Thermography for Industrial Applications
Condition monitoring and predictive maintenance can help ensure the success and safety of an industrial facility. If you work in an industrial facility, have you researched thermography as an additional aspect of monitoring and maintenance? Many users have not. Industrial thermal imaging is a valuable and emerging trend.
A Quick Technical Overview
Thermography is the use of thermal (heat-based) imaging and infrared cameras to produce images. The most common uses for industrial maintenance are looking at the temperature emitted by an object and comparing the variations – either from immediate surroundings or from predetermined norms. You may have already seen thermal images of industrial applications before, they tend to look something like this:
Thermography is also used in firefighting, night vision, law enforcement, military, security, and gas detection as well as other scientific and technical procedures. This post, however, will look at the application uses for an industrial plant or large commercial facility.
Thermal Imaging for Industrial Maintenance
Thermal imaging is widely accepted as an MRO (maintenance, repairs & operations) tool in both electrical and mechanical systems. Over the past few years, thermal imaging has been growing in popularity. Uses include:
- Proactive equipment monitoring. Manual use of thermal imaging tools can identify weakening components before they fail, based on the abnormally high temperature of the materials in those components. Easily adapted for pumps, valves, belts, motors and more.
- Checking equipment remotely. Thermal imaging allows a properly trained technician to conduct routine maintenance without opening a control panel and/or without shutting down an entire line. This is an advantage for electricians and electrical contractors.
- Automated condition monitoring. Thermal imaging also lets you configure automated systems that can identify problems, create signals and alert your team before a failure happens. Learn more about automated condition monitoring
Do those applications sound familiar? For most industrial plants – they are great areas to focus on for incremental improvements. These are just three of the most common. Thermal imaging is also used in commercial and industrial plants for rotors, ball bearings, windows, doors, plumbing, mold and almost all energy and HVAC systems. Learn more about the entire range of uses here.
Technical Questions to Ask
The science behind thermography, thermal imaging, and thermographic cameras is fascinating but complex. Building such a tool requires baseline knowledge of infrared radiation, visible light, wavelengths, and many other physics-related topics. That is all great, but…. We have found that users that care less about theoretical and more about applied science ask questions that sound more like this:
- These pretty pictures are great, but what do thermal image reading mean? What are the measurements and what can I do with that data?
- How can a thermal image improve our day-to-day condition monitoring?
- What is the quality and resolution with an IR camera?
- I have heard of terms like “IR distance” and “emissivity” – How can I easily account for those?
- I am skilled, but my training doesn’t include heat transfer concepts. What is heat transfer? Why does it matter?
- So I have all of this data, who can actually analyze and interpret thermal images for practical use?
By asking these questions, users are improving their troubleshooting methods. These are steps to decrease downtime and improve productivity. If you have questions about thermal imaging, reach out to Horizon Solutions today!
FLIR® is a manufacturer of thermal imaging tools. Their team has expert-level knowledge of thermographic applications. Additionally, FLIR has an FAQ database, found here.
It takes the right tools to properly identify potential points of failure in an electrical or manufacturing environment. We want you to avoid failures before they happen and we want you to avoid costly shutdowns. Thermal imaging is a relatively new and exciting technology to help you and your team achieve that goal.
Have you tried infrared cameras? What are your thoughts on thermal imaging? Let us know in the comments section.