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FLIR T640 thermal imaging camera

Traditionally, the maintenance of cladded building facades has always relied on manual inspection and labour, the cost of which is exacerbated by the installation of scaffolding and lift systems. Cladding materials range widely from plaster and stone to marble tiles and wood, but all can detach from the façade through weathering and ageing and become a public safety concern.

For one building inspection company, however, this work is now undertaken quicker and more effectively thanks to FLIR thermal imaging. Darkwave Thermo has many years’ experience in this type of inspection and especially with buildings of significant cultural and historical value.  While traditional methods may still be viable for a few, smaller buildings those that are large and complex are particularly good candidates for thermal inspection.

Darkwave currently uses its FLIR T640 for this purpose. This is a high-performance camera with on-board 5MP visual camera, interchangeable lens options with autofocus and a tiltable viewfinder, that is characteristic of this series. MSX adds visible spectrum definition to IR images in real time enabling Darkwave’s thermographers to instantly recognise problem locations.

Under the correct inspection conditions, the FLIR T640 can easily and clearly highlight the surfaces subject to detachment for Darkwave Thermo. As the temperature difference is relatively subtle, the high thermal sensitivity of the FLIR T640 (<.035°C at 30°C) is essential to the success of this application, as is the camera’s ability to provide clear thermal images over a distance. Its acceptance of a wide range of interchangeable lenses is also important.

Another FLIR T-Series software feature is Panorama, which allows a series of IR images to be built up into a single composite image. An on-screen grid allows images to be dragged, dropped and overlayed into the composite JPEG and every pixel on the image is transferred with its own radiometric data.

For Darkwave Thermo, thermal imaging has proved especially useful in inspections requisitioned to support legal cases where destructive tests are not allowed. In a similar vein, it is also a suitable alternative for heritage buildings where the intricate fabric has high historical value.

“Ancillary tests that we routinely carry out during our thermal inspections have always confirmed the quality of our analyses,” said Luca Del Nero of Darkwave Thermo. “Thermal imaging is now our primary technique to assess the status of façades, the extent of the problem, and to show us where to perform detachments tests.”

He added: “Today, especially in urban areas that require flexibility and speed of execution and where setting up an inspection platform requires permits and involves prohibitive costs, thermal imaging is the most flexible and reliable option.”

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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