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ELSEVI ER Journal of Materials Processing Technology 55 (1995) 254-260

Journal of
Computer-aided design of acoustic horns for ultrasonic
using finite-element analysis
S.G. Amin, M.H.M. Ahmed, H.A. Youssef*
Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University, Alexandria, Egypt
Received 1 April 1994
Industrial summary
Ultrasonic machining has myriad applications in industry, especially with recent trends of using harder and stronger materials. The
cutting performance of a machine depends on the ability of the design of the acoustic horn to facilitate an increase in tool-tip
vibration, allowing a significant amount of material to be removed. In this paper, a computer-aided design procedure for the horn
profile and material, based on finite-element analysis, has been established.
A new design profile is suggested, using parts with different geometries. An optimization procedure for the profile has been followed
to obtain maximum magnification, for higher rates of material removal and safe working stresses for the horn material.
1. Introduction
Recent devel opment s in materials t echnol ogy have
given rise to high strength and very-hard materials t hat
are difficult t o machi ne using convent i onal chip-removal
met hods with hard tools. Such materials can be cut
economi cal l y by non-convent i onal processes based on
direct utilization of various forms of energy, such as
ultrasonic machi ni ng (USM), electro-discharge machin-
ing, electron-beam machining, electro-chemical machin-
ing, etc. USM is used extensively in the machi ni ng of
hi gh-performance composites, ceramics, quart z and
graphi t e [1]. This process cuts various shapes in hard
materials by rapid and forceful agi t at i on of fine abrasive
particles in a slurry between t hat tool and the work-
piece [2].
The tool is oscillated at frequencies of between 20 and
40 kHz, obt ai ned by an effect known as "l ongi t udi nal
magnet ost ri ct i on". Wi t h this phenomenon, a magnet i c
field undergoi ng vari at i on at ultrasonic frequencies
causes correspondi ng changes in the length of a fer-
romagnet i c object (a magnet ost ri ct or transducer) placed
within its region of influence [3]. The magnet i c field is
t uned in accordance with the nat ural frequency of the
magnet ost ri ct or, allowing its resonance. The oscillation
ampl i t ude obt ai ned is, however, very small and does not
exceed 5 lam in most cases. Hence, this oscillation must
* Correspondi ng author.
0924-0136/96/$15.00 1996 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved
SSDI 0 9 2 4 - 0 1 3 6 ( 9 5 ) 0 2 0 1 5 - E
be amplified using an acoustic hor n (also called a mech-
anical t ransformer or acoustic amplifier) in order to be
able to provide high cutting rates. No general agreement
has been reached regarding the specific influence of the
ampl i t ude on the machi ni ng rate; but generally, the ma-
chining rate increases with the ampl i t ude of the tool
vibration [4]. Therefore, for maxi mum amplification and
high efficiency, the acoustic horn (with the t ool fixed at its
end) must be designed to operate at resonance, similarly
to the magnet ost ri ct or. Monel metal (a special
copper-ni ckel alloy), cold rolled steel, and brass are
common horn materials [5]. Fig. 1 shows a schematic
di agram of the various elements of an ultrasonic ma-
chine, including the acoustic horn.
2. Design of the acoustic horn
The t radi t i onal met hods for the design of an acoustic
horn are based on the equilibrium of an infinitesimal
element under elastic action, inertia forces, and integra-
tion over the hor n length to at t ai n resonance [1, 6, 7].
Equilibrium leads to the following differential equation:
d2u dl n A(x) du ~o 2
dx ~ q dx dx + -~- u = 0, (1)
where u is the ampl i t ude of vibration in the axial direc-
tion, A(x) is the cross-sectional area at any axial position
x; and ~o is the angul ar velocity; in which c is the acoustic
S.G. Amin et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technologr' 55 (1995) 254-260 255
Suppl y I rom ultrasonic generator
I I I " J - ~ - - E x c ita tio n c o i l
Tronsndtting cone m
Thread stud
/ It / Acoust i chorn
/ / Too,
[ / / j / / ~ / S:~rrrY pi pe
W .R r y
Do Do De Do
L /2
L I2 t /
DI Df I)t D/
Cy l i n d r i c a l Slopped Conical Exponenti al
Fig. 2. Tr adi t i onal hor n cont our s .
