How do you detect problems in your plant?
For industrial processes to run well, it is important to monitor processes, detect and repair failures before they turn catastrophic or lead to downtime. Besides, early detection of failures and problems cut the cost of repair substantially.
Monitoring should be made on electrical installation, piping, moving parts, heat-sensitive areas of the plant, and parts and structures. One of the ways you can monitor all this is by the use of thermal imaging technology.
Thermal cameras do thermographic imaging. The cameras can be either fixed at a strategic location in various locations or handheld. Handheld cameras are key to checking individual areas of machinery and hard to reach sections of the plant. The information from the imaging is the analysed for action.
How Do Thermographic Cameras Work?
An infrared camera works by detecting the infrared radiation given off by various machinery pieces. This is also called the heat signature. They are built from the principle that everything gives off infrared radiation. The intensity of the radiation or emissivity is determined by how hot the surface is.
Infrared radiation (IR) is an invisible part of the light spectrum that everything, including the ice, emits. The camera system converts the emissions into a heat map where different colours show different heat points. The conversions are instant and accurate. This makes it easy to determine the temperature of individual locations without a thermometer or touching the surface.
Thermal Sensitivity of the Camera
The sensitivity of an infrared camera may vary from one brand to the other. The higher the sensitivity to IR emissions, the more accurate the readings. Colour depictions and pixel information in the heat map depend on the thermal imaging solutions that you pick.
However, cooler colours such as blue and black are generally used for cooler areas. They get warmer to red, amber, orange, and then to yellow and white as temperature increases.
Applications for Thermography Cameras
Diagnosing Electrical Issues
Industrial systems rely on electricity to operate. When there is a problem in any electrical installations, the machine in question may break down or become unsafe for use. Diagnosing electrical appliances with hundreds of circuits can prove to be a challenge, for it would require technicians to open up the equipment and test each part.
However, with the use of thermal vision, the process can be a lot easier. First, it can check the heat signature of different sections inside the machine without opening it up (If it has an IR window) and can help isolate the problem fast.
In many cases, the part in a circuit with the problem normally heats up more than the surrounding components. Technicians can zero in on the part and use other tools such as the multimeter to check if there is a problem.
This can significantly cut short the diagnosis time and get systems back faster. Thermal imaging cameras can also be used:
- To find defects on circuit boards and three-phase power connections
- To determine flared or broken ground wires, blown fuses or heating wires
- Determine the cause of poor power quality or loss of neutral
Thermal Scanning in Piping
In large industrial piping and plumbing units, thermal vision can be used for structural weaknesses or leak detection. This can be during regular maintenance or looking for a problem.
Areas with leakages or structural integrity issues emit a different heat signature than the rest of the pipe. This variation in the heat map can help zero in on problem areas or valves that require service.
It enhances safety when diagnosing superheated steam and high-pressure pipes without getting close. Gas and oil companies also use these cameras on outdoor pipes to detect similar problems.
There are tons of moving parts in plants. They could be conveyors, parts of motors, bearings, couplings and gearboxes. If there is a misalignment of any moving part, there is a likelihood of friction between adjacent parts, which increases the heat.
There may also be cracks where tensile forces are at play, such as conveyor belts. Thermal cameras can detect the hot spots before they can lead to the breakdown of the entire unit. In most cases, the scanning is made as the mechanical system runs for fast and accurate problem detection.
Structural Integrity Inspection
On the other hand, thermal images can also help check the insulations of the piping, heated rooms and the normal workplaces to prevent heat losses. They can also be used to check the integrity of building structures by enabling the construction team to find faults, enclosed air bubbles, or any line of weakness.
Other plants use the technology for infrared non-destructive testing of materials (NDT) to detect faults on the surface.
Boilers and Furnaces
Infrared imaging can help detect potential leakages in furnaces and boilers to enhance their efficiency. Leakages in these systems cause the heat to escape, making the system heat up more to compensate for the loss.
This has increased power consumption implications. Thermal diagnostics is, therefore, a vital pre-emptive measure before the entire unit breaks down.
Thermal Cameras for Inspections
Infrared inspections can be used in various forms of diagnostic activities across various industries. They are accurate, easy to use and let technicians view areas that cannot reach due to the location or the risk involved.
Most models come with software for thermographic imaging analysis, printing and archiving. This helps in scheduling repairs and determining when to replace various equipment types. Overall, thermal imaging makes inspection easy, fast, cheap and highly effective.