Measuring essential temperatures: FLIR Systems Australia

With a commitment to corporate responsibility, FLIR Systems Australia will prioritise the delivery of its new line of thermal imaging cameras to operators responding to COVID-19.

In the wake of COVID-19, industry consensus is clear: waste management is an essential service.

While legislative recognition is still a matter of debate, waste management operators across the country are committed to maintaining their services for councils, businesses and the wider community in challenging times.

Despite the altruism of this commitment, individuals working in the waste management space, much like their medical and food service counterparts, are having to forego self-isolation.

As such, Sean Towner, FLIR Systems Australia Sales Manager Instruments, says it’s now more important than ever to prioritise appropriate health and safety monitoring.

He adds that by doing so, businesses can protect their workers and stave off potential operational disruptions.

“Like all businesses, FLIR have had to adjust our operations in light of the current COVID-19 situation. That said, we also felt it paramount to use our technological innovation expertise to help the international community adapt,” Sean says.

The result, he explains, is FLIR’s A400/A700 Thermal Smart Sensor and Thermal Image Streaming fixed camera – launched 31 March this year.

“FLIR’s thermal imaging technology has been used in waste facilities across the globe for fire prevention for over 40 years. From warehouses to recycling sites and waste to energy facilities, FLIR understands that protecting one’s site from damage is integral to keeping insurance premiums down,” Sean says.

“With the new A400/A700 line, we’ve built upon that existing technology to provide an efficient screening solution for monitoring equipment, production lines, critical infrastructure, and importantly, skin temperatures.”

The highly configurable smart camera systems provide accurate, non-contact temperature monitoring across a wide range of disciplines including waste management, emissions monitoring, facility maintenance and environmental, health and safety regulation.

According to Sean, delivery of the FLIR A400/A700 Thermal Smart Sensor solution will be initially prioritised for operators and companies responding to COVID-19.

“As the world works together to face the global COVID-19 pandemic, FLIR will prioritise initial deliveries of this new A-series camera to professionals using it in elevated skin temperature screening, as an adjunct to other elevated body temperature screening tools to help to fight the spread of the virus,” he says.

With multi-image streaming, edge computing and Wi-Fi connectivity, Sean says the range can help speed up data flow. This, he adds, improves productivity and safety for all operations and applications.

“FLIR designed the A400/A700 cameras with two configurations to better meet application-specific needs,” Sean says.

“The Thermal Smart Sensor configuration, recommended for measuring elevated skin temperatures, incorporates advanced measurement tools and alarms with edge computing to enable faster critical decision making.”

Furthermore, the Image Streaming configuration provides multiple thermal streaming capabilities to help optimise process control, improve quality assurance or identify potential failures that could shut down facility operations.

“Users can design their systems by choosing either the Smart Sensor or Imaging Streaming configurations, selecting either the A400 or A700 camera body based on the resolutions they need, and then adding lenses and a range of optional features to fit their application,” Sean says.

The smart sensor range also includes options to adjust measurements and alarms based on a reference temperature source, with advance image quality up to 307,200 pixels and a measurement accuracy of +/- 2°C.

Sean adds that with multiple field-of-view choices, multi-streaming capabilities, motorised focus control and optional compressed radiometric streaming over Wi-Fi, FLIR’s fixed-mount camera solutions can tackle complex remote monitoring objectives.

“The camera’s remote monitoring capabilities are an added value when considering how many people are currently working from home,” he says.

“Easy configuration also allows operators to tailor the monitoring system to their company’s quality, productivity, maintenance and safety needs.”

Through compressed radiometric streaming that cuts bandwidth, Sean says FLIR’s thermal streaming solution makes it possible to add multiple cameras without the cost of expanding infrastructure.

He adds that this is a significant advantage in light of current global economic challenges.

“Regardless of external circumstances, waste management operators are committed to getting the job done. This means it’s crucial we ensure both the personal health and wellbeing of operators and the maintenance and efficiency of their equipment,” he says.

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Painting thermal pictures

While the human eye can detect electromagnetic radiation in the visible light spectrum, all other forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as infrared, are invisible.

Discovered in 1800 by astronomer Frederick William Herschel, infrared radiation lies between the visible and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The primary source of infrared radiation is heat, or in the case of water and wastewater applications, abnormal pump and electrical device conditions.

To identify these problems, Leong Au, CBC Service Technician, says water and wastewater operators rely on thermal imaging cameras to record radiation intensity. He adds that by highlighting potential problems before they arise, radiation detection serves as predicative maintenance.

“Thermal imaging has evolved into one of the most valuable diagnostic tools for predictive maintenance in the water and wastewater sectors, facilitating increased reliability and critical asset uptimes,” Leong says.

“By detecting anomalies often invisible to the naked eye, thermography allows corrective action to be taken before costly system failures occur.”

Infrared thermography is the art of transforming an infrared image into a radiometric one, which allows temperature values to be read from the picture.

“Every pixel in the radiometric image is in fact a temperature measurement. In order to read this, complex algorithms are incorporated into thermal imaging cameras, which makes them a crucial tool for electrical and mechanical water applications,” he says.

To facilitate predictive maintenance for their clients, Leong says CBC, in partnership with leading thermal imaging camera design and manufacturing company FLIR, offer a full range of thermology cameras suited to the water industry.

He adds that due to CBC’s fully accessible range of stock, cameras can be purchased on demand and delivered at lighting quick speeds.

FLIR thermal cameras are able to identify unstable connections between main electrical cables, highlighting which phases are operating at higher temperatures.

“Infrared technology provides thermal images of temperature differentials within the detection field. It is then reliant on a human understanding of the image to determine the presence of faults, which is why it’s important to work with qualified technicians,” he says.

Leong adds that it is common practice for insurance companies to require 6-12 months’ worth of external audits on all electrical panels in water applications. As such, operators require consistent monitoring.

“When dealing with mechanical systems at water treatment plants, infrared images can detect problems such as bearings running at high temperatures. This is often the fault of misalignment or a lack of lubrication, both relatively easy fixes that can prevent further corrosion or even explosion,” Leong says.

According to Steven Blott, FLIR Systems Country Manager Instruments, FLIR’s partnership with CBC began in 2010.

“When the price of thermal cameras went down, interest went up, which meant we needed to work with out-of-house distributors to match demand,” Steven explains.

“FLIR engaged CBC because we knew they had the customer focused mentality and technical abilities required to positively represent and distribute our products.”

When an operator doesn’t take a thermal photograph correctly, for example not focusing the lens or using the correct temperature scale, the resulting picture will be inaccurate.

“Whoever said a picture paints a thousand words was absolutely correct. The image has to tell a thermal story of what’s going on with internal machinery and water pumps. If not, the problem is going to persist, costing clients time and money,” Steven says.

Following initial engagement, FLIR worked with CBC to train technicians in level one thermology. From there, in addition to being a product they supply, FLIR cameras became a core component of CBC’s maintenance kit.

According to Steven, working with an organisation like CBC is highly valuable because while operators can buy cameras outright online, there is no back-up support when issues arise.

“Without local support, operators are unable to simply pick up the phone when they have issues,” he says.

“Additionally, if they have to ship their camera overseas for diagnostics, they lose the ability to apply predictive maintenance for an extended period of time, which can have dire consequences when dealing with water and electricity.”

Alternatively, CBC and FLIR offer a complete package, with after-sales support, servicing and ongoing diagnostic assistance.

“CBC is focused on bringing qualified, experienced and technically savvy personnel together within our engineering services team and across the organisation on a broader scale,” Leong says.

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