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Thermal imaging cameras used for predictive maintenance inspections

Supplier: FLIR Systems Australia
30 May, 2013

Thermal imaging is the fastest growing predictive maintenance technology on the market today.

"It is simply the only technology that allows you to immediately 'see' what's wrong," Gunther Willems, technology manager at Coservices, one of Europe's largest condition monitoring consultancy agencies, said.

Performing inspections at regular intervals so that faults are picked up as they develop and repairs can be planned accordingly, allows companies to fix issues before they disrupt the production process. 

Without predictive maintenance inspections companies are forced to use a method called preventive maintenance. This means that every piece of equipment is replaced in regular intervals to prevent breakdowns. To be on the safe side, the equipment is replaced before it is necessary.

Predictive maintenance inspections using thermal imaging technology save money

With predictive maintenance inspections using thermal imaging technology condition monitoring inspectors can accurately determine whether a piece of equipment needs to be replaced or not. Therefore the continuity of production is guaranteed without unnecessary equipment replacement, leading to considerable cost-savings each year.

Stop guessing, start seeing


The main advantage of thermal imaging is that you can locate mechanical and electrical problems very quickly and accurately as you will be able to immediately see which component is causing the problem. This is crucial to allow for swift inspections.

"In some cases there are also simply too many pieces of equipment or equipment components to test using vibration analysis or other methods. If a production plant features a row of conveyors the fact that you can walk along this row of conveyors and swiftly scan them with the thermal imaging camera is a mayor time-saver," Willems said.

"The same goes for electrical equipment: if you are inspecting an electrical cabinet with thirty fuses, you don't want to go and check each individual fuse using a spot pyrometer to find out which one is going to fail first.  It is simply the only technology that allows you to immediately 'see' what's wrong."

According to Willems, for some types of equipment, refractory linings, for instance, thermal imaging really is the only practical condition monitoring tool available. Therefore, condition monitoring services cannot be complete without thermal imaging technology.

Why did one of the largest condition monitoring consultancy agencies choose FLIR?

One of the reasons Coservices opted for a FLIR thermal imaging cameras is the ergonomic design.

"If you use a piece of equipment as often as we use the FLIR thermal imaging cameras ergonomics and ease of use are crucial. All FLIR thermal imaging cameras are relatively compact, lightweight and easy to use."

Another important factor is the optics. "The interchangeable optics of the FLIR T-Series is very important to us, because it is very difficult to do everything with just one lens.

"Sometimes there's not enough room to take a step back to capture a piece of machinery in one image, so you need to change to a 90° wide angle lens. And in other cases you cannot get too close due to safety hazards, for instance, and you need to switch to a 7° telephoto lens. Being able to make these switches in lens gives the operator much more flexibility."

The importance of training


The fact that thermal imaging technology is visible and intuitive makes it very easy for new users to learn. However, the thermal imaging cameras from FLIR are so easy to use that you might think it is just a matter of pointing the camera and pressing the right button. It is very important to know what you're doing. You need to know, for example, how to accurately correct for emissivity and reflection; otherwise you might draw false conclusions. 

For this reason, FLIR Systems provides top of the bill training in co-operation with the Infrared Training Center (ITC). Willems explains: "We make sure that all of our maintenance consultants have at least followed the level 1 ITC training course."

Software

Another important factor in the use of thermal imaging cameras is the software. Showing those who need to know the hidden problems that you've found with your FLIR thermal imager is just as important as uncovering them in the first place. FLIR Tools is a powerful, free software solution to help present those findings to decision makers most effectively.

With the first IR software for Mac OS, FLIR Tools now gives both PC and Mac users the tools to quickly import, edit and analyse images, and turn them into convincing, professional PDF inspection reports, ready to print or email so you can get the "yes for repairs" fast.

FLIR Tools Mobile is an intuitive application for smart phones and tablets for importing, analysing, managing and sharing thermal images from FLIR's Wi-Fi enabled infrared cameras.

FLIR Tools+ provides a comprehensive set of infrared tools, with several cutting-edge controls. In addition to the standard FLIR Tools, FLIR Tools+ features recording and play-back of radiometric video files, and time-temperature plotting. Create advanced analysis of infrared images and video files, and output results, anomalies and trends in impressive PDF reports.

"It goes without saying that the reports we produce are of vital importance to us, for that is what the client will receive," Willems said.

"There simply is no other thermal imaging supplier that delivers the same combination of image quality, good design, service, training and software."