This is what you've been waiting for
Just like computers, thermal imagers are in the fast lane of technology development. Imagers are getting better very quickly, and the price is dropping at the same time. That means consumers continue to get more tool for less money.
Case in point: The new Fluke Ti25 and Ti10 thermal imagers. Designed specifically for electro-mechanical maintenance and troubleshooting, these imagers benefit from three years of Fluke technical and customer research. Here are the best parts:
Finding problems thermally
Thermal imaging is a non-contact technology that measures infrared energy to determine temperatures from a safe distance. A thermal imager displays an image that uses different colors to represent different temperatures. This thermal image makes it easy to visually check surface temperatures and identify hot spots.
When equipment starts to fail, the operating temperature of the failing components usually rises significantly, making them detectable as a hot spots. If you're trying to troubleshoot a problem, a thermal image can often get you to the source faster than any other measurement. And then after you make a repair, you can scan the same spot with the imager and verify that your fix really did solve the problem.
In particular, the Fluke thermal imagers use a combined thermal-visible picture on the imager screen (IR-Fusion®) that makes it very easy to identify problem areas. Older thermal images were often hard to interpret, especially if they featured operating equipment that was hot by nature. With a blended thermal-visible image, you can easily connect the hot spot with the exact component or location.
Best electrical and mechanical applications
Classic applications for thermal imagery include motors, drives, engines, pumps, heat exchangers, electric motor bearings and windings, belts and drive shafts, 3 phase power distribution, electrical panels and fuse boxes, cables and connectors, controllers capacitors, transformers, battery banks, switch gear, power lines, and UPS systems.
Likewise, here are some of the electrical problems that appear as hot spots: unbalanced loads, harmonics (like the 3rd harmonic current in neutral), overloaded systems/excessive current, loose or corroded connections with increased resistance, insulation failure, component failure, wiring mistakes, underspecified components.
In electro-mechanical systems, you can often find: bad cooling due to reduced airflow, power quality problems like unbalance, overload or 5th harmonic voltage, bad alignment, insulation problems with motor windings, and bearing problems, such as lubrication, wear, and so on.
In mechanical systems, you should also be able to detect friction due to wear, misalignment, or inadequate lubrication. The old rule of thumb is that for each 10° C (18° F) rise over the maximum rated temperature, approximately half the life of a motor is lost due to insulation failure.
If you're not already using a thermal imager in your troubleshooting and maintenance work today, now might be the time to consider adding one to your toolkit. Not only will they help you fix problems faster, but the thermal images will help you better explain problems (and justify the repair costs) to clients and management. The price is now right.