One of the strengths of the technology is that it is non-contact, meaning inspection can take place even on live systems where there may normally be dangerous temperatures, electrical currents or high speed moving parts. So from a safety point of view it has some real benefits.
Thermography enables systems to be inspected under real operating conditions. So mission critical or high value processes such as manufacturing can continue during the thermal inspection.
In high value processes the cost of maintenance can be greatly reduced by predicting when repairs or routine maintenance are needed. This enables maintenance to be planned, which in turn can minimise costly down time.
Mechanical wear and tear cannot always be detected until there is a catastrophic failure. For example, if a worn bearing is put under load it gets hot, which can be detected with a thermal imaging camera.
Energy costs are a focus for most businesses and thermal imaging cameras are a great tool to assist with optimising energy consumption. Seals around cool room doors can be regularly checked with the thermal imager. Leaks will show up clearly as cool air escapes from the door or as warm air enters the cool room, if the image is taken from inside. Similarly, oven door seals can be checked to ensure heat is not escaping.
A large proportion of downtime is caused by electrical faults. Some of these down times can be avoided through regular thermal inspection of electrical wiring and distribution panels. It takes just minutes using a thermal imaging camera to see if electrical connections are getting too hot and need to be renewed. The potential costs of unscheduled down time or even electrical fires can be avoided.
Topping up fluids can be important to the smooth running of machinery and processes. Vessel fill levels can be checked very quickly using a thermal imaging camera. The liquid either warms or cools the surface of the vessel, enabling the level to be seen with the thermal image without the need to carry out a physical inspection.
An important aspect of any professional thermal imaging solution is the analysis and reporting package. Keeping track of inspections by downloading the images for cataloguing, distribution and analysis is very useful.
Thermal analysis software allows the technician to make measurements on the captured thermal images and compare them with previous inspections. In this way anomalies can be seen, as the condition of equipment changes over time. Annotation can be added to images to instruct the maintenance team on what to repair, or brief management to assist with budgeting.
When choosing a camera, technical specification is probably the most important factor. As a general rule it is advisable to buy the best resolution you can afford. This means look for the camera with the most pixels. The more pixels available, the more detail can be seen from the thermal images.
Thermal sensitivity can also be an important factor. Many cameras offer 100mK which means the camera can detect differences in temperature down to 0.1degrees C. Higher specification cameras such as the Testo 875i series offer 50mK which means the thermal differences are even clearer which make it easier to diagnose faults or look for problems.
Thermography usually involves taking still images of the subject and analysing the temperatures. However, the ultimate solution for analysing dynamic temperature is to use a camera with Radiometric Video. This means it captures a thermal video which includes all of the measurement data. Another useful feature is Site Recognition which is available on Testo 885 and 890 high end cameras.
This unique feature means the camera automatically recognises the object which is being inspected using a site recognition label. When the images are downloaded to computer they are automatically archived to a dedicated folder, speeding up the whole process.
Choosing the right camera to fit the budget and requirement can deliver a high specification thermal imaging camera to assist with maintenance of process, plant and equipment as well as buildings. Including thermal inspections in routine maintenance tasks can help predict faults before they occur.