Thermal imaging: faster diagnostics, quicker solutions

Paul Boughton

From over-heating pipe joints to metal processing, the ability to identify and solve problems quickly is crucial. Sean Ottewell reports.

According to LumaSense, industry loses upwards of $1trillion worldwide every year as a result of process inefficiencies and unwarranted waste. Much of this is due to heat loss and it is here that thermal imaging is having a major impact. In order to further help users improve diagnostics, enhance productivity and increase connectivity, FLIR has introduced a new line of test and measurement tools.

The new FLIR VS70 is a rugged videoscope with intuitive handset controls that let users manoeuvre the camera probe into tight areas to deliver clear video and images to a large 5.7-im colour LCD display. It features wide-angle 180° and standard 90° camera views, SD card storage of video, image and audio files, a six-to-eight hour battery life, USB port for convenient battery charging, and the included headset allows for voice annotations during inspections to clarify findings (Fig.1).

Three new electrical meters, with large LCD displays and dual-LED worklights, can wirelessly connect with the company's thermal cameras so that electrical readings can be embedded into IR images in real time.

A new 1000A clamp meter, the FLIR CM78 is aimed at complex machinery and combines the capabilities of a digital multi meter and clamp meter with those of a non-contact IR thermometer and type K thermocouple.

Also new is the FLIR MR77, a rugged moisture meter that features a pinless sensor and an external pin probe to capture moisture readings up to 19mm below the surface of various materials. This meter also includes a field-replaceable temperature/humidity sensor and spot IR thermometer with laser pointer.

The company has also been adding to its portfolio of thermal imaging cameras with the launch of an updated version of its Exx series. FLIR says this offers industrial professionals an affordable, yet ergonomic and feature-rich thermal imaging camera that will significantly speed up electrical and mechanical inspections.

The new cameras are equipped with Meterlink and Bluetooth connections that allow inspections to be carried out quickly and accurately. Connecting thermal imaging cameras with other devices or measurement tools allows for easy information exchange with customers or colleagues. "That is why the FLIR MeterLink technology allows FLIR Exx series users to save time by transferring, via Bluetooth, the data acquired by an

Extech clamp meter or multifunction moisture meter into the thermal imaging camera. In addition, they can easily transfer images wirelessly to a smart phone or tablet PC," notes the company.

FLIR has also focused on making the Exx series easier to use, with the addition of a new user interface and key pad that make these cameras extremely simple to operate. Measuring temperatures up to +650°C, they produce instant, 'point-and-shoot' jpeg thermal imagery and video recording/streaming with all required temperature data included.

For its part, LumaSense Technologies is focusing on a very particular issue with the launch of its IMPAC IGA 6/23 Advanced, a new digital infrared pyrometer specifically designed for measuring metal processes in low temperature ranges. This instrument complements the Series 6 Advanced pyrometers and was developed with a range of 50-1800°C to give users additional options for process control.

Special features of the IGA 6/23 includes manually focusable optics for optimum adaptation to the respective measuring conditions, a user-friendly LED display, high accuracy and repeatability, and a fast detection time of 0.5ms for accurate measurement of dynamic processes or short temperature peaks.

Because it offers a wide temperature range, LumaSense says this pyrometer is perfectly designed for measuring temperatures during metal processing such as induction hardening, welding, soldering, annealing, rolling, forging and sintering. It can also be used in heating and cooling processes and advanced manufacturing processes for ceramics, graphite, and other carbon materials.

The IGA 6/23 Advanced pyrometers are available immediately and can be controlled using LumaSense's Sensorgraphics process intelligence software to accurately detect, reduce and prevent out-of-band temperature fluctuations that can hamper the efficiency of, and contribute unwarranted waste to, resource-intensive manufacturing processes. "Operators and users can be empowered with a nearly intuitive sixth sense to identify potential issues before they impact process efficiency, reduce quality or impact yields," says the company.

For Fluke, communications are key and its SmartView analysis and reporting software has just gone mobile. So users can create an inspection report on-site and communicate directly to the appropriate person via Apple Iphone or Ipad using the SmartView Mobile app - which is free to download from the App Store.
The app allows users to analyse images, create robust reports and get next steps approved before leaving the inspection site. This ability to troubleshoot an issue quickly and devise a plan to get back on line is critical to success.

"The Fluke line of infrared cameras lets you quickly identify and keep track of inspection locations by adding additional digital images (IR-PhotoNotes) that help you reference the location or unique situations at the inspection site. An electronic eight-point cardinal compass easily communicates the inspection site location and voice annotation makes pen and paper no longer necessary," says the company.

Super resolution for high res IR images

In many industrial or trade applications, it is necessary to reliably thermograph even the smallest or extremely distant measuring objects. In such cases, the better the image resolution and the more readings in the thermal image, the more detailed and clearer the representation of the measuring object.

The Testo SuperResolution technology improves the usable, geometric resolution of the thermal image by a factor of 1.6 and provides four times more readings - comparable with a higher detector resolution. These thermal images with SuperResolution quality, which can be conveniently viewed in the PC-based analysis software, are achieved by combining the two technologies super-sampling and deconvolution, which can be used by Testo thermal imagers thanks to a complex algorithm. The SuperResolution technology takes real thermal readings - without using a large detector and in a form that can be simply evidenced, for example using a slit diaphragm structure.

In addition to this, the improvement in the quality of the recorded SuperResolution infrared image means in practice that the so-called 'smallest measurable object' becomes considerably smaller: this allows even the tiniest structures of up to 0.07mm to be recorded thermally, or more measurement values and details to be seen from a great distance. Testo says it is important to note that SuperResolution technology records real temperature measurement values, and does not extrapolate artificial intermediate values.

Even cameras which have already been delivered can be equipped with SuperResolution via a software update. SuperResolution is available for all current Testo thermal imagers.


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