Speaking of Precision Blog

Speaking of Precision

Speaking of Precision is a knowledge preservation and thought leadership blog covering the precision machining industry, its materials and services. With over 36 years of hands on experience in steelmaking, manufacturing, quality, and management, Miles Free (Milo) Director of Industry Research and Technology at PMPA helps answer "How?" "With what?" and occasionally "Really?"

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Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

Posted April 20, 2012 8:30 AM by Milo

We first used a digital infrared non-contact thermometer back in 1993 to get some diagnostic insight into the failures we were having in my cold finished mill. Unscheduled equipment and electrical breakdowns were keeping us from profitability.

(With this technology we could see mechanical failures developing before they shut us down.)

When we built the mill in Georgia, the engineers never gave a minute of thought to the operating temperature differences the equipment would have to endure compared to our experiences up North. We just 'knew' our problems were thermal, the failures 'clustered' in the summer months. How to prove it?

The first bearing we found running hot with our IR thermometer allowed us to plan for a repair rather than lose valuable production time.

That first preventive/proactive repair paid for our investment in what the boys in the shop thought was a "heat gun."

But when we turned this technology to the electronics controls- that is when we hit the real pay dirt.

At a $3000 per circuit board and 5 days via air freight from Europe, our IR thermometer helped us justify to the stingy "Just say NO'" bean counters that air conditioned electrical enclosures would pay for themselves by reducing both downtime and unbudgeted expenses to replace failed sensitive electronic components.

And they did. The IR thermometer properly deployed helped us finally achieve our business plan.

Its much easier to achieve your business plan when your equipment is actually operating.

Today, IR thermometers are very affordable. But if I was managing a shop today, I don't think that I'd be satisfied with just a "heat gun."

Would you rather have just temperature numbers to base your decision on, or a compelling image of the problem? (Images courtesy of FLIR)

(This photo is worth a thousand words to the maintenance team, eh?)

Electrical issues become pretty obvious using infrared imaging- don't you agree?

(Why wouldn't you want to know what this technology has to show you?)

One of my favorite quotes came from one of the Dune series books by Frank Herbert- "Who knows what senses we lack that we might better see the world around us?" the hero asks.

Today I can answer that question.

"With Infrared Thermographic imaging- we can see electrical and equipment failures before they happen."

I can't imagine trying to keep a shop running without it.

Video of IR imaging in your shop

Video- not just for the shop

Fluke IR

Photos

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#1

Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/20/2012 9:23 AM

I initially purchased my first digital infrared non-contact thermometer out of curiousity to see effiency of convection tunnel pizza ovens I designed and built.

I found so many uses for this.

One thing though, with the tools like this, FLIR, and the like. I have found a tool is only as good as the person who knows how to use and apply it. Usually the biggest use is not what you original justified it for.

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Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/20/2012 10:22 AM

"I have found a tool is only as good as the person who knows how to use and apply it. Usually the biggest use is not what you original justified it for."

Wisdom here.

Milo

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#3

Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/20/2012 11:35 AM

I wonder how cold can these cameras work? Will they be able to detect the thermal gradient that happens at and around YBCO (90K critical temperature) superconductors?

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Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/20/2012 11:38 AM

i'm sure it has a range, and that is beyond it.

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Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/20/2012 1:21 PM

Spoke with the manufacturer.Lowest detectable is 233K or -40C. lower than that, there is insufficient thermal energy emitted to be measured.

Milo

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Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/20/2012 1:27 PM

Ok, I guess I cannot locate hot spots that are this cold. At least not with that manufacturer's product.

Thanks for asking.

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Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/20/2012 1:31 PM

Kinda gives me pause to think about "hot spots" at 90K.

Milo

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Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/20/2012 1:41 PM

YBCO quenches at the combination of magnetic field strength and 90K. (It is complicated calculating how they relate. ) The thermocouples are reporting 45K at two end locations but midpoint the YBCO quenches. The current source then sublimates (aka vaporizes) the lead and all evidence of the root cause is gone.

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Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/21/2012 8:47 AM

There are some IR sensors that are LN2 cooled to be able to read cryo temperatures. I don't have a manufacturer in mind but you might find one on line.

Basically, the IR sensor gets a better signal to noise ratio when it is very cold. This allow measurement sensitivity to be increased dramatically.

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#10

Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/22/2012 2:10 PM

"At a $3000 per circuit board and 5 days via air freight from Europe, our IR thermometer helped us justify to the stingy "Just say NO'" bean counters that air conditioned electrical enclosures would pay for themselves by reducing both downtime and unbudgeted expenses to replace failed sensitive electronic components."

that doesnt solve the problem. Coverups rarely work. Usually they drive the problem to a really intermittient failure thats even harder to detect.

Id fix a 3K circuit board in house...then heat sink the hot components while demanding the seller FIX the origiinal problem. GA aint THAT hot.

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Re: Infrared Thermography- Preventive Diagnostic For Your Shop

04/26/2012 10:30 PM

Thanks for sharing your opinion. The air-conditioned enclosures did in fact stop the failures. I had a shop to run, and was not looking for a new job repairing and rebuilding OEM controller boards. Milo

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