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Diagnostic Technology: Thermal Imaging Cameras and Beyond
Preventive maintenance programs have long been recognized as the key to efficient and reliable operations. While computerized maintenance management systems have assisted engineering and maintenance managers in developing these programs, technicians frequently have lacked the needed tools for effective implementation.
That situation has changed in recent years, thanks to the development of a range of handheld diagnostic and monitoring equipment – including thermal imaging cameras – that is relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
One of the easiest to use and most valuable monitoring tools is the non-contact temperature monitor. Technicians can use these units to identify temperature variations in equipment, electrical systems, heat-transfer surfaces, and structures. Some units also can produce a digital readout or a thermal image.
Technicians can use the temperature monitor and thermal imaging cameras to detect a number of developing maintenance problems. They can clearly identify loose, dirty and corroded connections as hot spots, either in the image or the temperature reading. Worn bearings in motors also show up as hot spots. Dirty or plugged areas in heat-transfer surfaces show up as unusually hot or cold areas. By identifying these developing problems, maintenance technicians can take corrective action before the problems result in costly equipment failures.
Thermal Imaging Cameras for Motor Testing
The cost of system downtime has resulted in the need to identify developing electrical problems in motors before failures occur. While test equipment for motors has been available for years, only recently have advances in computerization resulted in lower costs and greater capabilities.
Today, equipment is available for energized and de-energized testing to evaluate motor condition. By performing these tests, technicians can identify developing problems and schedule service outages or install replacement units before a failure occurs and interrupts service.
Managers have a range of test equipment for motor testing from which to choose, depending on the application. Hand-held, infrared temperature sensors and thermal imaging cameras can help identify bearings that are overheating and loose electrical connections. Technicians can use portable analyzers to identify misaligned motor drives, loose or worn couplings, and worn bearings.