By definition, ultrasound refers to frequencies above the upper threshold of human hearing which, if you're young and healthy, is in the region of 20kHz. Ultrasound is created in many ways and can be used to help assess the condition of a variety of systems through the use of an ultrasound detector.
Airborne ultrasound is very directional which means that airborne emissions such as those caused by compressed air leaks or corona discharge on high voltage electrical installations are quite easy to trace. Ultrasonic emissions emanating from inside machinery, such as a bearing, can be recorded, trended and analysed to provide for the regular monitoring of plant condition and the timely prediction of impending failure.
A very versatile tool which should be included in any predictive maintenance program is ultrasound detection. At MarinIR we often combine ultrasound detection with infrared thermography when reporting on high voltage assets for our power generation clients. The ultrasound detector allows us to hear and assess levels of corona in switchyards, transformer bushings, insulator strings, etc.
Compressed air audits can be undertaken to locate leaks that are hurting profits in industries using compressed air systems. In a leaky system, the air compressors are required to run for longer hours to keep the system pressurised, leading to greater electricity consumption and more frequent compressor overhauls. These losses can be huge but they mostly go unnoticed. A compressed air audit will identify and tag leak locations so that maintenance staff can go straight to the problem and repair it.
These are only two examples of the many uses for which ultrasound detection can be used to improve plant reliability and efficiency. Other applications include steam trap testing, acoustic vibration monitoring of bearings, troubleshooting hydraulic problems, tightness testing of sealed rooms and enclosures and more.
See the Hatch Cover Testing page for this special marine application.
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