collected at
a lower frequency (which will be more sensitive to the bracket but less sensitive to features in
the tubing), the affects of the bracket can be reduced.

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There are a number of commercially available multi-frequency eddy current instruments.


Most operate at only two frequencies at a time but some units can collect data at up to four
frequencies simultaneously. Multi-frequency measurements can also be made using an
impedance analyzer but this equipment is generally not suitable for field measurements. A
typical impedance analyzer system is shown below. The interest in pulsed eddy current
instruments is largely due to their ability to, in essence, perform multi-frequency
measurements very quickly and easily.

Swept Frequency
Swept frequency eddy current techniques involve collecting eddy current data at a wide range
of frequencies. This usually involves the use of a specialized piece of equipment such as an
impedance analyzer, which can be configured to automatically make measurements over a
range of frequencies. The swept-frequency technique can be implemented with commercial
equipment but it is a difficult and time-consuming measurement. The advantage of a swept
frequency measurement is that depth information can be obtained since eddy current depth of
penetration varies as a function of frequency.
Swept frequency measurements are useful in applications such as measuring the thickness of
conductive coatings on conductive base metal, differentiating between flaws in surface
coatings and flaws in the base metal, differentiating between flaws in various layers of built-
up structure. An example application would be the lap spice of a commercial aircraft. Swept
frequency measurements would make it possible to tell if cracking was occurring on the outer
skin, the inner skin or a double layer. Below is an example of the type of data that can be
obtained from swept-frequency measurements.

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Data from swept-frequency measurements on two heats of material.

It can be seen in the etched condition, the material labeled good exhibits a much different
signal response than the material labeled bad. It can also be seen that a frequency of around
2.2 MHz provides the largest separation in the curves, and, therefore, it should be used if a
single frequency were used to sort parts made from the two metals.

Pulsed Eddy Current Inspection


Conventional eddy current inspection techniques use sinusoidal alternating electrical current
of a particular frequency to excite the probe. The pulsed eddy current technique uses a step
function voltage to excite the probe. The advantage of using a step function voltage is that it
contains a continuum of frequencies. As a result, the electromagnetic response to several
different frequencies can be measured with just a single step. Since the depth of penetration is
dependent on the frequency of excitation, information from a range of depths can be obtained
all at once. If measurements are made in the time domain (that is by looking at signal strength
as a function of time), indications produced by flaws or other features near the inspection coil
will be seen first and more distant features will be seen later in time.
To improve the strength and ease interpretation of the signal, a reference signal is usually
collected to which all other signals are compared (just like nulling the probe in convention
EC inspection). Flaws, conductivity, and dimensional changes produce a change in the signal
and a difference between the reference signal and the measurement signal that is displayed.
The distance of the flaw and other features relative to the probe will cause the signal to shift
in time. Therefore, time gating techniques (like in ultrasonic inspection) can be used to gain
information about the depth of a feature of interest.

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Background on Pulsed Eddy Current (adapted from Blitz, 1997)


The use of pulsed eddy currents has long been considered for testing metals (Libby, 1971)
and it has been applied to operations in specialized areas, such as in the nuclear energy
industry, where testing equipment is often constructed to order. However, significant progress
in this direction has taken place only recently after appropriate advances in technology
(Krzwosz et al. 1985; Sather, 1981; Waidelich, 1981; Wittig and Thomas 1981), but at the
time of writing, commercial equipment was not yet available. The method has the potential
advantages of greater penetration, the ability to locate discontinuities from time-of-flight
determinations, and a ready means of multi-frequency measurement. At present, it does not
generally have the precision of the conventional methods. The apparatus is somewhat
complicated in design and not readily usable by the average operator who is experienced with
the conventional eddy current equipment. Its main successes are in the testing of thin metal
tubes and sheets, as well as metal cladding for measuring thickness and for the location and
sizing of internal defects.
When comparing the pulsed method with the conventional eddy current technique, the
conventional technique must be regarded as a continuous wave method for which propagation
takes place at a single frequency or, more correctly, over a very narrow frequency bandwidth.
With pulse methods, the frequencies are excited over a wide band, the extent of which varies
inversely with the pulse length; this allows multi-frequency operation. As found with
ultrasonic testing, the total amount of energy dissipated within a given period of time is
considerably less for pulsed waves than for continuous waves having the same intensity. For
example, with pulses containing only one or two wavelengths and generated 1000 times per
second, the energy produced is only about 0.002 of that for continuous waves having the
same amplitude. Thus, considerably higher input voltages can be applied to the exciting coil
for pulsed operation than for continuous wave operation.
Pulsed waves can reasonably be expected to allow penetration of measurable currents through
a metal sample to a depth of about 10 times the standard penetration depth 6, provided a
suitable probe is used, i.e. a shielded ferrite-cored coil (section 5.3). Therefore, penetration is
possible through a 2 mm thick plate at frequencies of 1-3 kHz for nonferromagnetic metals
having corresponding electrical conductivity ranging from 60 down to 20MS/m. However,
with an unmagnetized steel plate 2 mm thick, where sigma = 5 MS/m and r = 100, the
maximum frequency for through-penetration is only 100 Hz.
Pulsed eddy currents may be generated by a thyratron connected in series with the exciting
coil through a capacitor (e.g. Waidelich, 1981). A direct voltage, of the order of 1200 V,
slowly charges the capacitance and when the thyratron conducts there is an abrupt discharge
through the coil in which free-damped harmonic oscillations occur. This is repeated
periodically, i.e. at 1 kHz, so as to propagate the eddy current pulses through the metal.

