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Ultrasonic Technology Useful in Determining Life of Equipment

By Laurie A. Gilmer, P.E. - December 2013 - Maintenance Solutions Columnists

bas, technology, commercial property, manufacturing


Ultrasonic technology has been around for more than 50 years in the manufacturing world. Primarily used to detect welds and defects in large pipes, the automotive, aerospace, nuclear, and petrochemical industries also use ultrasonic inspection.

Though it has not yet made the leap to common use in commercial facilities, a number of beneficial applications exist. In commercial applications, it can assist in determining remaining useful life of components and equipment. This application is especially important in existing facilities. Consider that the commonly accepted, estimated useful life of plumbing piping is 50 years. What if a building is 45 years old? Should you expect imminent failure of the domestic water piping systems in the next five years? Not necessarily.

While ultrasonic testing will not identify causes and corrective actions, its appropriate application can open a window into the extent of material loss without compromising the pipe or system operation. This benefit is essential for making costly repair-replace decisions.

Ultrasonic technology also can help technicians measure the flow of fluid. In manufacturing and industrial applications, it is essential as a non-contact method for measuring fluid flow. In commercial facilities, it's convenient.

We played with ultrasonic technology a few years ago for possible use in a commercial application, but at the time, the cost was high, and the reliability and accuracy were not. That picture is changing. Throw in the fact that more managers must account for facilities' use of natural resources — energy and water — through metering and submetering, and the benefits of ultrasonic technology become more attractive.

Ultrasonic flow meters and Btu meters offer technicians a way to measure use of domestic water, chilled water, condenser water, heating hot water, and chilled/heating hot water energy use with relatively low impact to the system.





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