Fig. 1. Var i ous el ement s of a n ul t r as oni c machi ne.
speed of the horn material:
c = ~/-~, (2)
where E is the Modulus of elasticity and p is the density
of the horn material.
Eq. (1) can be solved for specified horn shapes with
a suggested cross-sectional area. The solution includes
two constants that can be obtained using the known
boundary conditions [(du/dx)~=l = O, (du/dx)~=o and
(u)~=o = Uo (initial amplitude)], This leads to the reson-
ant length and the variation of the amplitude along that
The difficulties in solving the general differential equa-
tion have limited horn contours to particular uniform
profiles (cylindrical, stepped, conical, or exponential),
these horn contours being presented in Fig. 2. The ap-
plication of cylindrical and stepped horns are also limited
[-6]: the first does not provide magnification, whilst the
second has high stress concentration from the sudden
change in diameters, which increases the working stress
intensely and may lead to failure. It should be noted (in
Fig. 2) that the working step should be at the middle of
the length, where the axial amplitude is equal to zero (the
nodal point). Exponential and conical horns are used
widely in industry. The exponential horn, however, re-
quires the employment of a contouring or NC machine in
order for it to be manufactured, which machines may not
be available.
When designing a horn, the dimensions of the upper
and lower ends are restricted by the size of the transducer
stack and the outer tool diameter, respectively. The at-
tachment used to hold the horn to the machine transducer
should not be of greater diameter than that of the horn,
otherwise the amplitude of the latter will be damped. The
diameter (Do) is normally about 25-75 mm. The size of
the machined hole imposes the geometry of the smaller
end (D0: the outer diameter of the tool. The next step is
to choose an area function for the horn profile according
to the magnification required and available methods of
manufacture. Then, the resonant length is obtained
through solution of the differential equation. This length
depends on the working frequency and has no effect on
the magnification. Hence, the only variable that affects
the magnification is the horn profile.
A further limitation of the traditional design procedure
is that it does not consider the tool to be attached to the
horn, or the possibility for providing holes in the horn
body. The tool attached to the horn's free end must be
very light so that it does not alter the resonant frequency.
The tool is brazed or cemented to the horn to provide
good acoustic coupling. Accurate design of the horn may
also require a hole for attaching the horn to the transducer
or for suction of the slurry. The finite-element method
(FEM) is one of the most flexible and powerful tools
available for solving engineering problems of this kind
(e.g. the deformation of solids and modal analysis). When
analytical techniques for solving differential equations fail,
FEM can be used to obtain a solution. FEM can be
applied to systems with any geometric configuration or
boundary conditions. Recently, a preliminary attempt to
apply the FEM was used to design the acoustic horn and
its tool as one body having a non-uniform contour [8], the
objective being to tune a specific horn and tool shape at
a particular frequency. The computer program used for
solving the problem was a prototype. Neither the tool-tip
amplitude (magnification) nor the stress distribution over
the horn length were considered in the analysis.
The aim of this work is to allow the tuning of any
geometrical shape of axisymmetrical ultrasonic-machin-
ing horn with an attached tool (and internal holes) using
a computer program based on the FEM. A new design
procedure is developed to allow the horn contour to
achieve the combination of a high magnification and
a safe stress condition.
256 S.G. Amin et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 55 (1995) 254 260
3. F E M application procedure
According to the finite-element method, the horn being
investigated is discretized by a mesh of simple homogene-
ous elements connected by a finite number of nodes, as
seen in Fig. 3. The figure shows only one half of the horn
due to axial symmetry. The types of elements that are
used in FEM include triangular, rectangular and quadri-
lateral elements [9]. Quadrilateral elements using cylin-
drical coordinates have been chosen for the present work,
being more accurate than triangular elements in areas
with high stress gradients. They, also provide a more
adequate definition for the horn than the rectangular
elements, due to the inclination of the outer contour. The
element is defined by four nodal points having two de-
grees of freedom at each node: translations in the lateral
and axial directions.