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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

The currents are detected by a receiving probe located either adjacent to or on the opposite
side of the metal sample from the exciting probe when access is possible. The range of
propagated frequencies depends on the logarithmic decrement of the exciting circuit, and
because the speed of the waves is a function of frequency, dispersion takes place and the
pulse changes in shape as it progresses through the metal. As one would expect, the height of
the peak and its time delay can be related to the thickness of the metal. Waidelich reports a
maximum penetration of 90 mm for aluminum sheet and 10 mm for steel. For 6 mm thick
sheets, the peak value of the received pulse voltage was 13 V for aluminum but only 20 mV
for steel. Krzwosz et al. (1985) has shown how pulses that result from the presence of internal
simulated defects produce broadening with an increase in depth.
The frequency content of the pulses depends on their lengths, and in the extreme contains
continuous spectra ranging from less than 100 Hz to 1 or 2 kHz. By performing a Fourier
transformation, the pulse obtained by the receiving probe can be displayed in the form of the
variation of amplitude (or phase) with frequency. By sampling different delay times within a
pulse, different parts of the spectrum can be evaluated (Sather, 1981). If both amplitude and
phase are measured, two parameters (i.e. presence of defects, variations in tube thickness, and
changes in fill-factor or liftoff) can be evaluated for each frequency selected in the same way
as with the multifrequency method, although, at present, with a lower degree of precision.
Dodd et al.(1988) has designed and developed a pulsed magnetic saturation method for the
eddy current testing of ferromagnetic metals. The DC field pulses are generated by passing a
high-current pulse through an electromagnet so as to produce saturation in the metal object;
the pulse length is made equal to the thickness of the object, thus ensuring complete eddy
current penetration where feasible. The DC pulse of the order of 1 ms duration,
simultaneously produces an eddy current pulse, which is detected by a probe; the output of
the probe is characteristic of the material being tested.
This technique has the advantage of producing high magnetic peak powers with low average
powers, thus keeping any heating of the test sample down to an acceptable level. It has been
applied successfully for the internal testing of the walls of steel steam generator tubes, and
tubes of diameter 10.9 mm and wall thickness 5 mm have been examined with peak powers
of 500 kW. Small defects close to the external surfaces can be detected, and by taking
advantage of the multi-frequency properties of pulsed eddy currents, their indications can be
resolved from those that originate from other characteristics of the tubes.
More recent work on the use of pulsed eddy currents has been reported by Gibbs and
Campbell (1991), who inspected cracks under fasteners in aluminum aircraft structures. Here,
a Hall element was used as a receiver. Radial position, approximate depth, and relative size of
defects hidden under fastener heads could be determined in countersunk areas for defect
depths of up to 7 mm for nonferrous fasteners and 14 mm for ferrous fasteners.
Lebrun et al. (1975) reported the detection of deep cracks in ferromagnetic samples using an
emission coil excited by square pulses of high intensity and employing highly sensitive
magnetoresistive sensors to measure the resultant magnetic fields. Defects of 1 mm x 1 mm
could be detected at a depth of 5 mm and having dimensions of 3 mm x 4 mm at a depth of
20 mm.

