Computer-based courseware designed to teach or train businesses without an instructor has been around since the early 1960s. Today, however, technology has advanced to the point where substantially greater amounts of instruction can now be delivered from a single CD-ROM on a small laptop computer, compared with the earlier training developed via mainframes. And as Emile Husson, technical skills developer of Coastal Training Technologies, pointed out: ‘unlike a human trainer, a CD-ROM never misses its flight or gets too little sleep’.

Coastal Training Technologies, a US-based training publisher, recently released a three-part CD-ROM series on ultrasonics. The series uses full motion video, narration, graphics, text and computer animations and simulations to teach users the basic concepts of ultrasonics, the application of ultrasonic detection and measurement, and the use of ultrasonics in mechanical and electrical testing.


Ultrasonics is a form of predictive maintenance and quality control which will help technicians and engineers to detect leaks, worn bearings and other problems before they cause equipment failure or damage. Ultrasonic analysis depends on very basic principles of sound generation, not on sensitivity to a specific temperature, chemical or condition. This means that the same equipment can be used in a variety of circumstances, with only minor changes in sensor settings and procedures. Ultrasonic testing can also take place with all the equipment in normal operation. It is non-invasive and non-destructive, and you can get results in real time.


‘One of the biggest benefits of training on a CD-ROM course is that the training is consistent and repeatable. In other words, everyone gets the same training,’ said Husson. Coastal Training claims that people learn best and retain up to 70% more when they can see, hear and interact with the material. CD-ROM training also provides personalised instruction which reduces learning time compared with classroom instruction. New employees can often begin work sooner, eliminating or greatly minimising production downtime previously taken up with group training. The entire process can help companies save time and money. Coastal Training does not guarantee learner success, but in its experience those who complete a CD-ROM course are likely to accomplish its objectives.

Husson believes that the CD-ROM series will provide a number of benefits to the hydro industry, particularly as ultrasonics is a form of predictive maintenance, allowing operators to catch problems before they cause shutdowns. The series also explains how ultrasonic test results can be recorded and compared over time to monitor the effects of wear, decay or ageing in equipment.

The courses cover the basic principles of ultrasonics, leak detection and mechanical and electrical inspection (see table).They have been designed to teach workers how ultrasound is used in diagnostics and analysis, and to allow them to gain an understanding of the components of a typical ultrasound detector.

The series does not assume any previous knowledge of ultrasonics, so the students will not need an extensive technical vocabulary to understand the content. It also uses the Clarity Administrator program to evaluate the student along the way and provide feedback. This allows the student to see if they need to go back and review a portion of the course before going on to the next section.

The CD-ROM series can also be accompanied by a separate workbook for each course. These workbook lessons, although stand-alone, reinforce the purpose and objectives of the courses. The ultrasonics series is also available in video format.

At the heart

Husson claims that the ultrasonics course covers many areas that are at the heart of the hydro industry, such as:

•Leak detection in valves.

•Steam traps.

•Bearing analysis of pumps, motors and turbines.

•Methods for detecting arcing and corona effects in electrical power plants.

The course also demonstrates general principles for data collection and analysis. Post-testing on the CD-ROM ensures that the student understands the principles before going out and using the equipment.

Ultrasonics CD-ROM courses

1. Basic Principles: This course introduces the basic principles of ultrasonic detection. It describes what sound is, how sound is used to diagnose problems, and how it is applied to machinery maintenance. The course discusses a variety of maintenance programmes as well as the value of using ultrasound to detect problems early. Ultrasound device components are explained as well as various record keeping practices.
2. Leak detection: This course is designed to familiarise the student with the basic principles of ultrasonic leak detection. It describes how to locate leaks using ultrasound, the principles of leak detection, basic testing procedures, the use of tone generators, and specific testing situations involving hard-to-find leaks, low pressure leaks, steam traps and valves.
3. Mechanical and electrical inspection: This course is designed to teach the correct procedures for mechanical and electrical inspection. It describes how mechanical and electrical problems generate ultrasound and how to identify different types of failures and potential failures.