The formulation of finite-element equations is founded
on the variational approach of virtual work based upon
the potential energy equation of a system. The formula-
tion procedure is text-book material: however, the basic
equations to be used in this application will be stated
briefly. A polynomial displacement function {u} that
satisfies compatibility is assumed to characterize the dis-
placements within the elements. The strains are then
computed in terms of nodal displacements. Using the
stress-strain relationship in the elastic zone of deforma-
tion, the stress-displacement equation is derived in the
{el = [B] {u}, (3)
where {e} is the strain matrix and [B] is the matrix of the
nodal coordinates:
{tr} = [D 3 [B] {u} (4)
in which {a} is the stress matrix and [D] is the matrix of
the material elastic constants.
By assembling the coefficients of all of the elements
stiffness matrices, the following simultaneous system
equation occurs:
([K] - ~o2[M]){u} = {F}, (5)
where [K] is the master stiffness matrix of the total
system, [M] is the mass matrix and {F} is the vector of
the generalized nodal forces.
The natural frequency of the horn is determined from
the resonance condition represented by the following
I[K] - ~oZ[M]l = 0. (6)
An algebric equation of the nth degree for 0) 2 is ob-
tained. The n roots of this equation are the n eigenvalues
or natural frequencies [10, 11]. One of these natural
frequencies will be changed by geometrical modification
of the horn length to coincide with the operating fre-
quency. The displacements, strains and stresses are com-
puted for the frequency described above.
The computation is attained using the ANSYS-PC
package. This is a two-dimensional version of the general
ANSYS program [12, 13]. The input data for the pro-
gram has been designed to simplify the definition of the
problem to the computer. The program contains three
phases. A pre-processor defines the geometry of the struc-
ture as well as all of the other data required for the
analysis (material properties, frequency range, etc.). The
solution phase calculates the natural frequency, displace-
ments, strains and stresses. A post-processor is included
to assess the results of the analysis and to plot the stress
Before designing new horn shapes, the FEM program
has been checked by introducing data for the stepped,
conical, and exponential horns. A new horn shape is
then designed with the horn and tool as one body, to
obtain both high amplitudes and acceptable working
7 5
Fig. 3. The hor n di vi ded i nt o quadr i l at er al el ement s.
3.1. Des i gn dat a
Due to its high endurance strength, steel AISI (4063) is
used in the design. It has the following properties:
modulus of elasticity, E- - 200GPa; Poisson's ratio,
7 = 0.33; mass density, p = 7800 kg/m3; and endurance
strength, ae = 733 MPa.
The horn stresses should not exceed the material en-
durance strength. However, this limit has to be modified
by a variety of safety factors, each of which is intended to
account for a single effect. The individual effects include
the surface factor, the size factor, the reliability factor, the
temperature factor, the stress-concentration factor, and
other miscellaneous effects [14]. The allowable endur-
ance limit is given by the equation
cre,ll = kae, (7)
S.G. Amin et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 55 (1995) 254 260 257
where k is a general factor covering all of the previous
factors, calculated as 0.7 for the present conditions.
Accordingly, the allowable endurance limit aea, is equal
to 520 MPa.
The horn is designed to operate on a Sonorode 120
Ul t rasoni c machi ne with the following specifications:
1. resonance frequency = 23-23.5 kHz; 2. t ransducer
ampl i t ude = 15 ~tm; and 3. t ransducer di amet er =
40 mm. The out er di amet er of the tool is assumed to be
10 mm.
4. Results and analysis
4.1. Optimum number of elements
One of the most i mpor t ant consi derat i ons in finite-
element analysis is t hat of the accuracy of the solution. If
the analytical (exact) sol ut i on is known, the accuracy is
easy to determine. The probl em of det ermi ni ng the cor-
rect number of elements depends upon several factors,
these including the sol ut i on quant i t y desired, the element
order and the t ype of differential equat i on [9].