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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

EC Standards and Methods


STANDARDS
British Standards (BS) and American Standards (ASTM), relating to magnetic flux leakage
and eddy current methods of testing are given below. National standards are currently being
harmonized across the whole of Europe, and British Standards are no exception. Harmonized
standards will eventually be identified by the initials BS EN; for example, BS 5411 has been
revised and is now known as BS EN 2360. Harmonization is unlikely to be completed before
2001. The year of updating a British Standard is given in brackets. ASTM standards are
published annually and updated when necessary.
FLUX LEAKAGE METHODS (INCLUDING MAGNETIC PARTICLE INSPECTION)
British Standards (BS)
BS 6072:1981 (1986) Magnetic particle flaw detection
BS 4489:1984 Black light measurement
BS 5044:1973 (1987) Contrast aid paints
BS 5138:1974 (1988) Forged and stamped crankshafts
BS 3683 (part 2):1985 Glossary
BS 4069:1982 Inks and powders
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
ASTM E 709 Magnetic particle inspection practice
ASTM E 125 Indications in ferrous castings
ASTM E 1316 Definition of terms
ASTM E 570 Flux leakage examination of ferromagnetic steel tubular products
EDDY CURRENT METHODS
British Standards (BS)
BS 3683 (part 5):1965 (1989) Eddy current flaw detection glossary
BS 3889 (part 2A): 1986 (1991) Automatic eddy current testing of wrought steel tubes
BS 3889 (part 213): 1966 (1987) Eddy current testing of nonferrous tubes
BS 5411 (part 3):1984 Eddy current methods for measurement of coating thickness of
nonconductive coatings on nonmagnetic base material. Withdrawn: now known as BS EN
2360 (1995).
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
ASTM A 450/A450M General requirements for carbon, ferritic alloys and austenitic alloy
steel tubes
ASTM B 244 Method for measurement of thickness of anodic coatings of aluminum and
other nonconductive coatings on nonmagnetic base materials with eddy current instruments
ASTM B 659 Recommended practice for measurement of thickness of metallic coatings on
nonmetallic substrates
ASTM E 215 Standardizing equipment for electromagnetic testing of seamless aluminum
alloy tube
ASTM E 243 Electromagnetic (eddy current) testing of seamless copper and copper alloy
tubes

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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

ASTM E 309 Eddy current examination of steel tubular products using magnetic saturation
ASTM E 376 Measuring coating thickness by magnetic field or eddy current
(electromagnetic) test methods
ASTM E 426 Electromagnetic (eddy current) testing of seamless and welded tubular products
austenitic stainless steel and similar alloys
ASTM E 566 Electromagnetic (eddy current) sorting of ferrous metals
ASTM E 571 Electromagnetic (eddy current) examination of nickel and nickel alloy tubular
products
ASTM E 690 In-situ electromagnetic (eddy current) examination of nonmagnetic heat-
exchanger tubes
ASTM E 703 Electromagnetic (eddy current) sorting of nonferrous metals
ASTM E 1004 Electromagnetic (eddy current) measurements of electrical conductivity
ASTM E 1033 Electromagnetic (eddy current) examination of type F continuously welded
(CW) ferromagnetic pipe and tubing above the Curie temperature
ASTM E 1316 Definition of terms relating to electromagnetic testing
ASTM G 46 Recommended practice for examination and evaluation of pitting corrosion

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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

QUIZ
1. Which component features should be similar 9. Probes for inspection of pipe and tubing are
to the reference standard? typically of the:
a. Material thickness a. Surface probe variety
b. Material geometry b. Bolt hole variety
c. Material conductivity c. Bobbin (ID) variety
d. All of the above d. All of the above are correct
2. When making a conductivity measurement, 10. Probe shielding is used to:
the thickness of the material should be at least a. Shape the eddy currents to the curvature
___ times the standard depth of penetration. of the part
a. 1 b. Reduce the inductive coupling of the
b. 2 probe and part
c. 3 c. Increase the probe impedance
d. 4 d. Reduce the effects of nonrelevant features
in close proximity to the probe
3. In almost all cases, eddy current inspection
procedures require the equipment to be 11. A bolt hole probe and scanner is used to
calibrated to: inspect:
a. A reference standard a. Flat surfaces
b. An identified defect b. Radiuses
c. A crack which is the rejection criteria c. Holes
d. A crack twice the rejection criteria d. Both B and C
4. HPF stands for: 12. Relative permeability is:
a. High Pulse Filter a. The permeability in a vacuum
b. Harmonic Pulse Filter b. A unitless value
c. High Pass Filter c. The ratio of the measured permeability
d. High Pulse Factor and the permeability in a vacuum
d. Both B and C
5. The higher the inductance of a coil at a given
frequency: 13. What material(s) is/are commonly used to
a. The more penetrating the eddy currents shield an eddy current probe?
will be a. Ferrite
b. The less sensitive the coil will be b. Aluminum
c. The more sensitive the coil will be c. Lead
d. None of the above d. Both A and B
6. Filtering is applied to the received signal and, 14. The higher the frequency of the current used
therefore: to drive the probe, the:
a. It should be added to the base signal a. More effective shielding will be due to
b. It is not directly related to the probe drive skin effect
frequency b. Deeper the eddy currents will penetrate
c. Should be added to the pick-up coil c. Stronger the probes magnetic field will
d. Should be subtracted from the amplitude be
of the dB d. Both A and C
7. Filters are adjusted in: 15. Most surface probe coils are wound so that:
a. Hz a. They transmit a frequency that will
b. KHz slightly resonate the part surface
c. MHz b. They create a static magnetic field
d. THz c. The axis of the coil is perpendicular to the
test surface
8. Drilled holes are commonly used to represent:
d. Both B and C
a. Pitting
b. Cracks 16. Inductance is identified by the letter:
c. Delaminations a. L
d. None of the above b. M
c. Z
d. X

