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For measuring temperature is it best to use a spot pyrometer, a thermal imaging camera or a combination of the two? Well essentially it depends on the application, whether the measurement needs to be put into context and also the scope of temperature measurement across other tasks.

All the devices work according to the same principle; they are non-contact devices that detect infrared radiation and translate it into a temperature reading. Indeed a spot pyrometer can be seen as a thermal camera with just one pixel and it can be very useful for a wide variety of tasks but, it is simply a tool that measures temperature in one spot, nothing else. This may be sufficient for some applications it does not allow the full potential of thermal measurement to be incorporated into the predictive maintenance routine.

While a spot pyrometer gives you a single number, a thermal imaging camera generates an image from multiple pixels each of which provides a temperature reading. In effect the camera combines thousands of spot pyrometers in one device. So a camera with an image resolution of 160 x 120 pixels, such as the FLIR E40, is therefore able to provide 19,200 temperature readings at once.

These many thousands of measurement points are then translated into a radiometric thermal image providing a complete overview of the target area. This allows the operator to see the thermal profile of the problem and its heat distribution. It puts the hot spot into context, greatly assisting diagnosis.  Some cameras also provide simultaneous visual imaging and cleverly combine both thermal and visual images to give greater detail.

A thermal camera also saves inspection time. Scanning large areas with many components using a spot pyrometer is a very time consuming task whereas, with a camera, a single image is often all that is needed. Also, thanks to their advanced optics, thermal cameras can resolve temperatures from further away and with a greater degree of accuracy.

By comparison, for a pyrometer to maintain its accuracy, very close attention must be paid to its spot size in relation to the size of the target; the smaller the target, the closer the camera needs to be to that target to ensure the spot size covers it entirely. If the target is smaller than the spot size, the detector will take in radiation from the object’s surroundings, potentially compromising accuracy.

Recent developments have taken the scope of temperature measurement even further. Maintenance engineers no longer have to choose between a spot pyrometer and a thermal imaging camera, they now also have the option of an imaging thermometer. The development of a micro thermal imaging core has allowed the benefits of spot measurement and radiometric imaging to be combined so engineers can have both technologies instantly available for fast and effective troubleshooting.

Indeed, the introduction of the micro-core is paving the way for a range of combined technologies – watch this space.

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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