Blog: A New Wave

The Ultran Story

Mahesh Bhardwaj Profile Pic II

I am sure it would sound like a crazy story, but the fact is that I got involved with ultrasound as a joke! As a young materials scientist with specialization in materials processing and characterization, I began my industrial carrier at PPG Industries, a major flat glass manufacturer in 1973. On my very first day at work, my manager asked me to find a method to test a very large block of a multi-layered porous refractory at 1,000 C. I proposed high frequency sound. He liked it and gave me lots of money to play with!

This was the first time I heard about real non-destructive testing and ultrasound, since my background was in characterizing materials with x-ray, electron and neutron beam and optical methods for structural and compositional analysis. At that time all ultrasonic techniques required a liquid between the transducer and the test material. But my test materials were porous ceramics. When I enquired dry coupling transducer, they all laughed at me! Nevertheless, I got very deeply involved with ultrasound like love at first sight! I saw possibilities after possibilities for nondestructively get more information about the materials, besides metals-type defect detection, perhaps the only use of ultrasound then. Ultrasound was a virgin field!

I quit my job and started Ultran in 1978 with the key objective of developing ultrasound analogous to other wave based materials analysis methods. This required total overhaul of ultrasound.

My first dream was to create a transducer with extremely short pulse (for high resolution) and extremely broadband (for spectroscopy) transducer. Known as UNIPOLAR LAMBDA transducer, we made it in 1979. We were dumbfounded to see half cycle in time domain and near flat spectra in frequency domain. Several people started the rumor that I had “doctored” the pictures showing the acoustics of LAMDA transducers! When a researcher used it to test aluminum, I was told they couldn’t use it, because it showed much too much and that their customers would reject all materials!

Next came the high temperature transducers followed by dry coupling and air/gas coupling transducers in 1983. They found limited use in testing porous, fragile, and liquid sensitive materials. Meanwhile we developed a comprehensive scheme for total characterization of materials, particularly for ceramics and powder metals – all the way from green stage to fully sintered stage.

These developments earned Ultran very good reputation in the industry and educational institutions. But I was not satisfied! Although our 1983 air/gas propagation transducer were OK for testing a handful of materials type, I envisioned further improvement for non-contact ultrasound testing of all materials. Some of my associates openly said, “I was crazy and belonged in an institution!” This only encouraged me and made challenge more exciting!

By hit-and-trial and by empiricism in 1999 I conceived a design that literally shook me when I observed massive ultrasound signals in air even at MHz frequencies. So high was the air/gas transduction of these transducers that we could transmit quality signals through thick sections of steel without any contact! On that day I had to take two-hour walk outside my lab to make sure that I wasn’t hallucinating! To confirm, I asked my colleague if he too was observing what I was. On that day not just Ultran, but entire ultrasound and materials world changed. Obviously, the Z barrier between air/gas and materials had been overcome and Non-Contact Ultrasound (NCU) became a living reality.

NCU transducers are now produced from 30 kHz to 5.0 MHz (US and International Patents) and in most cases their performance rivals conventional ultrasound. Out of necessity in 2001, we also developed a new piezoelectric composite. Known as Gas Matrix Piezoelectric (GMP) composite, it is characterized by extremely high efficiency, coupling factors, bandwidth, and sensitivity (US and International Patents.) GMP is produced from 30 kHz to 500 kHz, thus bridging the age-old gap for very low frequency ultrasound. Along with this we have also developed a number of novel NCU materials evaluation techniques.

We undertook the responsibility of overhauling ultrasound as well as to develop its methodology matching other materials testing and characterization methods. We are proud to deliver this with our novel ultrasonic systems, laboratory analytical facility, training and education into modern ultrasound. All of this for the benefit of our socio-technical world – cost-effective materials production, process and quality control, savings of expenses, time and environment.

On paper Ultran looks like an old company, but in spirit it is as fresh as spring air! The excitement continues.

Mahesh Bhardwaj
Founder, Chief Science Officer
The Ultran Group

Fun at CAMX 2014

What a great time at CAMX 2014! The foot traffic and press were great, and we garnered lot of interest for the U710 quality inspection system. We also conducted a very successful technical session lead by our President, Anuj Bhardwaj, and our partner Aurora Flight Sciences. Looking forward to ASNT in Charleston, SC next week and hoping to see everyone there.

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U710 launches at CAMX 2014

Check out U710 product video. Faster, quieter and more compact- get your light weight quality inspection system now.

Practical Applications for Non Contact Ultrasound

Two primary methods for analysis in non-contact ultrasound (NCU) are X-Y imaging and continuous inspection for moving production lines. The Ultran Group has focused on developing high performance products for both such applications, with the core purpose of supporting manufacturing quality control. Depending upon the application, either X-Y scanning or continuous inspection may be best suited. X-Y imaging can produce high resolution images (even less than 1mm x 1mm pixel size), allowing for detection of small defects and non-uniformities. Online continuous scanning can also provide very high resolution, but is often most suitable for monitoring bulk properties and larger defects.

