Introduction to Thermal Cameras

Introduction to Thermal Cameras

The roots of thermography go all the way back to the year 1800 when a German astronomer by the name of Sir William Herschel performed various experiments with light. Herschel had an idea to hold a prism up and let the sunlight filter through. As you know, a prism will emit various colors of light depending on where it hits in the prism. Sir William Herschel had an idea to hold a thermometer to each color of light coming out of the prism. At different colors, the temperature displayed on the thermometer would change. He then discovered that the temperature would still change even as his thermometer would be moved past the red color. Herschel referred to this as “dark heat”. This explains the origin of the word “infrared” which translates to “past red”. That thing that is first done is to get it over to them,

Over the years between then and World War II there were several innovations made based from the groundwork that Herschel laid out. When World War II began is when the giant leaps in infrared technology really started to take off. In the 1960s and 1970s is where we started to see infrared cameras being utilized in commercial environments. The military continued their technological advances in the 1970s and thanks to the electronics boom in the 1980’s the prices went down exponentially and the size and form factor of the cameras became a lot more user friendly. By the early to middle 1980’s these cameras were almost becoming commonplace in the medical field, industrial operations and building inspections. Even since that time, the cost compared today to what is was is about 1/10th of the price for a gigantic leap in technological abilities. A benefit just as huge as the technology advances is the fact that most all commercial grade thermographic cameras come with a software to pull your findings and generate a report based on what you found. The pixel count has gone up ten-fold in the last 30 years with most cameras displaying at least 160×120 resolution.

Thermographic cameras are one of the highest returns on investment of any type of equipment in this scope of work. Some users describe using thermal cameras as sort of “seeing the future”. You can tell a bearing needs to be changed before it completely deteriorates, you can see blown fuses before it overloads the circuit, etc. This is a huge advantage because it lets you replace the fault rather than the fault and the aftermath from the fault. The same is to be said with motors and shafts. You can see the shaft out of alignment because it is generating more friction than it should be, you can see the motor running hot because it may be low on lubrication. This allows you to fix the issue rather than the destruction.

Modern cameras today show the image in real-time on an LCD screen placed directly on the unit. The cameras can also store the images so you can process them on your computer to make reports, edit the photos, and even add notes to the images. Today there are even plug and play cameras that plug directly into the charging port on Android or Apple phones and use the screen display to show the images. In the old days, the cameras would assign a number to specific areas of the image to represent the temperature for that area. On the modern LCD screen, those numbers are represented as colors and then shown on the image! It doesn’t seem as though it can get much simpler than we have it today!

JM Test Systems is an authorized distributor of FLIR brand thermal cameras. We can sell them as a new purchase and we offer lots of them in our rental program as well. If you think you should be doing any predictive maintenance, troubleshooting, wasted energy studies or preventative maintenance, the FLIR cameras can simplify your workload and make the job faster, safer and easier for you.  JM Test offers the FLIR T530 in our rental fleet. It weighs in under 3 pounds and boasts 76,000 pixels, 161,472 points of measurement, temperature ranges up to 2192°F and video capabilities as well as photo. The FLIR T530 also ensures crisp thermal imagery and spot-on temperature readings every time with laser assisted autofocus.

You can reach JM Test Systems at 1-800-353-3411 for more information, pricing and availability. Please check back soon for a quick start guide on using the FLIR T530 thermal imaging camera! To view more information or to submit a quote request, that can be found right here!