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Carl Messtechnik, based in Dinslaken, Germany, uses thermal-imaging cameras from Flir Advanced Thermal Solutions (ATS) to detect material failures in bikes.

Modern bike frames are made of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics, which are said to be very light and strong.

However, the way these frames behave in the case of failure is fundamentally different from the old metal frames.

Instead of bending, carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics break – this exposes riders to dangerous situations.

With pulse thermography quality tests using Flir thermal-imaging cameras, defects in the carbon-fibre-reinforced materials can be detected before life-threatening accidents happen.

‘Usually, bikes with carbon-fibre-based frames do not come cheap, so not only are these tests important for driver safety, but they also serve to protect your assets,’ said Volker Carl, pulse thermography specialist and owner of Carl Messtechnik.

According to Carl, his customers have many different reasons for coming to him for these tests.

‘Some of them might have had a crash with their bike and want to make sure that this accident has not caused invisible defects.

‘Other clients have bought a second-hand bike and, although it looks perfect on the surface, they want to make sure that it contains no hidden flaws,’ he said.

These flaws in the bike frame can be caused by more than accidents alone.

Carl added: ‘Carbon-based frames can be surprisingly vulnerable to specific types of stress.

‘A bike might fall over and hit the edge of the curb, for instance.

‘Even if you tighten the roof-rack clamp or derailleur clamp too tightly when you’re preparing your bike for transport, this can cause invisible cracks.

‘On the surface, everything might still look fine, but in reality the bike is damaged and it will only last a couple of days before it breaks.

‘Using a bike with such invisible damage can be quite dangerous.

‘Imagine you’re descending from a mountain at high speed and suddenly, in a bend in the road, your bike breaks – that really is a very dangerous situation.

‘Not only can such accidents be prevented by detecting defects beforehand, but in most cases it is also possible to repair these defects.

‘Although the repair process is quite complex, it can often result in a bike that is even stronger than the original design,’ he said.

In order to find out whether such repairs are necessary, bike owners can have their bikes scanned by Carl’s Flir thermal-imaging camera, using a method called pulse thermography.

‘We trigger a thermal impulse and use the Flir thermal-imaging camera to trace the heat flow.

‘Differences in the heat flow can indicate material defects.

‘The thermal data collected with the thermal-imaging camera provides a unique insight into the flaws in carbon-fibre-reinforced materials,’ he added.

The thermal-imaging camera used by Carl is the Flir SC7000 thermal-imaging camera.

The cooled Indium antimonide (InSb) detector is extremely sensitive (

The SC7000 is claimed to be extremely suitable for this application, as its accurate temperature readings and detailed thermal images ensure that no flaws are missed.

Carl is also currently working on a new setup with a Flir SC645 thermal-imaging camera.

‘The Flir SC645 is slightly less sensitive, but the difference in price and in maintenance cost with the SC7000 will allow me to charge lower fees for the quality tests using the Flir SC645 thermal-imaging camera.

‘Currently, my customers are mostly professionals and semi-professionals that use their bikes very often.

‘They really need to be sure that the bike is absolutely safe, so I expect that this type of customer will still prefer the more accurate tests using the Flir SC7000 thermal-imaging camera.

‘But I think that hobbyists that currently refrain from this type of test will be attracted to the quality tests using the Flir SC645 because of the lower fees,’ said Carl.

The Flir SC645 thermal-imaging camera has an uncooled microbolometer detector that produces thermal images at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.

With its thermal sensitivity of

FLIR Systems specialises in technologies that enhance perception and awareness.  The company brings innovative sensing solutions into daily life through its thermal imaging and visible light imaging technology and systems for measurement, diagnosis, location and advanced threat detection.  Its products improve the way people interact with the world around them, enhance productivity, increase energy efficiency and make the workplace safer.

FLIR Systems has six operating segments – surveillance, instruments, OEM and emerging markets, maritime, security and finally, detection. Of these six, ‘instruments’ is of greatest interest to trade and industry and the second largest segment in the company’s portfolio. This division provides devices that image, measure and assess thermal energy, gases and other environmental elements for industrial, commercial and scientific applications.

These products are manufactured across five production sites, three in the USA and two in Europe; Sweden and Estonia.

A model to suit every application and budget
The options that FLIR Systems provides for measuring temperature and studying thermal performance have never been greater.  Not only does the company offer a huge range of models to suit all thermal application needs but the technology is also affordable and very easy to use.  Thermal cameras now come in various shapes, sizes and degrees of sophistication and FLIR continues to invest heavily in the development of new and complementary technologies to differentiate itself from competitors.

An important milestone in the development of thermal imaging has been the introduction of the FLIR Lepton® core, a micro longwave detector, the size of a mobile SIM.  This has allowed thermal imaging to be repackaged to meet the needs of an even wider audience and, in combination with another new technology called Infrared Guided Measurement – IGM™ – has led to the development of a range of test and measurement meters with imaging capability.

Another important growth area for FLIR thermal imaging is in continuous monitoring to assure quality and safety.  Through its introduction of discrete fixed mounted thermal cameras which are fully compliant industry standard plug-and-play protocols, FLIR Systems has provided industry with infrared machine vision which is instantly ready for quick and easy network installation.

Protecting assets and people from fire is an area for which thermal imaging is least known but, thanks to FLIR Systems’ development, it is now one of the most cost-effective methods available.  Its application flexibility and rapid return on investment present an attractive proposition for any site or safety manager.

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