Infrared Thermography Inspection: The In’s and Out’s

As an expert in infrared thermography inspection for commercial and industrial facilities, we know the impact they can have. In this article we are going to break down just how infrared thermography works. We will show you what systems are used and how it can provide a large ROI for your organization.

What Is Infrared Thermography

Infrared Thermography photo of gas pipingInfrared thermography is the process of detecting infrared energy emitted from an object. The equipment used to detect this energy converts it to temperature, which it displays to the user.

A thermal imaging camera is the most common piece of equipment used. It captures the intensity of radiation and converts it into a readable image. Because infrared is outside the visible spectrum of light, devices are needed to capture these wavelengths. Infrared is emitted from all object naturally that are at or above absolute zero (-459.67 degrees Fahrenheit).

Thermal imaging cameras for industrial applications are powerful and non-invasive (non-contact) tools for monitoring the condition of equipment. They are able to convert infrared into images with surface heat variations. This is possible because there is a direct correlation between infrared energy and the temperature of an object. These images show lighter colors indicating hotter areas and darker colors indicating colder areas.

Because of the ease of use of these cameras, you can inspect a large amount of equipment in a relatively short amount of time. When used as part of a predictive maintenance program, we can identify the problems and correct them before they become a more costly fix.

How it Can Be Used At Your FacilitiesTechnician performing Infrared Thermography Inspection

Your maintenance team and our certified maintenance technicians will identify the best use cases for thermal imaging at your facilities. A thermal camera will be used to record images and data. Some sample use cases are:

  • Monitor electrical panels to discover anomalies such as loose connections, bad fuses, and overheating of components
  • Monitor and predict bearing failures due to overheating
  • Discover process flow issues in heat exchangers, liquid supply lines, and steam traps
  • Monitoring refractory insulation

By locating hot spots in electrical and mechanical equipment we can predict equipment outages before they occur. Detecting abnormally hot electrical connections and heat from excessive friction in mechanical components early, can result in huge savings.

Types Of Infrared Thermometers

There are a few different types of infrared measuring tools on the market. The most common are spot infrared thermometers, infrared scanner systems and infrared thermal-imaging cameras. Deciding which type to use depends on what you are trying to measure and each has its place.

Return On Investment (Case Study)

Infrared Thermography being used on a pump motorDuring a routine maintenance inspection, our technician identified the hot spot of an impending impeller failure in a critical process pump.

The pump was operating well enough to plan the maintenance over the next weekend as we waited for the new impeller to be delivered. As a result, the customer only had to expense the maintenance and installation of the new impeller. They avoided the loss in production costs all together and achieved an estimated 800% ROI.

Here are two additional real life examples we borrowed from Gary Orlove at Plant Engineering:

  • An automotive OEM’s minivan fuel tanks were crumpling. The problem was poor plastic integrity—something hard to spot with the naked eye on the production line. After inspecting that line with an infrared camera, it was discovered that some of the cooling lines to the molding machines (forming the gas tanks) were turned off. So, the plastic was not being cooled properly—hence the strength problem.
  • At a printing plant ink was not adhering properly to their paper. The company knew it was a cooling problem, so they believed the remedy would be buying another 10,000 to 20,000-ton chiller. Before doing that, however, a consultant came in with an infrared scanner and discovered that the cooling lines were plumbed in backwards. This discovery negated the need for that expensive purchase.

Drawback To Infrared Thermography

While the upside to infrared thermography is high, it is important to consider drawbacks before you decide to use this tool.

First, you will need to ensure you have a properly trained and qualified technician perform the testing. An inexperienced or poorly qualified tech may:

  • Not understanding how to focus the imaging or select the correct pallete for the application
  • Not account for ambient conditions
  • Ignoring cold spots and focusing solely on surface temperature
  • Incorrectly evaluate results

Another drawback is that thermal imaging equipment can be expensive. You will need to factor this into your decision when consider how to approach thermal imaging.

However, even with these drawbacks, early detection of problem equipment can save you on downtime. It can also give you real time data on your most mission critical equipment.

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Looking For An Infrared Thermography Inspection?

Because an infrared thermography inspection doesn’t require direct contact, it is ideal for equipment that is:

  • Rotating
  • Dangerous
  • Extremely Hot

Call the experts at 1-800-237-3141, email sales@rasmech.comchat with a support agent, or contact us online.

Our Reliability Department

Our Reliability Services department uses the latest technology to detect problems before they occur, preventing downtime and lost revenue. We help you save money by maximizing up-time, efficiency, reliability, and equipment life. Our customer-focused and consultative approach means we bring quantifiable results that focus on your unique facility. We provide:

Our reliability services department can also help you control costs with a blend of predictive, diagnostic, and scheduled maintenance practices. We can carry out performance testing and analysis on: