Infrared thermography: advances and applications

Photo: Jim Seffrin

Jim Seffrin, Director, Infraspection Institute

Jim Seffrin, a Level III Certified Infrared Thermographer, presented an instructional and entertaining talk at the ISA Philadelphia Section’s May 11th meeting at Ives Equipment in King of Prussia, PA.

The presentation discussed advances and applications of infrared thermography, with an emphasis on applications. Advances over the past decades have occurred in dramatic price reductions for imaging devices along with improvements in resolution.

Seffrin noted that thermography is limited only to surface phenonena or materials that infrared radiation can penetrate. He also cautioned that it represents a qualitative measure of faults creating heat, or cooling where heat is expected.

While it’s extremely sensitive to small variations in temperature, it does not reveal fault causes. Infrared themography essentially exposes abnormalities that require investigation.

He said that these techniques can be useful in preventive and predictive maintenance, condition monitoring, research & development, and process monitoring and control. While they may improve performance and produce savings in the long run, the techniques require manpower to monitor images as well as to interpret and report results.

Quality assurance inspection

He also said that infrared thermographers require a relatively high degree of training to correctly interpret the infrared images.

The Infraspection Institute provides certifications for three levels of training and experience. It covers development of expertise in commercial, industrial, and residential applications.

Much of Seffrin’s presentation provided examples of infrared images revealing abnormalities associated with industrial and commercial equipment and structures.

The inspection technique finds uses in electrical distribution (e.g. loose connections under load), mechanical systems (heat buildup), structures (moisture penetration), petroleum refining (hot spots), bottling (improper filling), and defective rotating equipment (misalignments).


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