Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Future of Infrared Cameras

Lyon, France — Initially developed for the military market by US defense companies, use of uncooled infrared (IR) cameras in commercial applications has been growing over the last ten years. In the infrared spectrum, Long Wave Infrared (LWIR) is the most commonly used wavelength (8-12 microns). Thermography and a variety of vision enhancement applications are the main growth markets for uncooled IR cameras.

This camera cost reduction will continue through 2015 in the thermography business and will also be a strong factor in the vision market (also called night vision or vision enhancement) with the growth of the security/surveillance and automotive markets.

Driven by the continued cost reductions, the volumes of cameras sold will triple by 2015 from more than 200,000 cameras today to more than 700,000 units, meaning +23 % annual growth rate. The revenue growth will be about + 9% as market prices for the cameras decrease.
FLIR (US) has been, and remains, the pioneer of uncooled IR cameras with a vertically integrated business model (internal detector production) and a presence in all markets. This domination will be challenged at two levels in the future:

At the camera level: camera manufacturers specialized in each market have strong distribution networks and market presence. In the thermography business, Fluke will take market share from FLIR. In the security/surveillance market, visible camera leaders will enter the IR camera business (Axis, Bosch, Pelco).
At the detector level: new detector suppliers will arrive on the market from the MEMS and semiconductor industry with low cost/high volume product capabilities (Sensonor, Bosch, Faun Infrared…).
One of the major cost components for uncooled IR cameras is the IR detector. Hence, detector cost reduction is one of the major keys to further widespread use of IR cameras.

Microbolometers are the dominant uncooled IR detector technology with more than 95 % of the market in 2010.

Microbolometer manufacturers were few up to now, often owned by camera manufacturers, which limited the cost competition at the detector level. More than 75 % of the production is based in USA, due the original development of the technology by US Defense Department.

This landscape will change in the next five years: many new players (Sensonor, Faun Infrared, Bosch…), focusing only on selling detectors, often in Europe, will enter on the market place with aggressive price strategies.

Vanadium Oxide (VO x), the current dominant microbolometer material, will be challenged by a-Si material and new silicon based materials introduced by new market entrants, thanks to their cost structure, and easier to manufacture.

Detector/Microbolometer product lines are mainly segmented by format from small format (typically 160 x 120) to large format (640 x 480). Price reduction will be huge with –58 % expected between 2010 and 2015 for small format. Larger format will be under less price pressure.

The following technical trends make detector cost reduction possible:

At the packaging level: Wafer Level Packaging and even Pixel Level Packaging will play a huge part in reducing cost, -20 % at least.
At the pixel level: smaller pixel size (17 microns is becoming a standard) will allow smaller detectors.
At the integration level: 3D integration, wafer bonding techniques will allow the production of microbolometers in standard MEMS or CMOS foundries.


Axis Communications, Acreo, Aerius, Agiltron, Argus, e2v, Audi, Autoliv, BAE systems, BMW, Bosch, Automotive, Bosch Security Systems, Bullard, Dali, Chauvin Arnoux, Current Corporation, Dalsa, DAS Photonics, Draeger, DRS technologies, Electro Optic Sensors, EO C, ETH , Extech, GE Security, FocalPlane Santa Barbara, Fraunhofer IMS, Faun Infrared, FLIR, Fluke, GM, Goodrich, Guide Infrared, Honda, Honeywell, Infrared Solutions, INO , Ipht Jena, Invisage, Irisys, ISG , Jenoptik, KTH , L3Com, Leti, MetuMET , Mikrosistemler, Mitsubishi Electric, MSA , Murata, NE C Avio, NTT , Noble Peak Vision, OKS I, Omnivision, Panasonic, Pelco, QinetiQ, Raytheon, Redshift, Sarnoff, Satir, Samsung, Scott, SCD Semiconductors, SensArray Infrared, Sensonor, Silex, Sirica, Sony, Sumitomo Electric, Testo, Thermoteknix Systems, Toshiba, Tyco, Tyndall, Umicore, Ulis, Vigo, Xenics, Ziptronix.

Monday, June 14, 2010

FLIR Still Going Strong Despite Depressing Economy


Recession? What recession? You wouldn't know it from last year's results at Flir, where sales grew 6.5 percent over 2008 and profit was up a healthy 14.6 percent.

Then again, if anyone can ferret out hidden profit opportunities it's probably Flir. The company, which topped last year's ranking, relies on infrared technology. (Infrared, as you recall from high-school physics, is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum beyond visible light.)

Infrared cameras and other imaging systems detect minute temperature differences and can turn them into pictures without relying on external light; that makes them useful for everything from catching drug smugglers to driving in the fog.

Flir's strategy has been to pioneer new applications for infrared, often for the military (government sales account for well over half the company's sales), then pushing unit costs down to broaden the potential market.

Flir also has extended its technology toolbox and product offerings through acquisitions, 11 of them since 2003 and three last year alone. Just last month , Flir spent $180 million to buy Raymarine, a British maker of marine GPS systems — mainly to gain access to more than 1,000 retail outlets for its new hand-held night-vision cameras.

Last year, sales in Flir's government-systems segment were up 15.2 percent, mainly due to higher sales of its very stable platforms for airborne payloads. Commercial vision systems, the division that includes night-vision devices, was up 14.2 percent on broad sales increases across most product lines; but sales in the thermography segment, whose products tend to be costlier, fell 12.8 percent.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Water Ingress - The Complete Picture with Infrared

Business for The Revival Company is the recovery of domestic property and equipment following fire and flood, particularly in the high net worth segment. Its sister company in the Revival Group, Arepa, is focussed on the recovery of technical equipment following a disaster. Scientific, AV and IT equipment as well as manufacturing plant are typical examples. And both companies are now benefiting from the addition of thermography to its range of detection techniques.

The Group bought a FLIR B200 infrared camera eighteen months ago and has since supplemented this initial investment with FLIR BCAM models from the company’s compact range. Thermography is used to complement traditional methods of moisture detection. It allows the quick identification of the point of ingress without intrusion and the target areas requiring particular attention to be highlighted.

“In particular it improves the level of certainty when identifying points and levels of ingress and saves us time and money in the process,” explained Group Technical Manager, Simon Walker.

The company recently investigated a case of water ingress to a substantial holiday villa in Spain that was believed to be the result of a roof leak. Severe damage had resulted throughout the property. Initial reports from the building contractor recommended either repair or replacement of the roof and guttering system.

The Revival Company conducted a thermal imaging survey of all areas using its B200 camera and discovered an unexpected cause. By tracing the passage of water through the fabric of the property, it was able to confirm that the source of ingress was not at high level as originally expected. It identified a moisture bridge from the roof level sun deck beneath the patio doors that allowed water to enter the property during heavy rainfall.

The recommendations made as result of this inspection included the standard drying techniques employed following an event of this nature. Remedial work to the sun deck/property junction was also identified and also the reconfiguration of the drainage system serving this area.

As a result of the FLIR thermal inspection the cost of this work was fractional by comparison with the large scale roof repairs originally envisaged. Furthermore the work could be undertaken with minimal disruption to the owners.

Establishing efficient drying systems after flood is another important application for FLIR infrared at the Revival Group. This includes identifying building defects which would either hamper the drying process or indicate a pre-existing problem. It enables the optimum drying system to be put into effect and for the drying process itself to be tracked and documented visually.

The first step in planning a drying system is to establish the extent of the moisture ingress to the property and the migration of this through various materials. Whilst standard moisture measurement and detection techniques are also used for this purpose, FLIR thermal imaging employed by The Revival Company provides its experienced technicians with a thorough understanding of the extent of the problem, without them having to resort to intrusive testing as a first resort.

Additionally the images provide The Revival Company with a visual representation of the moisture within the property allowing more detailed communication with all parties.

During the drying process, moisture monitoring is carried out using both thermography and standard techniques. The use of thermography provides an immediate indication of the progress of the drying process in various materials. This enables the operator to establish accurate timescale estimates and, if needs be, to reconfigure the drying system to maintain the optimum performance.

Simon Walker concludes, “Thermography is an extremely useful addition to the drying technician’s arsenal of monitoring and measuring equipment. However the correct interpretation of the results by a trained technician is the key to its success.”

Greater sensitivity and image analysis is the strength of the FLIR B200. It has a 2x digital zoom, 9Hz frame refresh and Picture-in-Picture function. This allows the overlay, pan and scale of an infrared image on a visual one and full analysis of the combined image from retained data. This is a particular useful customer service feature for The Revival Group. It makes the task of explaining the water damage problem to a customer so much easier.

