High quality imaging set to improve process performance

Paul Boughton
In the drive to boost performance and reduce downtime, high-tech imaging solutions are helping to solve maintenance issues.

A high-tech videoscope hired from Ashtead Technology Rentals helped an environmental services company to significantly reduce downtime during health and safety checks.

Veolia Environmental Services used an Olympus IPLEX MX Videoscope to survey packing material in a cooling tower at its Ellesmere Port hazardous waste incinerator and in doing so the company was able to ensure that the operation was completed as quickly as possible, with minimal disruption to the plant.

Cooling towers must be well maintained and kept clean to prevent the build up of potentially hazardous bacteria including legionella. Slime, scale and algae can also affect the performance and physical obstructions can often be found during checks.

In the past, it has been common practice to remove the cooling pack for the purposes of the inspection and cleaning (regardless of whether the tower needed to be cleaned or not).

However, depending on the size of the unit, this can take anything from a few hours to two days to complete. During this time the cooling system would be shut down resulting, in many applications, in the closure of the entire facility. However, endoscopic inspection can be undertaken in a few hours and full colour digital images can be obtained.

The UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) now explicitly accepts the use of endoscopes to obtain images of the packing material condition. These images can be used to assess the cleanliness of packing material in cooling towers and by inference the effectiveness of the cleaning regime.

Dave Smith, technical manager with incinerator operator Veolia, explained: "We operate the site around-the-clock and had a short shutdown planned when we had an opportunity to inspect the cooling tower. This was the first time we had used this kind of equipment and we were able to carry out the check with minimum disruption. When we have carried out checks in the past without a videoscope the inspection would take a lot longer but with this equipment the process is quicker, more efficient and with full colour digital images of the packing material."

The IPLEX MX is a lightweight, ultra compact videoscope system that uses an internal battery resulting in new levels of portability for the process industries and others.

In another development, Ashtead is also reporting a boom in demand, despite the current economic climate and gloomy forecasts.

Ashtead rents instruments for environmental monitoring, for health and safety checking, for testing materials in construction and manufacture, and for remote visual inspection in a wide variety of industries.

One might suspect that worries with the economy might force businesses to cut back on all expenditure, but as the company's general manager James Carlyle says: "Nervousness and uncertainty certainly causes companies to reduce or delay capital expenditure. However, testing, monitoring and inspection work is vital for a number of reasons including regulatory compliance, quality control, health and safety, and environmental protection."

Health and safety at work regulations require employers and self-employed people to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety. For example, in confined spaces the HSE advises, "It may be necessary to check that air is free from both toxic and flammable vapours and that it is fit to breathe. Testing should be carried out by a competent person using a suitable gas detector which is correctly calibrated."

Ashtead has risen to this challenge with a fleet of instruments from leading manufacturers for health and safety assessments include toxic gas detectors, particulate monitors, HVAC monitors, and instruments for the measurement of noise and vibration.

Companies with emissions to the environment have to comply with a raft of regulations that relate to the management of waste and emissions to air, land and water. Compliance inevitably involves monitoring with the most appropriate technology; this may involve the purchase of on-line monitors, but frequently necessitates an initial assessment followed by regular spot checks, so renting provides an opportunity to do so without investment in expensive instrumentation. It also enables process operators to deploy the best available technology whenever they need it, says the company.

In January of this year, Raytek launched the new MP150 high-speed infrared (IR) Linescanner. This new product operates with a complete suite of application software to provide what the company describes as the fastest and most complete non-contact temperature measurement solution on the market today.

The MP150 features the latest electronics, optics, communications and mirror mechanisms. This technology facilitates a scan speed up to 150Hz, three times faster than its predecessor, allowing the MP150 to gather complete data from even the fastest manufacturing processes (Fig. 1). Now, however, the product is now being relaunched with expanded data collection capability.

The MP150 can now measure up to 1024 data points per scan, up from the previous 512, to provide the user to see even smaller temperature anomalies. Also new is a fibre optic communication system that permits connection to existing fibre networks or directly to a PC. Fibre optic infrastructure avoids potential interference from strong EMI fields generated by heavy equipment as well as protecting the instrumentation from sudden power surges generated by lightning strikes.

Recent Issues