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FLIR Thermal Imagers for PM - Part 1

Supplier: FLIR Systems Australia
17 July, 2007

Thermal imaging has evolved into one of the most valuable diagnostic tools used for predictive maintenance (PM). Thermal imaging, also called thermography, is the production of non-contact infrared, or "heat" pictures from which temperature measurements can be made. By detecting anomalies often invisible to the naked eye, thermography allows corrective action before costly system failures occur.

Portable infrared (IR) imaging systems scan equipment and structures, then instantly convert the thermal images to visible pictures for quantitative temperature analysis.

FLIR Systems’ ThermaCAM family of thermal imaging systems have set the standard for thermographic inspections, offering unique camera and software capabilities to facilitate easy, fast and accurate predictive maintenance tasks. ThermaCAM features simple "point and shoot" operation, state-of-the-art detector technology, portability and ease-of-use, making it an invaluable tool for predictive and preventive maintenance. Lightweight, cordless operation and low power consumption assure long hours in the field. Innovative features for instant recognition of critical temperatures and alarm conditions, as well as digital image, text and voice annotation, assure fail-safe inspections.

ThermaCAM systems detect temperature differences as small as 0.07°C. Since typical industrial electrical or mechanical problems occur when there is a temperature increase of 10°C or more, ThermaCAM "sees" these problems well in advance of a failure. Accurate temperature measurements allow prioritization of repairs to be made. ThermaCAM is also an ideal infrared camera for predictive maintenance when working in extreme and potentially hazardous conditions. Weighing less than four pounds, ThermaCAM’s rugged one-piece design requires no cables and operates for more than two hours on a single charge. In addition, while the ThermaCAM looks like a standard camcorder, the system has been fully sealed and hardened for use in harsh environments.

Predictive maintenance applications for thermography are numerous. Companies worldwide have incorporated FLIR Systems’ ThermaCAMs into their PM programs for inspecting and monitoring electrical and mechanical systems and equipment. Moreover, new and sophisticated applications continue to emerge.

Electrical Systems
Thermographic systems are commonly used for electrical inspections. As electrical connections become loose, there is a resistance to current that can cause an increase in temperature. This increased temperature can then cause components to fail, potentially resulting in unplanned outages and injuries. In addition, the efficiency of an electrical grid becomes low prior to failure, thus energy is spent generating heat, causing unnecessary losses. If left unchecked, heat can rise to a point that connections melt and break the circuit; as a result, fires may occur.

Besides loose connections, electrical systems suffer from load imbalances, corrosion, and increase in impedance to current. Thermography can quickly locate hot spots, determine the severity of the problem, and help establish the time frame in which the equipment should be repaired.

Thermography is very useful when inspecting indoor components such as motor control centres, breaker panels, disconnect switches, and transformers. Additionally, outdoor components, substations, switchgear, transformers and outdoor circuit breakers can be inspected quickly and efficiently with thermal imaging.

Another benefit of thermography is the ability to perform inspections while electrical systems are under load. Since thermography is a non-contact diagnostic method, a thermographer can quickly scan a particular piece of equipment from a safe distance, leave the hazardous area, return to his office and analyse the data without ever putting himself in harms way.

Mechanical Systems
In many industries, mechanical systems serve as the backbone of operations. Typically, when mechanical components become worn and less efficient, the heat emitted will increase. Consequently, the temperature of faulty equipment or systems will increase rapidly before failure. Typical mechanical systems monitored in a predictive maintenance infrared program include bearings, motors, pumps, compressors and conveyor idlers. Most mechanical systems will heat up if there is improper lubrication or misalignment. Thermographic data can be an invaluable source of complimentary information to vibration studies in this area of equipment monitoring. Electric motors can be observed for brush contact-wear and armature shorts, both of which typically produce excess heat but not necessarily vibration, prior to failure.

About Infrared Thermography
Thermal imaging, also called thermography, is the production of non-contact infrared or “heat” pictures from which temperature measurements can be made. Portable infrared cameras scan equipment and structures, then instantly convert the thermal images into pictures in a JPEG format for monitoring and analysis. Thermal imaging increases efficiency and maximizes safety in many industries and environments and is rapidly expanding into new markets.

About FLIR Systems
FLIR Systems is the world leader in the design and manufacturing of infrared cameras. The company has over 40 years of experience and more than 50,000 infrared cameras currently in use worldwide for applications including predictive maintenance, research & development, process monitoring, automation and many others. FLIR Systems has four manufacturing plants located in the USA and Sweden and operates direct sales offices in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Australia. The company numbers over 1,300 dedicated infrared specialists, and serves international markets through a network of 60 regional offices providing sales and support functions.