Equally valuable for The Revival Group are the humidity and insulation alarms provided by the FLIR B200. These features are ideal for identifying the extent of moisture ingress to premises and can reduce the need to use other time-consuming and more intrusive methods of detection.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Contractors Tout FLIR Camera As Great Tool - Thermal Imaging Getting More Use In Homes

(Re-published from KETV Channel 7 of Omaha, Nebraska)

Law enforcement and the military have been using thermal imaging technology and night vision gear for decades. But now more homeowners are using it to determine the energy efficiency of their home.

A forward-looking infrared radiometer, also known as a FLIR camera, can pinpoint more than just cold and warm air moving through a home. “You can look for termites in the walls. See where they’re colonizing in the walls. You can see HVAC problems, cracked heat exchangers, condenser coils outside where they are clogged,” said David Doerhoff with the FLIR Corporation.

Extremely sensitive cameras pick up just a 10th of a degree in thermal differences. Doerhoff placed his hand on the wall and the device could see the body heat left behind.

More and more contractors are finding the technology to be useful. “We’re able to walk around with the homeowner and show exactly what it looks like within their walls,” said Todd Trevaille with USA Insulation. Trevaille said he’s used the camera on 80 different homes in the metro. He said it allows him to see the problem without doing anything destructive to the home. The Omaha Public Power District also used the cameras to evaluate substations and lines. But, the cameras aren’t cheap. The starting price for a FLIR camera is $3,000.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The FLIR T300 Infrared Camera

The FLIR T300 infrared camera takes high resolution IR images at 76,800 pixels (320 x 240) infrared resolution. The FLIR T300 is also a visible light digital camera with 3.1 MP resolution and a flash, providing sharp images regardless of the lighting conditions.

An added feature of the FLIR T300 is its being equipped with METERLiNK™, an exclusive wireless technology that records essential meter readings at a job site directly onto your infrared images. METERLiNK™ connects your FLIR camera with select Extech meters via Bluetooth, transmitting readings that add value and insight to your infrared inspections and reports, benefiting your business.

The FLIR T300 has a Fusion Picture in Picture (PIP) feature which displays the thermal image super-imposed over a digital image. The video lamp allows the visual camera and fusion to be used in poorly lit environments. The thumbnail image gallery allows for quick search of stored images on the 3.5" touch-screen display. Other features of the FLIR T300 infrared camera include a laser LocatIR ™ Pointer which pinpoints the hot spot on the IR image with the real physical target voice comment recording and SD card storage.

The FLIR T300 has a temperature range measuring from -4 to 1202°F (-20 to 650°C) and a ±2% accuracy. The convenient rotating lens rotates up to 120° providing an easy viewing angle. The FLIR T300 camera also offers interchangeable optics. Optional 6°, 15°, 45°, 90°, Close up: 100, 50, 25┬Ám lenses easily attach to the camera body for greater versatility.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Energy Star Fraud - Beware, Applicable to Homes Too

A new report from the auditing arm of Congress shows that the federal Energy Star program has a sloppy certification process that can be easily abused.

The 18-year-old program, which is administered jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, offers consumers rebates and tax credits on appliances that meet certain standards for energy efficiency.  American consumers, businesses, and federal agencies rely on the Energy Star program to identify products that decrease greenhouse emissions and lower energy costs. Companies use Energy Star certification to market their products to consumers in the hopes they will buy products based on government certification of their energy consumption and costs.

Given the millions of dollars allocated to encourage use of Energy Star products and concerns that the Energy Star program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse, GAO was asked to conduct proactive testing to (1) obtain Energy Star partnership status for bogus companies and (2) submit fictitious products for Energy Star certification. To perform this investigation, GAO used four bogus manufacturing firms and fictitious individuals to apply for Energy Star partnership and submitted 20 fictitious products with fake energy-savings claims for Energy Star certification. GAO also reviewed program documents and interviewed agency officials and officials from agency Inspector General (IG) offices.

But in a report issued today, the Government Accountability Office says its auditors obtained Energy Star certifications for 15 of 20 products it submitted using fictitious companies and individuals. Those certifications led to requests from real companies to buy some products because they had received Energy Star endorsements.

The phony products included a gasoline-powered alarm clock, which was approved by Energy Star without a review of the company web site or questions about the efficiency claimed for it.  Auditors also submitted a geothermal heat pump, which they claimed to be more efficient than any product listed as certified on the Energy Star Web site.  The product was certified and its efficiency data was not questioned. Two bogus products were rejected by the program and 3 did not receive a response. One of the products that an outside company wanted to buy was a computer monitor that had been approved by Energy Star within 30 minutes of submission.

