Infrared for PdM, upgraded

Sheila Kennedy says rugged next-generation IR cameras and sensors offer better quality and context.

By Sheila Kennedy, CMRP

Thermal imaging options for electrical, mechanical, and building envelope inspections and maintenance are becoming more versatile, effective, and rugged. Nondestructive infrared (IR) cameras and sensors can detect conditions such as unbalanced electrical loads, heat loss from steam traps, air leaks from wall vents, water leaks in the roof, and gas leaks from valve stems. Integrated software helps automate analysis and corrective actions.

Cameras that can take the heat

Critical vessels in chemicals, refining, and power industries operate at high temperature and pressure, putting them at risk of weld and refractory degradation. The ThermalSpection CVM system from LumaSense Technologies uses noncontact infrared thermal imaging for automated detection and early warning of faults and degradation.

“Designed to survive for a very long time in hazardous areas,” the cameras are mounted in enclosures outside the processes for “24/7 monitoring of the skin temperature,” says Lenny Shaver, senior director of product management at LumaSense Technologies. “The nice thing about the noncontact systems is that they can be installed anytime, even while the equipment is operational, so they are very easy to deploy,” he says.

FLIR redesigned its handheld Exx-Series thermal imaging cameras in both form and function by focusing on users’ needs. Designed for electromechanical, plant, and building applications, the cameras offer intelligent interchangeable lenses, laser-assisted autofocus modes, higher resolution, increased thermal sensitivity, and a larger 4-inch touchscreen. Multispectral dynamic imaging (MSX) technology virtually etches visual details such as numbering and labels onto the infrared image, avoiding the need for separate photos to identify hotspot locations.

The Exx-Series “has a very modern look and response, plus it has useful features like one-touch level and span, updated user preset formats, and a folder system that’s intuitive to set up,” says Karl Rydqvist, product manager at FLIR Instruments. He notes that the screen renders a bright, vibrant image that is easy to see when working, and the camera’s physical design is tough and rugged but still very sleek.

The compactIR 400 handheld camera from InfraTec Infrared is an uncooled microbolometer detector with a format of 400 × 300 IR pixels, allowing larger areas and greater detail to be captured per image than with standard-format cameras. The 5-inch touchscreen display can be rotated up and swiveled and the lens unit can be tilted up, improving usability. Telephoto and wide-angle lenses are available, and automatic motorized focusing ensures image clarity.

Pocket-sized Toughpix Digitherm digital and thermal cameras from CorDEX Instruments are designed for use in hazardous areas. The cameras are capable of capturing 5-megapixel digital images as well as radiometric thermal images. Adaptive thermal blending (ATB) blends all temperatures above or below a set threshold, providing both thermal and visual identification of problem areas in real time. CorDEX also offers electrical-panel-mounted thermal imagers and automation control system imagers with thermal and visual sensors.

Heat-seeking sensors

Remote condition monitoring is simplified with infrared sensors that visualize thermal patterns and send alarms when thresholds are hit. The Fluke Accelix 3550 FC Thermal Sensor assesses asset health with no technician’s presence required. It enables the capture and comparison of process images, such as the surface temperatures of multiple motors in a row.

The 3550 FC gives end users “access to continuous infrared image data that is automatically uploaded to the cloud using the Fluke Connect Mobile App,” says Frederic Baudart, lead product application specialist at Fluke Corp. “This remote monitoring sensor can be used in indoor facilities to monitor any equipment—including motors and drives, pumps and compressors, process instrumentation, and small transformers.”

Essential software integration

Virtual inspection software helps infrastructure owners better manage their critical assets and sites. ContextCapture CONNECT edition reality modeling software from Bentley Systems, which produces 3D engineering-ready reality meshes of infrastructure conditions, now accepts thermal imagery to quickly identify leaks and other asset anomalies.

ContextCapture provides visual context to accurately determine the position of everything on a site, says Francois Valois, senior director of software development for reality modeling at Bentley Systems. “With ContextCapture’s new thermal imagery support, owners can determine if their assets are functioning well by detecting changes in temperature and accurately locating where the potential problems might be,” he says.

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