Thermography is to machine engineers, in many ways, what x-rays are to the medical profession. It allows those specialists to see exactly what is going on where it is difficult or even impossible to see with one’s own eyes.
Thermal imaging is a simple way of measuring temperatures in operating machinery. Cameras in any monitoring situation can be placed in various locations around the machinery to take readings of internal and external temperatures. Comparing these to previous readings gives a very accurate assessment of how and where future faults may occur as well as showing how previously repaired or replaced parts are behaving.
Where thermal imaging is especially valuable is in reading temperatures in parts of the machine that the operator is unable to reach directly without dismantling a large amount of the machinery. Recent advantages in technology have made equipment smaller, lighter and more versatile, so modern thermal imaging cameras can be used much more easily in much smaller spaces.
This flexibility allows today’s engineers to take thermal readings from behind safety screens or moving parts without interference to the running of the machine that requires monitoring. The monitoring equipment, above all, gives a variety of readings that can be easily compared with previous results, either immediately after collection while on-site or remotely from other locations. Readings can even be compared with those taken at the same time from similar equipment on the other side of the world.
Having accurate measurements of machine performance and altered behaviour is invaluable for any manufacturing plant, and being able to collect these measurements without disruption to production is one of the reasons that manufacturers acknowledge the need for thermography to keep machines running safely and productively, with no need for machine shutdown to carry out essential monitoring.
Thermography can check condition whilst machine is still running therefore minimising disruption
No manufacturer wants a machine to be idle when it should be producing, With modern production methods, most machines operate as part of a chain, so if one part of this chain is not operating, the others will have to wait for it. Down time for one machine is unwelcome enough, but this becomes serious if more than one operation is effected.
Thankfully, many maintenance operations can be carried out while the machine is in operation and for thermography it is vital that the machine is running to check current machine temperatures against the optimum recommended ones.
Electrical current in machine parts will be converted into heat energy, and it is this energy that thermal imaging is so vital to detect, whether on a visible part or one in a restricted position that can be measured just as well. While the machine is not running, or running on idle, these readings of temperature cannot be detected.
During normal operation, a machine may need to run at different speeds, just as a domestic washing machine will increase revolutions on the spin cycle. It is necessary to measure temperatures at both normal running levels and at increased levels, to see what effects are noticed with a different operating speed. It is possible to measure vibration changes at these increased speeds at the same time.
Thermal imaging equipment has in recent times become much more portable, smaller and more flexible, with results being sent automatically either to the engineer on-site or for collection off-site where they can undergo deeper analysis. All of these operations can be carried out while the machine is doing its normal job, without any down time for any part of the chain in which it operates.