Ultrasonic thickness measurement (UTTM) is a method of performing non-destructive measurement (gauging) of the local thickness of a solid element (typically made of metal) basing on the time taken by the ultrasound wave to return to the surface.
Ultrasonic waves have been observed to travel through metals at a constant speed characteristic to a given alloy with minor variations due to other factors like temperature. Thus, given this information, called celerity, one can calculate the length of the path traversed by the wave using a simple formula:
The formula features division by two because usually the instrumentation emits and records the ultrasound wave on the same side of the sample using the fact that it is reflected on the boundary of the element. Thus, the time corresponds to traversing the sample twice.
The wave is usually emitted by a piezoelectric cell built into the measurement sensor head and the same cell is used to record the reflected wave. The sound wave has a spherical pattern of propagation and will undergo different phenomena like multipath reflection or diffraction. The measurement does not need to be affected by these since the first recorded return will normally be the head of the emitted wave travelling at the shortest distance which is equivalent to the thickness of the sample. All other returns can be discarded or might be processed using more complicated strategies.
Does not require access to both sides of the sample
Can be engineered to cope with coatings, linings, etc
Good accuracy (0.1 mm and less) can be achieved using standard timing techniques
Can be easily deployed, does not require laboratory conditions