This clearly shows how heavily American consumers rely on the Energy Star brand.

At briefings on GAO's investigation, DOE and EPA officials agreed that the program is currently based on self-certifications by manufacturers. However, officials stated there are after-market tests and self-policing that ensure standards are maintained. GAO did not test or evaluate controls related to products that were already certified and available to the public. In addition, prior DOE IG, EPA IG, and GAO reports have found that current Energy Star controls do not ensure products meet efficiency guidelines.

In 2008 Energy Star reported saving consumers $19 billion dollars on utility costs.  Energy Star is slated to receive about $300 million in federal stimulus money to be used for state rebate programs on energy-efficient products.

Energy Star fraud not only affects products, but your house. Many homes are Energy Star “approved”, while a quick thermal scan can determine whether the house is, in fact, energy efficient. As a licensed home inspector, I have come across many homes that were “Energy Star compliant” but consistently had gaps of missing insulation. Beware of an Energy Star rated home, get an infrared energy audit before investing in a property.

Below are some sample pictures of mine from home inspections of Energy Star approved houses:

Monday, April 19, 2010

President Issues Statement in Press Release on Home Star Program

President Issues Statement on HOME STAR Program

Office of the Press Secretary

April 15, 2010

“Today’s bipartisan Committee vote is an important step forward in our effort to create jobs, save consumers money, and increase energy efficiency. In my State of the Union Address and in the months since, I have called on Congress to pass a program of incentives to homeowners who make their homes more energy efficient. The Home Star legislation approved today would do just that – providing consumers with up-front rebates on investments in things like insulation, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and windows that have been proven to save energy. This proposal is not a Democratic or Republican idea: it’s a common sense strategy to help put Americans back to work while giving American consumers a break. I want to thank the members of Congress from both parties that have worked to support this legislation, as well as their colleagues in the Senate who are working to promote Home Star legislation. I look forward to working with Congress to get this bill to my desk without delay.”

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Home Star" Program to Plug Home Energy Retrofits

(re-published from CNET news, Isaac Savage)

You heard of Cash for Clunkers, get ready for Cash for Caulkers, a proposed multibillion program designed to create jobs and give homeowners lower energy bills.

Representatives from building efficiency advocacy groups on Friday held a “Webinar” to outline the Home Star program–nicknamed Cash for Caulkers–and said that its prospects for becoming a law should be known within several weeks. A Home Star Coalition has been formed, which includes large retailers Home Depot and Lowes, equipment suppliers such as Dow and GE appliances, along with energy-efficiency contractors, labor groups, and environmental advocacy groups.

For homeowners, the proposed legislation provides incentives to weatherize homes, through the the inspection of an energy audit, and upgrade to more efficient lighting or heating and cooling systems. Another part of a comprehensive energy audit is a blower door test, which measures how air tight a home is by measuring air flow at a given air pressure.

It will be structured on two levels; silver and gold – depending on the level of investment made, said Matt Golden, the chair of the EfficiencyFirst advocacy group.

To get up to $2,000 in tax credits for an energy efficiency retrofit, a homeowner needs to do at least two approved improvements and work with contractors that meet certain “basic standards,” said Golden, adding that Home Star is designed to fit with the EPA’s Home Performance EnergyStar standards and state programs.

The gold level involves having a building’s energy “performance” rated by contractors accredited by the Building Performance Institute. The more stringent performance goals, which could reduce a building’s energy consumption of 20 percent, would be eligible for up to $4,000 of tax credits, according to the description on the EfficiencyFirst Web site.

The intent of Home Star is to create jobs in the short term, either through training or creating demand for home efficiency products and services. But given the amount of money being discussed and its standards-based approach, Home Star has the potential to be “transformative” in the building efficiency industry, Golden said. “This is a moment in time where we are going to have a foundation to drive a strong industry,” he said.

President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which includes venture capitalist and green-tech investor John Doerr, has endorsed the plan as it meets economic and environmental goals, Golden noted. There’s also the potential to create demand for green building products. Among some of Home Star Coalition members is Serious Materials, a Silicon Valley company that makes energy-efficiency building products including windows and sheet rock that’s manufactured in a relatively low-polluting way.

