Feel the heat

Thermal imaging can be used to help organisations save money by identifying temperature imbalances, says Ian Taylor


By monitoring the unique thermal signature of machines, structures and electrical panels, engineers can detect faults before they affect production.

Thermal imaging technology produces fast, accurate results in a real-time, high-resolution illustration, enabling engineers to detect faults that otherwise may be overlooked. Remedial work can therefore be carried out before costly system failures or production stoppages occur.

The great advantage of using thermal imaging technology is that it is non-invasive and can detect both hot and cold areas, enabling technicians to evaluate the condition of structures, plant and equipment and whether potential problems are likely to occur.

Thermography can help reduce maintenance costs and identify process improvements across industries, including a wide range of sectors such as steel and aluminium, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage and even buildings, offices and airports.

A lot of plant and machinery is suitable for thermal imaging. The system can discover anything from motor brush contact problems to the mechanical condition of rotating equipment such as pumps, motors, fans, blowers and compressors.

When Corus Northern Engineering Services is asked to conduct a site survey, our technicians will first use handheld thermography cameras, which incorporate a built-in digital camera and customised reporting software. They will then process trends gathered from the information, which usually illustrates the location of a fault.

Thermal imaging can be used for much more than just monitoring the condition of industrial plant and machinery. The techniques can also provide early warning of potential problems such as leaks in buildings or construction faults. It can also detect the energy loss, room climate control, thermal insulation defects and drying of buildings. In addition, it might be a viable solution for fire-prevention measures, identifying mould and dampness and pipe or radiator blockages.

There are many examples of where thermal imaging surveys in the construction and buildings sector have made a difference. In one recent survey, I sent some of our technicians to a local school for disabled children in the north-east. We were called in because pupils were complaining about how cold the building was.

The buildings contractor had installed overhead ceiling heating systems for health and safety reasons so that the children did not touch any hot radiators or pipes.

After conducting an initial buildings survey, our technicians discovered that the contractor had not installed adequate insulation in the walls of the school. The images from the high-quality thermal imaging camera that we used clearly showed us which parts of the walls had not been insulated.

In addition to insulation problems, we also discovered that the boiler and heating systems were inadequate. The school was then able to present our findings to the contractor and seek remedial action.

While thermal imaging has been proven to help save money for businesses in the long run, the upfront costs may be of more immediate concern. Thankfully, the technology is coming down in price and businesses will find it is simple and safe to use. In some cases, a company may even save money on its insurance policy.

These days, insurance policies for business premises can be very expensive. However, often the cost of the policy can be reduced if the company employs regular thermal imaging services at its premises or factory.



Ian Taylor is business development engineer, plant condition monitoring at Corus Northern Engineering Services (CNES)