Mechanical Insights

Is Infrared Thermography the Solution for Your Inspection Needs?

Jun 30, 2020 8:30:00 AM / by Tate Engineering

Infrared Thermography Blog Image

Infrared thermography is a modern-day inspection solution that every maintenance professional must know. Not only does it make your life a lot easier, but it also helps you lower the risk of potential damage to your equipment and plant.

What is Infrared Thermography?

It’s a process that uses thermal imaging technology to detect infrared heat radiation emitted by any object. This technology allows a maintenance professional to evaluate the operation of equipment.

More importantly, it helps you locate any thermal anomalies - abnormal patterns of heat emission that are invisible to the naked eye. It will help you detect possible defects, faults, and inefficiencies in your plant’s equipment.

Although infrared thermography is a relatively simple concept, interpreting the thermal image can sometimes be very tricky. However, with proper experience and training, you will be able to easily extract useful information from an infrared thermal image of the equipment and machines.

Therefore, if you are in charge of a plant’s maintenance, then you must educate yourself on how to use infrared thermography solutions. It will help you maintain your system better, and via in-depth monitoring, you will be able to improve the quality and life-span of your machinery.

Some of the most common areas where there are infrared thermography solutions include the following:

  • Faulty electrical systems, connections, and overloaded circuits.
  • Abnormally warm mechanical equipment, motors, and potential bearing failures.
  • Inspection of fluid systems to check for line blockages, pipe temperatures, and tank levels.
  • Detection of moisture damage, air infiltration, and missing insulation.

Infrared Thermography as a Mechanical Solution

Although infrared thermography is perfect for the inspection of mechanical equipment, it must meet certain conditions. If you are using infrared thermography, you must have a strong command of the basics of heat transfer and radiometry.

You must educate yourself on how your mechanical system and equipment operate, along with the basics of an infrared camera and its features and limitations.

Inspection of mechanical equipment via infrared thermography has various uses in the industry. You can inspect motors, steam traps, rotating equipment, tank levels, and more.

Most of your mechanical inspections will require you to concentrate on learning to compare the overall thermal readings of your equipment to understand the health of your machinery.

Thermal Mapping of Equipment

A thermal infrared camera will capture a thermal map of your machine or equipment, which you can save for your record. This technology will become more useful as you do subsequent inspections in the future. That way, you will be able to compare the original thermal map and compare it to the new ones to check if there have been any changes over time.

While there is a wide range of methods to monitor the mechanical condition of your equipment and machinery, thermal imaging is one of the most efficient and useful screening tools.

As a mechanic, you already know that the equipment generates heat in a variety of ways. It can come from high electrical resistance, excessive friction, a problem with the current flow, or many other sources. Whatever the case, you will be able to detect any abnormal thermal signature using infrared thermography.

Identifying Misaligned Coupling

Misaligned coupling is another primary reason for abnormal heating in equipment. You can detect it earlier through vibration signatures. If you fail to identify the issue, it will get worse with time and will cause irreparable damage to your motors or machine.

Infrared thermography can help you here, as the motor’s electrical systems also demonstrate thermal patterns. If an internal fault occurs, such as the motor’s winding insulation breaking down, it will cause an increase in the temperature of your motor and its housing. You will be able to detect this issue without having to open up the motor.

Inspecting for Air Leakages and Boiler Refractory

Abnormal friction within bearings generates heat and causes the surface temperature of the bearing to rise. The thermal signature will help you indicate the underlying issues, such as under or over lubrication, a bad bearing, or poor maintenance of the part.

Infrared thermography will also help you as a mechanic to monitor heat signatures on refractory insulation with high temperatures such as a boiler or furnace. A thermal pattern will not only help you monitor the condition of your insulation, it will also calculate the thickness of the remaining insulation.

This sort of monitoring is invaluable because it will help you identify the issues proactively and avoid any sudden service disruptions. You can plan your maintenance and repair outages.

Locate Levels

The easiest application of infrared thermography is locating levels of liquids, fluidized solids, gases, and sludge in silos, vessels, and tanks. Although most tanks have their respective gauge to check levels, sometimes these sensors fail, so you can use thermal imaging to confirm it all manually.

Get Experts to Help You

If you are a maintenance professional, learning to use infrared thermography solutions will give you a competitive edge over your peers. If you are not sure how to use this technology, you can always get help from the experts at Tate Engineering. They will not only sit down with you to educate you about the technology, but also advise you on the best possible solution according to your specific professional needs.

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Tags: Education, Maintenance

Written by Tate Engineering