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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

17. LPF stands for: 25. When an absolute probe is brought near a
a. Low Pulse Frequency ferromagnetic material, the inductive
b. Low Pass Filter reactance of the coil will:
c. Last Pass Filter a. Remain unchanged
d. Low Pass Frequency b. Increase because the material will
concentrate the magnetic field in and
18. Pencil probes are prone to:
around the coil
a. Energy spikes c. Decrease because the material will
b. Low frequency noise concetrate the magnetic field in and
c. Wobble around the coil
d. Both A and C d. Decrease because the magnetic field of
19. When testing for subsurface flaws, the the coil will be weakened by the
frequency should be: material
a. As high as possible 26. Probe shielding and loading are sometimes
b. As low as possible used to:
c. Calculated to produce a 90o difference a. Prevent external electrical interference
between the liftoff and flaw signals b. Limit the spread and concentrate the
d. None of the above magnetic field of the coil
20. Sliding probes usually operate in the: c. Magnetically saturate the part
d. None of the above
a. Reflection mode
b. Through-transmission mode 27. The main purpose of an iron core in a probe is
c. Pulsed mode to:
d. Differential mode a. Shift the transmission of eddy currents in
21. When using the liftoff trace of an impedance order to decrease penetration
plane instrument to distinguish between b. Allow the probe to operate at a higher
several materials with high electrical frequency
conductivity, it is best to test using a: c. Concentrate the magnetic field near the
center of the probe
a. High frequency d. Allow testing of very dense materials
b. Variable frequency
c. Low frequency 28. Which type of probe is most often used to
d. None of the above inspect the inside diameter of a machined
hole?
22. Scanning speed must be controlled:
a. Pencil probes
a. When using a small transducer b. Surface probes
b. When using a large transducer c. Bolt hole probes
c. When using a high pass filter
d. Bobbin probes
d. When using a large low frequency probe
29. Use of the HPF is not recommended:
23. The HPF is used to:
a. On thin parts
a. Eliminate low frequencies which are
b. On thick parts
produced by slow changes, such as a c. When scanning manually
conductivity shift d. On ferrous parts
b. Adjust the bandwidth to a neutral
frequency in order to maximize depth of 30. Probes with iron cores tend to:
penetration a. Be more sensitive than air core probes and
c. Remove any standing waves in the output less affected by probe wobble
signal b. Be more difficult to use
d. Shift the waveform from positive to c. Increase the background noise of the
negative when a rejectable defect is signal
identified d. Both B and C
24. Some common classifications of probes 31. The coil in an eddy current probe is most often
include: made from:
a. Surface probes a. Iron
b. Bolt hole probes b. Copper
c. ID probes c. Silver
d. All of the above d. Platinum

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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