Golden cautioned that Home Star is not yet law. But it does have clear support from President Obama, who has touted the benefits of home weatherization many times and called insulation “sexy” during a Home Depot visit last month.

Monday, March 15, 2010

ROI With Infrared

Seeing ROI With Infrared, Even In A Down Economy

by David Doerhoff

The sluggish economy is taking its toll on many areas of industry. Manufacturers are looking for smart, cost-effective ways to help their facilities operate more efficiently and save money without sacrificing product quality and performance.

Infrared (IR) thermography has proven itself to be a valuable tool for predictive maintenance and process monitoring system applications for many industries – even in sub-par economic times.

Infrared thermography is the production of non-contact infrared or heat pictures from which temperature measurements can be made. By detecting anomalies often invisible to the naked eye, thermography allows corrective action to be taken before costly system failures occur. Portable infrared imaging systems scan equipment and structures, then instantly convert the thermal images to visible pictures for quantitative temperature analysis.

Infrared thermography is being used by manufacturers for the predictive maintenance of a wide range of applications, including mechanical systems, electrical systems, and building diagnostics – making it a smart investment for its versatility. Typical mechanical systems monitored in a predictive maintenance infrared program include bearings, motors, pumps, compressors and conveyor idlers. For electrical applications, infrared thermography can detect loose connections, corrosion, and load imbalances.

Manufacturers are seeing favorable ROI with infrared thermography programs as the technology enables them to take corrective action before problems occur – thereby saving money and other resources. Types of savings include: reduced PM inventory because problems are detected early, labor savings by taking immediate corrective action, energy savings – both from making sure that equipment is running optimally and sealing building leaks, decreased downtime, increased production, reduction in waste and scrap parts, quality assurance during the process via real-time process control, and much more. This article provides examples of how IR programs save money, and are justified by their ROI.

Infrared Inspection Economics

During an economic downturn, a knee-jerk reaction in many companies is to cut expenses across the board. When it comes to predictive/preventative maintenance (PPM) activities, the philosophy may be: “We’ve cut production, so the equipment is being used less and we can cut back on PPM.” That’s questionable logic in general, but especially in the case of infrared (IR) inspections, where an immediate payback is possible from increased use of the technology. Even if IR inspections haven’t been part of a PPM program, investing in an IR camera can provide an almost instantaneous ROI.

PPM is like an insurance policy, and insurance companies aren’t known for laying out money needlessly. One of them, CNA Insurance, has made it their business to save their clients (and themselves) a lot of money by making IR inspections an integral part of their services1. CNA performs extensive economic analyses of the savings that can be gained from this activity. A few of its 2008 loss/cost savings estimates appear in Table 1.


Taking corrective action before outright failures occur saves money in many other ways. These include:

• Reduced inventory of maintenance parts
• Labor cost savings by avoiding serious equipment failures
• Energy savings by optimizing equipment operation, and
sealing building leaks
• Savings from decreased downtime (i.e., increased output)
• Reduced waste and scrap parts by improving
equipment operation
• Increased quality and/or production through
real-time process control
• Safer working conditions (i.e., reduced injuries to
maintenance and operating personnel)

Chemical Manufacturing Switch Gear Example

An IR scan of switchgear in a chemical plant spotted a high temperature on the surface of the connection at the A-phase lead of an air compressor circuit (Figure 1, left view,). This temperature was 420.7°F hotter than the maximum temperature of the surrounding area. Using CNA’s criteria, the thermographer identified this as a Critical fault. If that fault had resulted in an arc flash event, or even ‘just’ started a fire that destroyed the switchgear, the facility could have lost 100% of its operations for a week. That was estimated to be worth about $1million, plus tens of thousands of dollars in direct repair costs. Even without such a catastrophic event, the bad connection was costing the company money in excessive energy consumption for every minute of operation.


While on the subject of arc flash, it should be noted that these events quite frequently have catastrophic results. Each year, arc-flash events in the U.S. cause millions of dollars in equipment damage, ghastly injuries, and deaths. When electrical circuits open due to overheating, the fault current that flows across the resulting air gap forms an electric arc plasma (highly ionized gas). This can result in a bright flash, tremendous heat, a high-pressure blast, vaporized metal, and shrapnel traveling at over 700 miles per hour. The strength of the arc depends on the amount of electrical energy available in the circuit that feeds it. It is not uncommon for arc temperature to exceed 35,000°F, and blast pressure to exceed 3000psi.