XY scan image
In October we will be launching a new X-Y imaging system, U710, capable of providing high resolution imaging of parts at scanning speeds of up to 1 meter per second. This system can image a 300mm x 300mm (2 ft. x 2 ft.) part at very high resolution (1mm x 1mm) in less than 3 minutes. At medium resolution, 5mm x 1mm, often suitable for most production QC environments, the U710 can complete a scan in less than 1 minute. Key takeaway: The U710 can provide high throughput and high resolution imaging for production QC at rates of up to 100 parts per hour, upon relatively large size parts. It is also fully customizable for large parts (up to 2 meters x 2 meters), and is light-weight and portable. We are gearing the U710 to finally bring high-resolution NCU imaging into production QC for applications which we have been solving for customers over the last decade: Composites, wood, ceramics, batteries, and more.

Transducers Multichannel
Our advancements in multi-channel continuous inspection are equally exciting. With over a dozen systems in service, we are now delivering customized transducer array configurations and software solutions for customers that produce piece-parts as well as continuous/webline material. These systems are vary from one application and customer to another as the transducer shape, size, and placement are carefully decided to provide optimal information at a reasonable cost. Recording data continuously for 100% manufacturing inspection, our multi-channel online systems provide instant feedback during production, allowing operators to react to any issues that could cause a process to move out of control. With full customization of the transducer array, the resolution can be tweaked to detect small defects or general changes throughout production. Our software provides real-time analysis; line-scan and rolling c-scan form, as well as customizable reports after a manufacturing run is completed, serving as certification to accompany a finished product/batch. NCU continuous inspection systems provide the ultimate tools for process engineers tasked with ensuring the high quality manufacturing.

We will continue to keep you updated on further progress and look forward to demonstrating these products at the CAMX show in Orlando from October 14-16 as well as the ASNT conference in Charleston, October 27-30.

– Anuj Bhardwaj
The Ultran Group

Composites World take on Ultran Technology

Our President, Anuj Bhardwaj, had the pleasure of interviewing with Ginger Gardiner who is one of the editors for Composites World and an expert in composites industry technology and news. She recently wrote an in-depth blog about Ultran and non contact ultrasound (NCU) inspection. Its a very good read and provides a deeper understanding of quality inspection for prepregs.

Check out the entire article here

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Shifting Gears

Anuj Bhardwaj

Ten years ago, non-contact ultrasound (NCU) was an obscure and nascent technology, unknown to virtually all testing experts. Today, it is quickly growing in adoption as more and more industry professionals are looking for competitive quality control solutions. With increasing knowledge about the realities of NCU, we have found a number of companies interested in our products across a variety of industry applications. As such, our business is increasingly moving towards providing production quality control solutions. For us, this presents a shift. Our efforts are becoming more focused upon delivering high-throughput quality control products.

While ultrasound has been widely used for decades, it has been underrepresented as a testing technique for in-process quality control due to traditional limitations, such as the requirement of contact or liquid coupling. As a result, few engineering solutions, powered by ultrasound, are in existence for high throughput quality control. At Ultran, we have been focusing recent efforts upon building engineering solutions, applicable to multiple industries, with minimal customization required. Delivering our first set of 24/7 in-process testing systems in 2012, we are now deploying tens of such systems for continuous quality inspection. For a company, which innovated transducer technology over decades, this presents our biggest step yet towards bringing NCU into the mainstream of production quality control.

Such advancements do not come easy, as we have had to overcome challenging engineering issues and develop products beyond the traditional ultrasound solutions. However, the increasing awareness and desire for methods of safely inspecting internal material properties for 100% quality control is bringing NCU into the forefront of inspection techniques. We are ever aware that there will be obstacles with any new and fast-growing technology, but so far it’s been a lot of fun.

-Anuj Bhardwaj,
President, The Ultran Group

Bringing the new wave of ultrasound

“What will we blog about?” “Do our customers care?” “Are we cool enough B2B company to be blogging?” These were some of the questions raised by my team as I was pushing through with a new content marketing strategy. Being a 30 year old company, some of the habits were deep seated and needed to be changed.

I heard at a marketing conference recently, ‘A blog is like a rug that binds the room together’-Jason Miller, Linked In Content Marketing Specialist. It suddenly occurred to me that as a company, B2B or B2C, we all have a lot to say about products, technology, culture, company, even fun stuff like happy hours. And we have listeners out there who want to know more, why not capitalize on the same?

The goal of this blog is to provide answers to the many questions asked by our customers and to give insights into a small company that has survived the ups and downs of the global economy for over 30 years. We are an ultrasound company that does B2B applications like transducers and non contact quality inspection, as well as, cool research around brain stimulation using ultrasonic waves. Yep, you heard me right, stimulating the brain! Cool isn’t it? But no one really knows it other than industry insiders and its time we get the word out.

So stay tuned for our posts around a plethora of relevant subjects that could interest you. Whether you are a customer, partner, or inquisitive techie, this blog will intrigue you nonetheless.

-Avni Trivedi, Marketing Consultant
Ultran Group.

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