Oh snap!05 February 2020

OE’s editor and thermal camera novice Adam Offord visited Flir Systems to test its product range and user-friendliness

When it comes to industrial inspection and maintenance, personnel will typically have a range of equipment and software at their disposal, depending on the job at hand. Thermal imaging cameras may be one of those items, helping to monitor and diagnose problems. Items of plant or building systems, for example, generate heat, and thermal imaging cameras can observe that heat to identify issues, such as energy loss, damp (see https://is.gd/awedow), and machine misfire or overheating.

OE travelled to Flir Systems’ West Malling facility in Kent in January where Infrared Training Centre (ITC) manager Jon Willis, who has been at the company for nearly 20 years, spoke about five different devices – the Flir One Pro, C2, E8-XT, E95 and T840 (details on each device below). (Note: Thermal imaging devices are also available from other manufacturers, including Fluke, Satir and Seek Thermal).

As someone that had never touched a thermal imaging camera before, the author was keen to test the devices’ user-friendliness on a demonstration unit.

However, it became clear during the visit that all of them – regardless of their price, specifications and features – were as user-friendly as each other. The user interface of each device was responsive, giving access to different functions and settings, such as colour palettes and image history. The interface of the Flir One is simply that of a smartphone, while the interface of the other devices share similarities.

The cameras were also easy to hold, despite their ranging weight and size differences. Image quality and additional features were obviously different across the range because they’re all aimed at different markets, but each device was simplistic enough to understand and use effectively.

It is also worth noting the built-in MSX (Multi-Spectral Dynamic Imaging), a technology that enhances the clarity of thermal images by adding in visual details in real time.

As Willis pointed out, “anyone can take an image”, but it’s what you do with it and how you interpret it afterwards that counts.

And that is where the difficulty of thermal imaging lies. Not with the physical camera devices or their usability, but with the interpretation of the infrared images afterwards. Willis explained more, via Flir Tools, a thermal analysis and reporting software that allows users to import, edit, and analyse images, and turn them into PDF inspection reports. Within the software, users can thermally tune levels, change colour palettes, and adjust parameters, among other options.

“We’ve got things like emissivity, reflected temperature, distance and atmospheric temperature,” he said. “All of these parameters really relate to what we are looking at and the environment that our target is in, and it is up to the person using the camera to set these parameters. So, this is where the scientific side of the training comes in.” Emissivity, for example, is the efficiency with which an object emits infrared radiation, compared to a perfect emitter (or a so-called blackbody, which has an emissivity value of 1). It is important to set the right emissivity value, or the temperature measurements will be incorrect.

So, taking thermal images is the easy bit. The analysing of those images and understanding the different terminologies thereafter is the tricky part and that is where thermography training can help users out. Visit https://is.gd/guseje to find out more about the range of infrared training courses on the market.

Adam Offord

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