Low Cost Hydraulic System Fix

Hydraulic systems are another example of equipment that typically heats up to excessive temperatures before failure. This was the case on a transfer line at a diesel engine manufacturer (Figure 2).


Electricians for the cylinder block line were being called repeatedly to this operation to reset high temperature faults on the hydraulic system. All pressures and flows were found to be within specifications. A predictive maintenance team checked the temperature using an IR camera and found that the power unit was operating near its 117°F fault setting, as shown in Figure 2 (top view). Further analysis revealed that the hydraulic system was slightly undersized for this particular application. Subsequently, another gage station had been added to the machine, which increased the system load. Whenever the ambient temperature went high enough during the summer, the high temperature faults would occur.

While this is a rather simple situation, the costs of solving the problem can range from cheap to expensive, depending on circumstances. Upsizing a hydraulic system that works fine 10 months of the year is expensive. So is the purchase of a new chiller unit for the existing system. A trained thermographer on the maintenance team came up with a simple, ingenious, and low cost solution. The thermographer recalled one of the laws of thermodynamics taught in Level I thermography, that is:

The problem was that more energy was stored in the system, indicated by a higher temperature than was desired. So if the energy output rate of the system could be improved, then the temperature would go down. This basically amounted to increasing the heat transfer from the object. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to do this is by increasing the emissivity of the surface of an object. By simply painting the hydraulic power unit and all its piping flat white, the paint increased emissivity, allowing heat to dissipate better, instead of being trapped inside. For the cost of a few cans of spray paint, the temperature of the system was reduced by about 10°F. This was enough to avoid the expensive alternatives, and provided a nice ROI for their IR camera.

Steam and Condensate Line Troubleshooting

Besides the obvious electrical components, power generation stations have a lot of equipment to worry about. One of these stations in the southwest U.S. started noticing worri-some symptoms on one of its steam turbine generators. The first indication was a decrease in electrical load. The control valves were open more than normal, and there was an increase in steam flow to generate the same load as before the problem was noted. Along with these problems, it became apparent that with the increased flow, all of the turbine pressures had also increased, including the condenser backpressure.

As a first step in troubleshooting the problem, infrared thermography of the crossover piping and two sides of the condenser was taken and analyzed. Figure 3 contains three thermograms showing abnormal heat patterns on parts of the turbine condenser. All indications, measurements, and IR imagery pointed to a steam breach in the lower region of the low-pressure (LP) turbine. Because this problem could lead to serious damage, the unit was taken out of service for further inspection and repairs.


The problem identified was that an expansion joint from the #3 extraction to a feed water heater had failed in the LP turbine, causing steam to impinge on the condenser walls, neck and adjacent piping. The failed expansion joint threw shrapnel throughout the condenser neck which pockmarked several other pipes and components. The loose pieces of metal and large volume of steam at 500°F, in a vessel that normally operates at 110°F, could have caused a serious event to occur. Shrapnel from the expansion joint could have also lodged in the condenser tube bundle and caused tube failures immediately, or in the future, due to the vibration and constant abrasion of the pieces of metal against the tubes.

Subsequently, all the expansion joints affected by the failure of the #3 extraction joint were replaced in an effort to avert any other failures. Maintenance personnel observed that had infrared imagery been taken when the turbine was originally installed, this would have provided baseline data for subsequent IR scans. Baseline images allow for more expeditious troubleshooting, and helps spot problems before they become more severe.

Thus early intervention minimizes damage to equipment that can cost millions of dollars to replace or repair. An important lesson here is that baseline IR scans are a tremendous enhancement to IR camera ROI.

IR Thermography Complements Mechanical Diagnostics

Many companies just scan their electrical equipment with IR cameras because they have other technologies to test motors and other rotating machinery. However, using IR scans on mechanical components improves IR camera ROI by capitalizing on one of the strengths of thermography. It can quickly detect temperature differences on mechanical equipment via non-destructive, non-contact temperature measurements (Figure 4). Using handheld IR cameras, thermography is a very fast and efficient method to scan many pieces of equipment quickly, searching for thermal anomalies. With baseline scan records, trend analysis of motors and bearings provide early warning of impending problems.


While thermography may not always point to the root cause of a problem, it does let you know one exists. Thus, it complements ultrasound, vibration, and electrical circuit analysis tools. These are a potent arsenal in the hands of competent technicians. Intelligent use of these tools has a synergistic effect on the ROI on all of your PPM diagnostic equipment.