The conical hor n (having a known, exact solution:
resonant frequency = 23.5 kHz) has been discretized by
quadri l at eral elements in bot h the axial and radial direc-
tions. First, the number of elements in the axial direction
has been increased from 4 to 40, considering one element
in the radial direction, the plot of the vari at i on in the
nat ural frequency with these elements being shown in
Fig. 4(a). When fewer elements are used, significant er-
rors occur because of the i naccurat e appr oxi mat i on of
the i nt erpol at i on function to the actual sol ut i on within
each element. Wi t h 15 or more elements, there is no
significant vari at i on in the resonant frequency. Then, the
number of elements in the radial direction is increased
from 1 to 5 in steps of 1, leading to a t ot al number of 15,
30, 45, 60 and 75 elements respectively. Fur t her increase
in the number of elements was added in the axial direc-
tion by increasing the number of axial elements to
18, 21, 24, 27 and 30, leading to a t ot al number of 90,
105, 120, 135 and 150 elements respectively. Fig. 4(b)
shows the vari at i on of the nat ural frequency, with a
t endency to st eady condi t i ons after about 75 elements.
Therefore, the opt i mum number of elements for all con-
tours investigated will be fixed at 15 in the axial direction
and 5 in the radial direction (75 elements, as shown in
Fig. 3).
4.2. Comparison between the results obtained by the FEM
and by the traditional method
Stepped, conical and exponential horns have been for-
mul at ed using the FEM as described earlier. The reson-
ant frequency, the length, and magni fi cat i on factor ob-
tained have been compared with those calculated using
~ 2 4
e ~
~ 2 3

~ 2 3
z 2 2
. . . . . . . Solution
0 i i L i ~ J
0 1 0 1 5 2 0 2 5 3 0 3 5 4 0
N u m b e r o f e l e m e n t s
~ , 2 4 . 0 0
> ' 2 3 . 7 5
~ : ~ 2 3 . 5 0
~ 2 3 . 2 5
4 J
z 2 3 . 0 0
I i I i i i i
2 5 5 0 7 5 I 0 0 1 2 5 1 5 0 1 7 5 2 0 0
N u m b e r o f e l e m e n t s
Fig. 4. Showi ng t he effect on t he na t ur a l f r equency of: (a) t he n u mb e r
of el ement s in t he axi al di rect i on; a nd (b) t he t ot al n u mb e r of el ement s.
Table 1
Comparison between the results obtained using the FEM and the
traditional method
Type Stepped
D o ~ D r 4 : 1
Method FEM
Mag. factor 16.0
Length (cm) 10.05
Freq. (kHz) 23.5
Coni cal Exponent i al
4: 1 4: 1
Tr ad. F EM Tr ad. F EM Tr ad.
16.0 3.39 3.4 3.94 4.0
10.0 12.47 12.2 11.64 11.7
23.5 23.5 23.5 23.5 23.5
the t radi t i onal equilibrium technique I-5-7] for the same
hor n dimensions, the results being given in Table 1.
The dat a in the table show t hat the difference in the
results related to the magni fi cat i on factor using the two
met hods does not exceed 2%. This indicative of the high
precision and accuracy of the FEM results. Also, the
difference in the results related to the resonant length lies
within 2.6%.
4.3. Influence of the horn contour on the magnification
Table 1 shows t hat the magnification factor of the
stepped horn is the greatest, as confirmed in previous
258 S.G. Amin et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 55 (1995) 254 260
'~ "~ D o / D r
' ~- . . . . . . . . . . e d
r - - ~ l ~ _ . . . . . . . .
' i / / / _
- - ~ 4 - - De / 2
Dlag. 16
E x p o n e n t i a l m a g . 4
C o n i c a l m a g . 3 . 4
Fi g. 5. Tr a d i t i o n a l h o r n c o n t o u r s wi t h t he i r ma gni f i c a t i on.
work being equivalent to the ratio (Do~De) 2 [2]. How-
ever, as stated earlier high stress concentration in the
horn reduces this advantage. Therefore, the maximum-
allowable stress should be included in design calcu-
lations. The magnification factor for the exponential
horn is much lower than that of the stepped horn, being
equal to the ratio (Do/De). The conical horn has the
lowest magnification. Fig. 5 shows these three cont our
shapes with the associated magnifications as specified.
The stepped horn (with the cont our line parallel to the
axis at the extreme left) offered the highest magnification.
