3 Ways thermal imagers are used in machinery maintenance

3 Ways thermal imagers are used in machinery maintenance

It is important that every factor needs to be accounted for when servicing production equipment. This is the only way to determine if anything is amiss. Heat loss is one such factor that indicates that a plant is malfunctioning or has broader energy system inefficiencies. Excess heat production is usually a sign that something is wrong. For the vast majority of experienced technicians, assessing the nature of heat loss from a plant is jeopardised by having a lack of specialised testing instruments. 

Heat detection instruments such as thermal imaging cameras are therefore essential to machinery maintenance. Thermography can be used by facility managers to design a proactive equipment servicing program. This can help reduce the chances of unexpected machinery breakdown that disrupt production.

The risks of assessing equipment without checking ambient thermal radiation

The modern world relies on the process of energy generation. The extent of our reliance is immense- from factories and machinery processes, to accounting firms and zoos. Almost every aspect of our society requires power generation to keep the lights on, figuratively and literally. Whether the fuel source is coal, wind farms or hydro-powered dams, they all rely on production equipment working to its full capacity so that the energy generated isn’t lost.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to achieve 100% energy efficiency. All processes are going to lose energy through kinetic movement, sound or heat. However, minimising this loss plays a major role in lowering operating costs and increasing productivity. Technicians cannot accurately assess machinery performance without analysing where energy is wasted.

There are more risks to incomplete equipment assessment than just wasted profit. If technical operators fail in checking every factor that indicate that a piece of equipment could be damaged, the chances of an unexpected break down increase. This may just result in energy production grinding to a halt, but in some cases this breakdown can cause a catastrophic event which could compromise operator safety.

Take a moment to consider this as an example. If an extractor fan were to overheat, the electrical components within can short circuit and cause the fan to stop working. In turn, this can cause a buildup of gasses, which can then cause an explosion or vapors to leach into the environment and affect the facilities air quality.

How do thermographic cameras work?

A thermal imaging instrument is capable of capturing infrared radiation emitted by machinery. Light is scanned by micro detectors and a detailed pattern called a thermogram is produced. This image, also sometimes knowns a s a temperature map, uses several thousand points to instantly show where higher levels of heat are within its field of view.

The detector elements then translate this data into electrical impulses which are sent to a signal-processing unit. The information is then translated by the circuit board so that is able to be displayed as a spectrum of colours on a high-resolution display. High levels of infrared emissions are considered hot, and are displayed from red, to orange, to yellow. “Cooler” areas are displayed in green to blue. This indicates fewer energy waves.

Using this map, technicians are able to assess whether equipment is producing excessive levels of heat. If this is happening in individual components, it could indicate malfunctions or wider system inefficiencies. With a thermal imaging camera, technicians are able to carry out accurate temperature measurement from a safe distance. This is because they are non-contact and often hand-held, reducing any potential risks for the technicians. This is just one of many benefits in using thermal imaging for machinery servicing assessments.

Three ways machinery servicing can benefit from thermal imaging

There are many ways that facility managers can use thermography in their equipment maintenance program:

Identifying malfunctioning plant

Defective machinery components can be susceptible to overheating. Operators can use a thermal camera to instantly analyse what individual piece of equipment out of a wider production system is causing the inefficient energy consumption, and therefore higher operating costs.

Checking on the performance of new machinery

It can be hard to know when replacing or upgrading system components whether the new components perform as well as the older ones. Thermography provides technicians with the ability to check whether heat emissions are higher or lower than before. This data can then be used by machinery specialists to compare performance and cost efficiency between pieces of machinery.

Assessing overall system efficiency

If a power generation facility is producing a high level of heat radiation, it could indicate that the system isn’t well-integrated or as streamlined as it could be. Operators are able to use an infrared camera to identify opportunities for improvement across a whole framework of equipment. This could mean reorganising integrated machinery for higher efficiency or replacing outdated individual pieces of a plant. This gives the facility manager an idea on ways to improve productivity while reducing energy expenditure.

The above three ways show how thermal imaging can be used by technicians to create maintenance programs to pre-empt the risk of equipment malfunction and downtime. However, this is only possible when using industry-leading thermographic cameras.

Testo's advanced temperature assessment solutions

Testo’s range of thermal imagers play a major role in maintaining the integrity and longevity of mechanical equipment and its components. It is both reliable and non-destructive due to them being no-contact devices. Avoid costly system downtime or malfunctions by using thermographic testing.

The testo 882 professional class infrared camera is a precise, hand-held temperature measurement solution. Special data recording modes, including moisture mapping or high temperature option (for industrial power generation systems) make it ideal for a variety of applications. The built-in digital camera allows users to capture thermal images with an IR resolution of up to 320 x 240 pixels and 640 x 480 pixels with super resolution.

Testo's 885 thermal imager is best suited to inspecting electrical components, including voltage systems and circuit board analysis. A resolution of 320 x 240 pixels (640 x 480 pixels with super resolution) makes capturing high quality images simple, while the unit can also manage high-temperature measurement of up to 1,200 degrees Celsius (optional). The Testo 885 is a truly comprehensive instrument for assessing temperature data, at both component and system level.

For more information on our thermal imaging cameras, or if you have any questions, contact the Testo team today.