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Summer festival season, and for many, time for nothing better than a pint of real ale to quench the thirst. But when demand is high it’s especially important for the busy bartender to know when the gravity fed cask is nearing empty.

No one wants to serve, or be served, a glassful of sediment so the traditional prevention methods are to manually record the number of units dispensed from the cask coupled with dipstick testing to double-check the level.  This is laborious and time consuming and certainly not ideal when there are queues of thirsty customers waiting to be served.

One solution that is proving increasingly popular is thermal imaging.  This technology is extensively used throughout industry in all manner of fault finding applications as well as for inspecting vessels and monitoring their content level.  Until recently, however, the cost of an infrared camera has ruled out its use for niche applications such as commercial beer cask checking.

FLIR Systems has been instrumental in rolling out the technology to a much wider audience with the development of its Lepton® micro-detector which is the size of a SIM card.  This has led to thermal imaging being incorporated into meters for the trades and even smartphones.  And as a result it is now a simple, quick and highly cost-effective detection method that recently proved its worth at the Cambridge Beer Festival.

Thermal imaging expert, Allister Pirrie – a thermographer with Baldock-based building surveyors Stanburys Limited – was invited to demonstrate the scope of the technology at the event.

“I met one of the organisers at a completely unrelated trade show where I was using thermal imaging to confirm the energy efficiency of a new pipe lagging system,” Allister explained.  “A guy in the audience then asked if the camera would be able to detect fluid level in beer casks and I ended up putting the camera through its paces at the festival. The images show how clearly the beer level can be seen in the cask and there is a range of FLIR cameras available from Stanburys suitable for the job including the entry level FLIR C2 and FLIR C3 fully-featured, pocket sized thermal imaging cameras.

Another big benefit of thermal imaging is that it is not restricted to a single application. It can also, for example, be used to take a temperature measurement of the beer from the face of the cask or the gas cylinder level on a barbeque.

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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