Condition Monitoring of Machinery with Infrared Thermography
Many of the larger multinational firms involved in manufacturing or processing are investing in Thermal Imaging equipment and training staff as Thermographers for "condition monitoring", i.e. monitoring equipment and plant on a constant basis to help to highlight likely equipment and plant problems in the infancy of the problem.
This helps to enable them to avoid serious or “shut down” occurrences. It also drastically reduces the time frame required to fix any problems discovered.
Using Thermal Imaging for predictive maintenance allows the company to run plant and equipment that is working normally i.e. without any problems. There are many advantages to using Thermal Imaging for condition monitoring, because the thermographer can see clearly when there is a problem, or an anomaly as those in the trade call them; it drastically reduces the time spent by personnel seeking out the problems or anomalies using traditional and now dated methods.
With Thermal Imaging their labours can now be concentrated on fixing the problems or anomalies discovered.
While the camera can highlight plant or equipment that is faulty or in need of repair, it can also be used to highlight plant or equipment that normally would be replaced on routine maintenance schedules that is in fact working normally with no defects.
Discovering problems before they actually manifest themselves dramatically reduces “shut downs” and equipment and plant damage; this has a knock on or flip side effect which results in increased operation time of plants, which increases production and ultimately leads to better bottom line figures.
While this is all positive for Thermal Imaging it can often be difficult to convince management that it is worthwhile investing in a Thermal Imaging programme.
To start they need to provide intelligent, technically minded staff to act as Thermographers. Then they have to invest in the Thermal Imaging camera itself; for a good Thermal Imaging camera from a reputable manufacturer for condition monitoring they could expect to pay upwards of thirty five to forty thousand euro. Along with this, a good condition monitoring program will take time to develop. It can also be difficult to highlight to the financial guys the vital importance of quality training. A Thermal Imaging camera is only as good as it’s operator. Often times Thermal Imaging system procedures for condition monitoring throw up curve balls for financial guys, to start with maintenance costs and parts may escalate due to the many new problems discovered. However once the system has been in place for a while these costs will drastically reduce and production will increase. All in all a good Thermal Imaging programme for condition monitoring proves to be invaluable in the long run.