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Flir Systems has revealed the key questions that companies should consider when selecting an infrared camera.

Like most things in life, the best choice of infrared camera is the product of thorough homework.

Infrared technology is now both accessible and affordable and the camera market is extensive.

However, along with this wealth of choice are several potential pitfalls.

You should always make sure that the infrared camera meets the minimum industry standard of +/- 2 per cent or 2.2C, whichever is greater.

If the spec of the model you are considering cannot perform at this level, look for another camera.

This is important because accurate measurement equals efficient faultfinding.

When it comes to repeatability, one of the key requirements is to tune your camera to the application by inputting emissivity or reflected temperature values.

Be certain that your chosen model will allow you to perform this important task.

You can judge the quality of images from an infrared camera in the same way as you do those from a digital camera; basically the more pixels, the better the resolution and the sharper the infrared image.

There is a caveat here, however.

If an infrared camera boasts 640 x 480pixels resolution, check that this refers to detector resolution and not just the resolution of the LCD display.

The display resolution is irrelevant if the detector is inferior.

You do not want your infrared camera to ‘die’ in the field; it wastes time, reduces inspection efficiency and at worst exposes you and your colleagues to the risk of an undetected fault.

Always buy a model that has a field-replaceable battery and make sure the kit comes with a charger (preferably an in-car type) and the option of a spare battery.

Choosing lithium-ion technology is also the best bet as it provides longer battery life.

Choose an infrared camera that is capable of outputting an image in standard JPEG format complete with embedded measurement data.

Not only does this keep all the image data together, it makes it easy to e-mail the information to a colleague or customer or import it into any Microsoft Word document, such as a report.

If you plan to use your camera frequently or for extended period, choose a lightweight, ergonomic model that will not cause back or arm strain.

The positioning of buttons and keypad should also be considered with regard to ease of use.

Some cameras have features such as a touch-screen keypad or sketch-with-stylus and although they may add a little to the cost they can make a huge practical difference.

Some infrared cameras require multiple steps or complex menu navigation to do simple tasks.

Always take the proposed camera for a ‘test drive’.

Take an image, download it to your PC and create a basic report.

Most cameras come with free software to help you analyse your images and create reports.

Many users soon find, however, their needs become more sophisticated in line with their growing experience.

So, when you buy a camera make sure there is an upgrade path.

Even ask for a demonstration of the capability level above the one you are considering.

Also, look out for infrared cameras that allow you to upgrade the firmware to increase pixel counts and infrared resolution as well as features and functionality.

Find a company with which you can grow.

Be sure the temperature range of your proposed camera is compatible with the targets you will be viewing.

There is a lot of buzz about fusion capabilities with infrared cameras but the advice is to be certain that what you choose is advanced and flexible enough to meet your needs.

There is no value in choosing simple picture-in-picture functionality when what you really want to do is customise your fusion to the exact target.

Last but not least, buy your camera from a manufacturer with strong post-sales technical support and certified training.

Select one whose training arm is ISO 9001 registered and has a good number of ASNT Level II and BINDT Category 3 certified thermographers on its staff.

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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