The conical cont our (at the extreme right) provided the
lowest magnification. The exponential horn profile, being
as close as possible to the conical contour, gives a greater
and closer magnification. Therefore, thoughts have been
directed towards designing a new cont our shape that lies
as close as possible to the stepped cont our whilst avoid-
ing the abrupt change of the section, and, accordingly,
high stress concentration. A double-conical contour,
shown by dot t ed lines in the figure, would satisfy these
The proposed double-conical horn shape is shown
in Fig. 6. The horn is provided with a cylindrical hole
at the top for horn fixation to the transducer. A tool
tip is also added at the bot t om end. Runs have been
done to tune the horn at the specified frequency. The
cylindrical lengths L1 and L 4 a r e fixed, whilst L 2 , L a
and the intermediate diameter (D1) are to be varied
for optimization. This horn uses 96 nodes and 75
The FEM results for the above horn are presented to
show the details obtained from the analysis. The ampli-
tude values at radial nodes for specific cross-sections are
presented in Fig. 7, this figure showing that the ampli-
tude is maximum at the horn center, and marginally
reduced with out ward movement in the radial direction.
The maximum variation in amplitude is in the medium
area and does not exceed 6%. Therefore, the presentation
D o
Fi g. 6. Do u b l e - c o n i c a l hor n.
15. 00 l a . SO 14. 77 14. 54 14. $4
- I S. SO 15. 45 - 1S. 3~ - 15. 30 - 14. $0 - 11, 5|
$ 2 . 3 8 . 9 1 . 3 7 " 9 3 . 3 ~ " J ~ . 2 5 - ~ 3 . t 1 9 3 1 8
- l d. l O , 94. 71 94. 77 - 9d. ?O - $4. 14 - 16. 56
Fi g. 7. El e me n t s p l o t f or t he d o u b l e - c o n i c a l h o r n wi t h t he a mp l i t u d e
va l ue s a t r a di a l node s f or speci fi c cr oss- sect i ons.
of results will be focused only on the axial direction. The
resulting displacements at the nodes provide the oscilla-
tion amplitude variation throughout the horn length, as
shown in Fig. 8. From this graph, the transducer dis-
placement amplitude (15 ttm) decreases to zero value at
the nodal point. When required, the nodal-point position
is used as the suction or pump location of the slurry into
the horn. Then, the amplitude changes direction and
increases, reaching its maximum value at the tool end.
The end value for the given shape is 95 pm which
produces a magnification factor of 6.3. This factor
is higher than that for the exponential horn shape, as
expected, this confirming the merit of the suggested horn
Relating the displacements to strains and stresses (as
stated in Eqs. (2) and (3)), the horn stresses can be
obtained. Axial, radial, and circumferential stresses along
the double-conical horn length are presented in Fig. 9.
Since no distortion takes place in the horn shape, these
stresses are principal stresses, this being confirmed by
obtaining zero shear stress values from the computer
output. The figure indicates that the axial stress is the
S.G, Amin et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 55 (1995) 254-260 259
I i i
4 0
m 20
~' 0
' U
- 20
"" 4 0
m l
-,~ 60
,_, t~O
~< - 100
0 2 0 4 0 6 0 8 0 i 0 0 1 2 0 1 4 0
H o z a a x i s { m m )
5 0 0
~ 4 0 0
~ 2 0 0
A l l w a b l m o n d u r a n c e s t r e a m l i m i t
2 0 4 0 6 0 8 0 i 0 0 k 2 0
Ho z n a x i s ( mm)
Fig. 10. Di st r i but i on of effective stress.
Fi g. 8. Ampl i t ude di st r i but i on al ong t he doubl e- coni cal hor n axis.
4 0 0
3 0 0
z 2 0 0
1 0 0
~kxi a l - ~- - Ri dl a l -W~- H o 0 p --t - S h e a z
. i 0 0 t , , , , , , , , , , , ,
0 2 0 4 0 6 0 8 0 1 0 0 1 2 0
H o r n a x i s ( m m )
Fig. 9. Axial, radial, ci rcumferanci al and shear st resses for t he doubl e-
coni cal hor n.
