Thermography – taking pictures of heat sources using an infrared (IR) camera – is a powerful tool for diagnosing problems in equipment, detecting sources of heat loss and more. While IR cameras are becoming much cheaper and more sophisticated (see also https://is.gd/okocow), operators still need training to get the best out of the equipment and to interpret what it says.
Micky Jackson of East Sussex consultancy and training provider Baseline-RTS says that thermography training is useful in many contexts, from “a design engineer looking at circuit boards, to veterinary medicine, to somebody running a production line,” and that there is more and more emphasis on domestic and building applications. In fact, he adds, a training course is essential for “anyone who’s even thought about using a thermal imaging camera”.
While Jackson says that anybody can get some useful information from an IR camera, “it’s all down to the measurements,” and that training is vital for this aspect. “There are so many variables, and for example a lot of people don’t appreciate emissivity. If you don’t understand the variation of emissivity with angle or the relevance of distance and field of view, you can make mis-diagnoses.”
Of course, you don’t have to do thermographic analysis yourself; there is a small army of specialists equipped and trained to do this, and one consultancy is TI Thermal Imaging, based in Dorking. Its inspections are undertaken by ‘Level II-III engineers with electrical qualifications and extensive building application experience’. In this case, Level II-III corresponds to the category two and three training programmes set out by Infrared Training Centre (ITC), which have become a de facto standard in the thermography industry. ITC is a US-based operator that provides training and support around the world; although it is the training and consulting division of thermal camera manufacturer Flir Systems, ITC says ‘courses are designed to be vendor neutral’.It has a UK operation, as well as training partner companies, including AVT Reliability, Warwick Test Supplies and PASS Electrical Training Academy.
ITC specifies three levels of training certification (category one, two and three), which are offered by itself, its training partners and other training providers. It is important to note that most ‘Introduction to Thermography’ courses, which take one or two days, do not correspond to the category one certificate.
Most category one courses take four or five full days, and involve some lab-based practical work, as well as theoretical study. ITC says that ‘familiarity with the basic operation of an infrared camera’ is a prerequisite, and that after taking this course, the participant ‘will be able to undertake infrared inspections following written guidelines and to report the results of this inspection’. A four-day course typically costs around £1,500-1,700 ex-VAT.
Micky Jackson of Baseline-RTS says the ITC-based courses are “fantastic” and that category two is his favourite; it “takes a lot of what is in category one and almost flips it around”. This is a 40-hour course that requires a valid category one certificate, and attendees must present a brief case study. The course includes more theory than category one, and ITC says that the successful participant ‘is able to provide guidance to category one personnel in the areas of equipment selection, techniques, limitations, data analysis, corrective action and reporting’. Both category one and category two courses comply with the ISO 18436-7 standard.
Category three is only open to those who have achieved a category two certificate; according to PASS, it will ‘teach thermographers how to establish and manage a successful thermography programme in various applications and different industries’. Unlike the lower levels, it complies with the ANSI/ASNT standards CP-105 and CP-189.
ITC says that its training certification expires by default after five years, and to be eligible for renewal ‘you must either use your IR camera for at least 25% of your work, publish a paper on thermography, or attend another training or ITC conference within those five years. You must submit a form alongside paying a recertification fee. After 10 years, you will have to retake the respective exam again or take the exam of a higher level’.
Some training providers offer on-site introductory courses. Baseline-RTS, for example, has a one-day introduction course and a two-day implementation course; these can be tailored to specific applications, and the firm offers follow-up support to help maintain good practice. It will also add on-site help with establishing initial baseline measurements – particularly useful in preventive maintenance.
Many training providers also offer industry-specific courses; PASS, for example, does a two-day ‘Introduction to Building Thermography’ programme for beginners. iRed Academy offers its own BINDT (British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing) accredited level one and level two thermography courses, with optional BINDT certification for those who pass. It also offers specialised variants of the courses, such as a five-day drone thermal imaging course that includes the level one training, and a level two electromechanical thermal imaging course for fault-finding and condition monitoring.
At a more specialist level, Infrared Training runs a four-day air tightness testing course, and a three or four day follow-up level two ATT course; due to the specialist equipment required, these courses are based at its own premises. The level two course also requires students to undertake three practical on-site air tightness tests, and to submits these reports and calculations for review.
Conversely, the US-based Snell Group offers some training as online courses, live webcasts or on-demand webinars, including specialist courses in topics such as ‘Inspecting In-Plant Electrical Systems’, ‘Electrical Control Panel Inspections’ and ‘Infrared for Building Applications’.
Whatever training scheme you opt for, be sure that it is relevant to your specific requirements, or if it is a more general course, that the provider can prove that it complies with industry standards and permits progress to higher levels.
BOX OUT: IR training contacts:
This is a short sample list of training providers. More can be found online.
BOX OUT: Industry standards
The most obviously relevant standard in this field is ISO 18436, ‘Condition monitoring and diagnostics of machines – Requirements for qualification and assessment of personnel’; more specifically, part seven of the standard (ISO18436-7:2014) which covers thermography (www.is.gd/ohobax).
Parts one and three of the standard are also mentioned in the description of some courses, but these are more general provisions: Part one (ISO 18436-1:2012) covers assessment bodies and the assessment process, while part three (ISO 18436-3:2012) specifies requirements for training bodies and the training process.
BINDT oversees some of the training certification in the UK. For example, AVT Reliability describes itself as ‘an authorised training organisation for BINDT, as per the requirements of ISO 18436’. BINDT also publishes an infrared thermography handbook in two volumes: ‘Principles and Practice’ and ‘Applications’.
The American Society for Non-destructive Testing (ASNT) says that it ‘does not publish standards that describe how to perform NDT tasks’ but it sets compliance standards, such as ANSI/ASNT CP-106, ‘Non-destructive Testing – Qualification and Certification of Personnel’ (www.is.gd/ukakom).