A new rugged, inline, infrared thermal imaging camera has been launched that is not only comparable in terms of technical specification and performance to the latest inline thermal imagers, but costs around 60 per cent less.
Available for £6,000, the new Micro-Epsilon PI (Process Imager) is an inline radiometric thermal imaging device that provides temperature images and profiles of a target area. Included as standard is free software that enables users to both configure all the adjustable parameters of the PI and capture (at 100Hz full frame rate) and store images or an event for play back at a later date – an important feature for R&D purposes.
Rather than a handheld thermal imaging camera, the Micro-Epsilon PI is fixed into position in a production process or R&D laboratory to monitor the temperature profile of target materials or objects. The camera is well suited to process control, quality and R&D applications, across a wide range of industries, including plastics, packaging, FMCG, thermoforming, automotive, paper, printing, textiles, food, chemicals & pharmaceuticals, medical engineering and machine building.
The Micro-Epsilon PI has a USB 2.0 interface for real time thermography with 100Hz frame rate as standard (most competing cameras offer only 50Hz) and a cable length of up to 20m. Temperature measurement ranges are comparable with the latest inline thermal imaging cameras, with -20…100°C, 0…250°C and 120…900°C available, enabling the user to adapt the device to suit their application. System accuracy (±2°C or ±2%) is also comparable to alternative cameras currently on the market.
PCBs, LCD flat screens and brake discs
The system can be used to monitor the thermal behaviour of working electronic PCBs in test stations or to check the thermal effects on mechanical components such as automotive brake discs or clutches. The device is also ideally suited to checking the homogeneity of solar heating panels, LCD flat screens and for semiconductor process applications. Other uses include temperature measurement and control in extrusion and thermoforming processes. The PI also enables users to detect for hot spots in bulk materials or products that are moving on materials handling and conveyer systems.
Similar to all industrial thermal imaging cameras, the PI uses an uncooled micro bolometer Focal Plane Array (FPA) with 160×120 pixels, offering a pixel size of 35µm x 35µm. Exchangeable lenses of 31 degrees field-of-view (FOV) and 9 degrees FOV enable temperatures to be measured across a variety of object distances, including ‘close’, ‘standard’ and ‘far field’ focus. The camera has good thermal sensitivity (NETD 0,08 K with 31° field-of-view; 0,3 K with 9° field-of-view), which means the device is able to show very fine temperature details of the target object.
Chris Jones, Managing Director at Micro-Epsilon (UK) Ltd comments: “Many process plants have maintenance technicians who patrol certain areas of the plant using relatively expensive handheld thermal imaging cameras to monitor critical processes or equipment. The Micro-Epsilon PI can be installed in a fixed monitoring position next to a critical part of the production process, to constantly monitor a target material or object. The relatively low cost of the system makes it a viable option for many process plants and R&D laboratories.”
The operator can choose to use a flexible spot with crosshair mark and a fixed measurement area with automatic display of maximum, minimum or average value. Temperature profiles along defined lines inside the image can be shown in a separate graph.
As well as a digital USB 2.0 interface for image processing, the PI comes with a programmable 0-10V analogue output and programmable limit switches. This means the temperature of the target or other measurement information can be re-transmitted to other logging equipment or alarms. The software provided with the PI enables the user, for example, to set up an alarm if certain process temperature limits are exceeded. A Process Interface analogue input (PIF in) allows the user to remotely adjust the emissivity of the target object or material.
The Micro-Epsilon PI is extremely compact and lightweight. Made from anodised aluminium, the camera housing measures 45mm x 45mm x 62mm and weighs just 250g (including lens and 1m USB cable), enabling easy mounting in restricted spaces. The rugged device is protected to IP65 (NEMA-4) and is powered (5V DC) via the USB 2.0 interface, with a maximum current draw of 500mA.
The system is compatible with Windows XP/Vista, enabling easy integration of thermal imaging information with mini-PCs, rail mounted PCs and industrial embedded PCs and PLCs. A DLL is provided so that the user can export thermal imaging data from the process imager into customer-specific software.
The PI comes with Micro-Epsilon’s PI Connect software as standard, which includes a recording function with radiometric video, snap shot, an analysis and post-processing of infrared images function and video. Not only does the software enable the user to configure the process imager, it also allows engineers to capture and store the images on a PC for play back at a later date. PI Connect also offers different colour palettes including iron, rainbow, black-white and inverted black-white.
For more information on Micro-Epsilon’s PI process imager, please call the sales department on 0151 355 6070 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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