~ - ~ - - DI
Fig. 11. Suggest ed hor n cont our .
maxi mum principal stress and is responsible for a
maj or part of the stresses developed in the horn; whilst
the ot her two principal-stress component s approach
zero values over most of the hor n length. This is shown
clearly in Fig. 10, where the effective stress has the same
di st ri but i on and al most the same values as the axial
principal stress. The stress starts with zero value at the
machi ne side and rises to a first peak due to stress
concent rat i on at the hole tip. A second higher, peak
stress is reached, giving the maxi mum stress value; then,
it decreases to zero at the t ool end. The peak effective
stress value (in this case 330 MPa) is well below the
allowable endurance stress limit (520 MPa), as indicated
in the figure.
This illustrates the benefits of designing a shape t hat
is closer to the stepped horn. This woul d provide a
higher magni fi cat i on factor and still possess a peak-
effective stress less t han the allowable stress leading
to a suggested general design procedure for the hor n
t hat satisfies bot h maxi mum magni fi cat i on and safe peak
effective stress.
4.4. Suggested design shape
To avoid exceeding the maxi mum allowable stress, an
opt i mum design based on the condi t i ons stated above
shoul d be as close as possible to the st epped-horn shape
wi t hout the abrupt change in area. Therefore, the double-
conical horn shape (proposed in the previous section) will
conform to a cylindrical part at the lower port i on of the
horn, and a conical part at the upper end as, shown in
Fig. 11. The opt i mi zat i on procedure to be followed be-
gins with the selection of the end diameters (D2 and D1)
and the operat i ng frequency (according to the machi ne
and cut t i ng operat i on conditions). The first run is per-
formed with the length of the conical part equal to zero
(stepped horn, L2 = 0). If the associated effective stress
exceeds the allowable endurance strength, further runs
with gradual increases in the ratio L2/L3 are carried out
until reaching a safe stress condition. The resulting pro-
file is the opt i mum.
The suggested procedure is applied to the case con-
sidered in this paper; i.e. the hor n with Do/Dr -- 4, and
260 S.G. Amin et al, / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 55 (1995) 254 260
, ~ 8 0 0
' ~ 6 0 0
" 4 0 0
~ 2 0 0
r ~
- ' r ' - E q , s l ; ~ e s s " t - ~ f a c t o i
- - l I I I
0 , 2 0 . 4 0 .6 0 . 8
2 0
1 5
1 0
L 2 / L 3
t )
Fig. 12. Effect of the suggested length proportions of the horn on the
effective stress and the magnification factor.
improvement will be negated by the complicated manu-
facturing techniques required.
5. Concl us i ons
The FEM has been applied successfully in the design of
acoustic horns for ultrasonic machines. The design has
included a hole at the upper end for attaching the horn to
the machine, and a tool tip at the free end to avoid
problems arising from brazing or cementing the tool to
the horn.
A new design profile has been suggested, and optimiza-
tion procedure followed, to obtain maximum magnifica-
tion for higher rates of material removal and safe work-
ing stresses for the horn material. The suggested horn
profile is conical at the upper end and cylindrical at the
lower end. The optimization procedure is based on the
length ratio of the two parts.
Table 2
Comparison between the suggested horn and traditional horns
Type of horn Stepped Suggested Exponential Conical
Mag. factor 16 8 3.94 3.39
Eq. stress Greatly 520 220 188
(MPa) exceeding the
the previously-defined machine specifications. The
change in the magnification factor and in the equivalent
stress with the ratio Lz/L3 are shown in Fig. 12. At
Lz = 0 (stepped horn) the magnification factor has its
greatest value (16); but the stress exceeds the endurance
strength of the horn material. A gradual increase in the
length of the conical part relative to the cylindrical part is
associated with a decrease in the magnification factor
and also in the equivalent stress. The optimum horn with
a cone-to-cylinder ratio equal to 0.68 gives a magnifica-
tion factor of 8 with a permissible equivalent stress for the
horn material.
Table 2 compares the magnification factor and the
equivalent stress of the traditionally designed horns with
those of the suggested horn. It is clear that the magnifica-
tion factor has been increased considerably in the sugges-
ted design relative to the traditionally safe horns. Fur-
ther, when compared with the exponential horn, the
suggested horn can be manufactured easier with no need
for NC machines or copy turning. Replacing the conical
part of the suggested horn with a curved contour, such
as an exponential shape, has been attempted, leading
to a marginal increase in the magnification factor
equivalent to 1%. However, the advantage of this slight
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