The quantification of contact area and pressure distribution in a bolted joint is essential information, as it determines the integrity of the coupling. Current bolted joint design standards are based on analytical solutions of the pressure distribution, which, because of the inherent assumptions, frequently do not accurately represent the real conditions in a joint. This study uses a nonintrusive ultrasonic technique to quantify the contact pressure distribution in a bolted connection. The advantage of this experimental technique is that the effect of actual contact conditions can be determined. An ultrasonic wave is focused onto the clamped interface, and the reflected sound signal recorded. In areas where the contact pressure is high, most of the ultrasound is transmitted, and the reflected sound signal is weak. Whereas, when the contact pressure is low, the vast majority of the ultrasound is reflected back. A parallel experimental calibration is then used to find the relationship between the reflected sound signal and contact pressure. In this way, the pressure distribution in a clamped interface is determined for a series of different bolt torques. Two different interfaces were investigated: the first consisted of two ground surfaces clamped together, and the second a turned profile pressed against a ground surface. The effect of a washer underneath the bolt head was also considered. The turned profile was found to cause the contact to spread; there was also a certain degree of fragmentation leading to higher peak pressures than in the ground interface case. With a washer positioned under the bolt head for the turned case, the clamping performance of the bolt was improved. Good agreement was found when comparing the ultrasonic measurements with previous studies, with respect to the spread of the contact pressure distribution. However, in this study, the peak contact pressure was found to occur away from the edge of the bolt hole, and to be influenced by the edge of the bolt head
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