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.
ThermaCAM can also provide useful data in building maintenance studies. Evaluation of built-up roofing systems for water leakage is a common application. Since water has a higher thermal mass than the rest of the roofing material it retains the heat longer and can be easily detected with a thermal imaging system at night after the rest of the roof has cooled.
ThermaCAM allows maintenance personnel to quickly locate and mark any wet areas for cost-effective repairs. Tremendous savings result when wet areas of a roof can be repaired rather than replacing the entire roof.
Other applications involving plant structures include issues related to heating and cooling the building. Building envelope studies can be conducted where heat losses can be detected and analysed. Steam generation and distribution systems can be monitored for clogged passages and open steam traps. Even underground steam lines can be viewed and many times leaks can be detected. Furnace condition monitoring is another common application. Refractory breakdown can be detected from the exterior of the furnace and tracked with a digital image database storage package.
Reporting and Analysing Inspection Results
Windows-based image analysis and reporting software integrated with modern IR cameras allow thermographers to create quick reports, make critical decisions and recommend repair action about the equipment and facilities inspected. Wizard-guided reporting software allows even occasional users to automatically generate both simple and complex reports. Another common feature of predictive maintenance software programs is the ability to embed IR images gathered by the inspection camera directly into Word and Excel files.
Additionally, FLIR Systems has developed numerous camera features specifically designed to automate the reporting process. Analysis functions, text, and voice comments can be digitally stored on removable data storage cards with camera images taken in the field, then automatically downloaded and embedded into result tables and report text.
Many ThermaCAM users report full payback of their camera investment within the first six months or less. Typically, the savings resulting from incorporating IR into a predictive maintenance program far outweigh the initial camera investment. When incorporated into predictive maintenance programs, ThermaCAM systems can literally save millions of dollars by locating problems in advance of failure. ThermaCAM is an easy-to-use, self-contained, rugged system designed to operate in harsh environments. Whether the application involves electrical equipment, mechanical systems, building diagnostics, or general maintenance, ThermaCAM will provide maintenance personnel with the accurate thermal information necessary to make critical decisions about equipment repair, replacement and efficient plant operations.
Return on Investment
Thermography has proven to be an invaluable resource combined with, or in place of, other forms of predictive maintenance. ThermaCAM systems locate problems well in advance of failure resulting in an immediate payback on investment and avoiding plant shutdowns. Studies have shown that dollar for dollar, investments in predictive maintenance and product quality programs yield immediate, positive returns to a plant’s "bottom line".
Regular surveys of a steel mill’s substations potentially save the company tens of thousands of dollars per year. A major steel company discovered a significant temperature rise in one of their 69 KV breakers. If this problem had gone undetected it could have cost the company $50,000 per hour in lost time due to shutdown because of the casters. Total loss of power to a mill is estimated to be over $250,000 an hour.
At a large public electric utility company, a routine thermographic survey indicated one of the output filter capacitors of a station battery charger was considerably cooler then the others. As a result, the capacitor in question was tested and found to have failed. Replacement of the failing capacitor avoided an outage, saving an estimated $500,000.
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.