32. Discontinuities, such as delaminations, that are c. For the combined frequencies to be
in a plane that is parallel with the test surface adjusted to a harmonic balance
will likely: d. The shape of the waveform to be clipped
a. Be easily detected with a surface probe beyond it frequency balance
b. Be easily detected with an internal probe 41. Sliding probes are used to test:
c. Be easily detected with an external probe
a. Large flat surfaces
d. None of the above
b. Inside bolt holes
33. Wide surface probes are used when scanning: c. In radiuses
a. Large areas for very small cracks d. Around the edges of fasteners
b. Small areas for delaminations 42. When using eddy currents to measure the
c. Large areas for relatively large defects thickness of a nonconductive coating applied
d. None of the above to a conductive base, the measurement is
34. Inductance is caused by: based on:
a. The interaction of a changing magnetic a. A frequency change due to liftoff
field with a conductor b. An impedance change due to a change in
b. Direct current conductivity
c. Resistance in the coil c. An impedance change due to liftoff
d. None of the above d. Both A and C

35. An eddy current test circuit will have: 43. Which type of probe has a long slender
housing to permit inspection in restricted
a. Resistance
spaces?
b. Inductive reactance
c. A small amount of capacitance a. Pancake probes
d. All of the above b. Pencil probes
c. Encircling probes
36. A probe that is often intended to be used in d. Sliding probes
contact with the test surface is called a:
44. When a probe is brought near a conductive but
a. Reference probe
nonmagnetic material, the coils inductive
b. Surface probe
reactance will:
c. Transmission probe
d. Reflection probe a. Increase
b. Decrease
37. The principles of operation of the most c. Remain the same
commonly used eddy current instruments are d. Remain the same until the probe touches
based on: the material
a. Roentgens formulas
45. The depth of penetration is affected by:
b. Maxwells inductance bridge
c. Reciprocity a. Magnetic permeability
d. The Inverse Square Law b. Electrical resistivity
c. Probe drive frequency
38. Eddy current testing can be used to: d. All of the above
a. Detect surface and near surface cracks
46. When maintaining constant liftoff is a
b. Measure electrical conductivity
problem, what type of probe should be used?
c. Measure the thickness of nonconductive
coatings on plastics a. A absolute probe
d. Both A and B b. A differential probe
c. A reflection probe
39. When testing for surface flaws, the probe d. Both B and C
drive frequency used:
47. The main function of the LPF is to:
a. Should be as high as possible
b. Should be as low as possible a. Control probe wobble
c. Depends on the conductivity and b. Adjust the machine to the proper
permeability of the material conductivity standard
d. Depends only on the material conductivity c. Shift the waveform to the left of the
screen
40. The HPF allows: d. Remove high frequency interference noise
a. Low frequencies to pass and filters out the
high frequencies
b. High frequencies to pass and filters out
the low frequencies

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EDDY CURRENT TESTING

48. What is the relationship between electrical c. Is the same as phase angle
conductivity and electrical resistivity? d. Is the same as the angle separating the
a. They are directly proportional liftoff and flaw signals on an impedance
b. They are not related plane
c. One is the inverse of the other 53. Which of the following are a common eddy
d. It depends on the test frequency current reference standard
49. Which type of probe is most commonly sued a. Conductivity standards
to inspect solid products such as bar stock? b. Tube discontinuity standards
a. Bobbin probes c. Hole discontinuity standards
b. Surface coils d. All of the above
c. Encircling coils 54. Eddy currents are generated when:
d. Pencil probes
a. A conductive material is placed in a
50. A probes that can be used to inspect the entire changing magnetic field
circumference of test objects are: b. When a conductive material is moved
a. Encircling or bobbin probes through a static magnetic field
b. Circumference probes c. When a static magnetic field is moved
c. Pencil probes across the surface of a conductive
d. None of the above material
d. All of the above
51. Narrow EDM notches and saw cuts
55. Since eddy current signals are affected by
a. Are never used because they are too wide
many different variables, it is particularly
b. Are never used due to their heat affected
important to use what when setting up the
zones
equipment
c. Are commonly used to represent cracks
d. Both A and B a. Couplant
b. Fluorescent particles
52. Phase lag c. Reference standards
a. Increase with discontinuity depth d. Non abrasive cleaners
b. Decrease with discontinuity depth

ANSWERS TO QB-ET-NDT RESOURCES


1. D 21. C 41. D
2. C 22. C 42. C
3. A 23. A 43. B
4. C 24. D 44. B
5. C 25. B 45. D
6. B 26. B 46. B
7. A 27. C 47. D
8. A 28. C 48. C
9. C 29. C 49. C
10. D 30. A 50. A
11. C 31. B 51. C
12. D 32. D 52. A
13. D 33. C 53. D
14. A 34. A 54. D
15. C 35. D 55. C
16. A 36. B 56.
17. B 37. B 57.
18. C 38. D 58.
19. C 39. A 59.
20. A 40. B 60.

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