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Beyond light we see heat: leading thermal imaging cameras

In this issue of Industrial Process News, we are proud to announce Thermal Vision Research as our Cooled Science Camera Distributor Range Company of the Month.

Thermal imaging cameras are widely considered to have first been used in the Korean War (1950-1953) for military reconnaissance and stealthy, nightly combat missions. From there onwards, the cameras have been utilised in many diverse sectors: to accurately identify overheating joints on power lines, scientific heat pattern research, and of course, search and rescue missions.

Thermal imaging cameras help researchers and professionals over all the globe, see thermal/heat energy displayed in visible thermogram form, after digitised software processing.

Thermal Vision Research was established in 2017 by Director Matthew Clavey. Situated on Aztec West business park near Bristol, in South Gloucestershire, the company is the UK premier distributor for the leading American Teledyne FLIR Cooled Science camera range. The company distributes to many diverse industrial sectors from aircraft research, defence to railway.

The leading UK distributor was recently asked to partner with the Aircraft Research Association (ARA): a specialist, local UK aerodynamic research institute. The research team were testing its hybrid laminar flow control hypothesis: the generation a porous section at the head of an aeroplane wing, will decide the point of transition of airflow: thereby reducing turbulence and creating fuel efficiency. The research goal was to make long-haul flights more sustainable, especially as we edge towards the UK Government’s 2050 net-zero targets.

Thermal Vision Research was happy to loan its Teledyne FLIR T1K camera for this pioneering research into sustainable future aviation. The FLIR T1K was used to pinpoint accurate temperature changes in the high-speed transonic wind tunnel, with speeds up to a phenomenal Mach 1.4 (1,000mph). As a result of the air turbulence generated from the high speeds, the precise point of transition for airflow changes by less than 1° – the FLIR T1K camera is ideal for meticulous thermal measurements. Furthermore, the state-of-the-art camera goes beyond existing hot film gauges, by providing a visualisation of the airflow in-situ, without influencing the aerodynamic variable. Such precision-drive point of transition results has enabled the Aircraft Research Association (ARA) to prove the hybrid laminar flow control hypothesis, within controlled test conditions.

The ARA are now beginning to market the FLIR T1K wind tunnel concept design to engineering companies; as a viable blueprint for streamlined, greener aerodynamics. Cutting-edge FLIR Vision Processing combines next-generational HD resolution MSX®, and UltraMax® image enhancement, to produce astonishing 3.1 million pixilated thermal images.

It is not just the aviation research industry that has benefited from Thermal Vision Research’s precision-driven consultancy, using Teledyne FLIR camera technology, Matthew and his team recently worked with Northern Rail.

Though the British Victorian railway network was built to last, vast stretches of tracks now need regular major maintenance to repair track corrosion or overhead cables. This can lead to hours, even days of closed tracks: impacting on commuters and causing major disruptions. Historically, much of this work was carried out manually by experienced engineers but now Northern Rail has taken the steps of trialling an innovative ‘intelligence train’ throughout 2023.

Working in collaboration with Thermal Vision Research, the ‘intelligence train’ in question has been installed with a FLIR A6750sc cooled thermal camera. The camera works in conjunction with acoustic monitors, G-shock Bogie, AI camera, radar dome, LIDAR horizon-scanning cameras and precision-driven 180° thermal imaging software. The camera is so accurate, it was even used by NASA to record and map the surface of the moon.

In this case, the camera isn’t mapping moon impact craters or lava flows; but scanning for track infrastructure problems, with pinpoint accuracy. The camera will be moving at high-speeds and it is essential that it captures clear images. Pixels are generated in sub-one milliseconds of particular track sections, with impressive full-frames of 125Hz.

The meticulous attention to detail produces clear images, without the blurring of other uncooled thermal imaging models. The intelligent camera can read up to 100 metres ahead on the tracks, while in transit and continuously processing data onto a SMART Cloud-platform. The Cloud-platform can be accessed remotely by the Northern Rail team and allow detailed analysis of the tracks. This is hugely advantageous as it allows the railways track to stay functioning, obliterating costly downtime and most importantly, the thermal imagining pinpoints precise areas for track maintenance, earmarking for strategic planned engineering maintenance.

This is pioneering for railway maintenance, as it allows a more fluid proactive maintenance system, rather than the current costly current reactive system. The trial will continue throughout 2023, leading to potential expansion throughout other rail networks around the country.

Director, Matthew Clavey, has overseen the ARA and Northern Rail projects and explains why the Teledyne FLIR are so popular with customers, “The cameras we sell: Teledyne FLIR are the world’s largest suppliers of infrared sensors, so we have the advantage of providing clients with a recognised brand.

“We offer a thermal camera hiring system for short-term projects, across many sectors including the: FLIR A70 research and development kits- these are ready-to-use thermal imaging analysis solutions, perfect for electronic testing. The FLIR A700 Professional Science Kit is ideal for accurate temperature measurements for engineering and research projects. We can also offer the FLIR A6260 SWIR camera, FLIR A6750 MWIR camera and high-speed, high-definition FLIR X8500sc MWIR camera, all with HD tripods, pan and tilt systems. We can even provide comprehensive training sessions, led by a trained operator to showcase the hardware/software set-up. Any short-term hire cost can be refunded against a potential future camera purchase and we offer substantial discounts for extended hire usage.

“In addition, we offer a subscription service for a minimum of 12 months, in exchange for a FLIR A50/A70 science kit. Customers will receive initial training, full insurance cover, regular scheduled maintenance/re-calibrations and repairs if required, remote support from a dedicated team and advice about upgrading to more expert systems.”

The Teledyne FLIR camera range offers next-generational research solutions for cutting-edge research and real-time applications across many sectors. Thermal Vision Research will be exhibiting at EIS Instrumentation Analysis and Test Exhibition: the Silverstone wing, Silverstone Race Track: 16 May 2023.

T 0333 200 4667