Maintaining Industrial Equipment: Thermal Imagers
Thermal imaging systems are an important tool for determining heat transfer and changes in temperature. New, inexpensive thermal cameras and imagers detect infrared radiation emitted from an object – in other words, heat – and relate that to an understandable image. Abnormal patterns of heat cannot be seen with the naked eye. Also, we often cannot get close enough to a subject to sense any differences. This all means that thermal imaging can be a big help for companies reliant on rotating equipment.
How Do These Thermal Systems Work?
Thermal cameras turn these heat signals into visual images that we can understand. The image shows a piece of machinery in colors that represent the heat produced. Some will be cold and blue; others will be warm and red, and there are bright while areas of extreme heat.
The key to understanding a problem with these images comes in knowing the difference between a normal and abnormal color for a particular area. Some will automatically be hotter because they are rotating and creating energy. However, there will be tonnes that are too hot and indicate a problem. The more sensitive the system, the better the chance of detecting faults.
Why Is This So Important In Major Industry?
Abnormal heat signatures are often the sign of a piece of machinery that is malfunctioning. Often there is too much friction being generated between bearing and couplings on a rotating system, and this leads to heat.
This friction is the sign of a machine that isn’t performing smoothly and has developed a fault. Undetected faults could then develop into a much larger problem that is more difficult to fix and potentially more dangerous for those involved.
This use of thermal imagers can be used to great effect in some areas. These include overloaded electrical systems, blocked fluid systems, poor insulation in low slope roofs and a range of mechanical systems.
It can be difficult to detect problems in rotating equipment, pumps and motors without the use of these thermal cameras.
Using Thermal Cameras For Predictive Maintenance In Rotating Equipment
There is the chance that companies are already aware that there is something wrong with their rotating systems and simply need to locate the cause. Thermal imaging is the best option because it helps to highlight problem areas. Motors and pumps are complex devices.
It can take just one small error in one small element to start a chain reaction of issues. Technicians that locate that small starting point through an abnormal heat signature can diagnose the problem more easily. The most significant benefit of thermal imagers, however, is predictive maintenance.
This means regularly checking equipment to spot any abnormalities before they become a problem. A high-end thermal camera system can provide detailed images of the area and store previous data for comparisons.
Why Is This Predictive Maintenance So Important For Companies?
The importance of these thermal images in this industry cannot be over-emphasized because of the impact that these finding can have. It pays to identify issues as soon as possible to be sure of low-cost maintenance, efficient repairs, and worker safety.
One overheated element can be located, repaired or replaced with minimal cost or time lost. It is much easier to lubricate an overheating bearing if it caught early than to replace it when it breaks.
Problems that are left to build can spread and cause further problems. The machinery could become slower and less efficient, decreasing the effectiveness of the operation. These rotating parts also could become damaged further, leading to more difficult and more costly repairs.
There is also the issue of the longevity of the equipment. Rotating equipment in pumps and motors is specialized and costly. Companies do not want to be replacing systems if it can be avoided.
Thermal Imaging Predictive Maintenance Is Worth The Effort And Training
It can take the time to gain enough experience with these machines and their heat signatures to determine problems. Users need to understand radiometry, heat transfer and the necessary capabilities of this sophisticated equipment.
Sometimes the changes can be subtle signs of a developing problem, and they may not show up to the untrained eye. However, experienced users will spot the anomalies with ease. These images are therefore an important investment for saving time and money and potentially keeping workers safe.