Justifying the Cost

If you are not already using IR thermography in your PPM operations, the hardest part about starting a program is justifying the cost of the camera, software and training to do the infrared inspections. Naturally, management wants some idea of the program’s ROI. Gathering the data to provide a reasonable estimate can be time consuming, but knowing where to look can help shorten the process. Start by using online searches to look at other companies’ business cases that will provide examples.

Internally, use your company’s computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), which tracks maintenance inventory, work orders, purchasing, etc. Look for details regarding equipment failures, root causes of the failures, and the cost of the completed repairs. If you’re lucky enough to have access to this information, sort all the equipment failures for one year into mechanical and electrical equipment. Just the data on electrical equipment alone can often cost justify a new infrared program.

For instance, total the cost of all the electrical equipment materials. Don’t include the labor cost for the repair, but just the equipment replacement cost. Use the lowest equipment replacement cost when there is a range of costs. Leave off the labor cost to replace the failed equipment since this will offset the labor cost to fix (for example, loose or improper electrical connections on the equipment before it fails). This repair-before-failure category generally involves “disassemble, clean, and retighten to manufacturers’ specifications”, which are relatively inexpensive activities. On average, about two-thirds of electrical equipment failures are due to loose or improper connections that are easily spotted with IR scans. So, multiply the total electrical equipment replacement costs by two-thirds, because you’re finding those bad connections before the components burn up. You may want to factor this down a little if you assume that some of those bad connections won’t be found.

Now ask the following questions: Is the total cost avoidance enough to justify starting an infrared program? Given this cost avoidance total, will an infrared program pay for itself in 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years? (The ROI question). This calculation is extremely conservative, and most importantly, can be verified by the company’s accountant. Remember, this is only a small part of the ROI picture. We have not even considered lost production, downtime, safety or mechanical equipment costs. Even though these other pieces of the ROI puzzle are usually much greater in numbers and totals, they are also less quantifiable, so they are a potential source of disagreement.

If your company does not track equipment failures and replacement costs, or you need additional cost avoidance numbers, look at what preventive maintenance routines your company currently implements. Two preventive maintenance procedures to look closely at are:

1. Tightening all electrical connections once a year (many electrical
connection problems are actually caused by this approach).

2. Periodically replacing equipment before it fails, even if it does
not have a problem (presumably to avoid unplanned outages).

An IR scan program can eliminate or reduce the cost of these pre-emptive PPM activities. Even if your company runs all equipment to failure, IR scans can provide a “heads up” warning on what equipment has a problem or is about to fail, enabling the company to inventory spare parts for when they’re needed.

For established IR programs, be sure to keep a record of cost avoidance and other cost benefits of the program. These should be reported to management at least yearly, preferably ahead of budgeting activities. The savings garnered through the program provide a running tally of its ROI. These numbers are important anytime, but especially so during a business downturn.


1. Gray, Thomas A., “CNA Saves its Clients More Than $80 Million
over 3 Years of IR Surveys from March 2005 through 2008”, in
InfraMation 2008 Proceedings, Volume 9 (ITC 126 A 2008-05-14);
conference of Nov. 3-7, 2008, Reno, NV, available at

2. Hays, Deborah, “In Manufacturing, Little Things Mean a Lot”,
in InfraMation 2008 Proceedings, Volume 9 (ITC 126 A 2008-05-
14); conference of Nov. 3-7, 2008, Reno, NV, available at content.aspx?id=23400.

David Doerhoff is a district sales manager for FLIR Systems, the world leader in the design and manufacture of infrared cameras for a wide range of applications, including preventive maintenance, product research and development, process monitoring, building inspection, and more. Mr. Doerhoff, who has more than 19 years’ professional sales experience, is responsible for FLIR’s sales efforts in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. Prior to joining FLIR three years ago, Mr. Doerhoff worked for Olympus, selling industrial endoscopes and cameras. Mr. Doerhoff obtained his Level l Infrared Thermography Certification from the Infrared Training Center and is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors. He has presented on infrared camera technology and applications at numerous industry events throughout the United States, including SMRP, ASHI, NPI, and Gas Emissions. Mr. Doerhoff holds a Bachelors degree in Economics and Finance from the University of Missouri. Based out of Kansas City, MO, Mr. Doerhoff may be reached at or 816-884-3021.