If we talk about infrared cameras, maybe you immediately think of a blue image, with some coloured dots in the middle: yellow, orange, red. You probably imagine that these types of cameras are used to secure buildings, search for lost people in the middle of nature reserves with drones, and other scenes straight out of a TV series. What could this have to do with maintenance?
In reality, everything you are imagining is real. Search teams use infrared drones to look for lost people in natural parks, for example. But infrared thermography is also extremely useful in condition-based maintenance and predictive maintenance. In this article, we’ll cover all the frequently asked questions about thermography: what it is, what the benefits are, where you can use it, when, how, and what you can expect from your investment. Shall we get to it?
What is infrared thermography?
Infrared thermography detects the thermal energy emitted by objects using infrared cameras. The thermal image shows the spectrum of wavelengths, which allows the temperature to be measured at a distance with accuracy and speed. Given these characteristics, infrared thermography is a tool with a lot of potential in maintenance, especially in predictive maintenance.
Advantages of thermography
Thermography has several advantages both as a condition-based monitoring method and in predictive maintenance. Unusual readings require more careful inspection to detect the source of the problem and prevent more serious breakdowns.
- Overheating causes machines to use more energy and wear out faster. Therefore, detecting the problem as soon as possible reduces energy costs and increases asset life.
- Electrical problems can cause unplanned downtime and irreversible damage to equipment. Hence, like other predictive maintenance tools, it reduces reactive maintenance costs and increases uptime.
- Unlike other maintenance tools, thermography is non-invasive and non-destructive. You can monitor equipment while it is still running and analyse a large area at once.
- Finally, the thermography images can be stored in the cloud for future reference. This makes it easy to create records, track asset performance over time, and understand trends.
Where: which installations justify the investment in thermography?
Which companies benefit most from predictive maintenance using thermography? Is your company one of them? It all depends on your asset portfolio. These are the installations where thermography can be a valuable tool:
- energy-intensive infrastructures;
- factories and facilities with heavy equipment;
- buildings with large electrical circuits.
When: what signs indicate that you need to have an infrared inspection?
Even if you do not use thermography systematically, there are several situations that justify the use of thermography in maintenance. Here are 7 occasions when you should consider using an infrared scanner to monitor the condition of your equipment:
- you have noticed an increase in energy expenditure, even though you haven’t changed the equipment;
- you have recently had repairs or renovations and your energy costs have increased;
- you have bought new equipment that consumes a lot of energy;
- the equipment is “slower” or shows another change in performance;
- the equipment is heating up more than usual;
- you notice power surges in the circuit;
- you notice difficulty in having all equipment turned on to its full capacity (for example, the lights dim when you turn on a piece of equipment).
How: what are the applications of thermography/infrared in predictive maintenance?
Thermography has several applications. However, the main ones are in electrical, electromechanical, and mechanical systems. These are some specific applications of infrared cameras in predictive maintenance:
- identifying overheated zones and overcurrent points in connections;
- detecting leaks in pipes and tubes, even if they are embedded;
- failures in the insulation of pipes, tubes, or cooling chambers;
- fuses working at their maximum capacity (or almost);
- problems in motor bearings;
- discover misalignments and imbalances;
- compressor problems.
Who: Which technicians can perform measurements with infrared cameras?
Technicians who handle thermal cameras and infrared equipment must have specialised training and wear personal protective equipment. If you do not have technicians in your team with this training, or if you do not want to invest in this type of training, you can outsource.
Why: is predictive maintenance worth the investment?
We explore this question in more detail in our article “Is Predictive Maintenance really cost-effective?“. There are several reports that demonstrate the positive impact of predictive maintenance on businesses. Benefits include reduced maintenance costs, increased uptime, and asset life extension as well as decreased safety and quality risks. Regarding thermography in specific, some studies suggest that:
- return on investment is 10 times the initial investment;
- maintenance costs are reduced by up to 30%;
- there is a 20-25% increase in output.
Throughout this article, we have explained the various applications of infrared thermography in maintenance, its benefits, and the return you can expect on investment. But whatever you decide, we want to remind you that an intelligent maintenance management platform streamlines your operations and improves your productivity. Talk to one of our experts to see how it works!