Originally developed for military operations and surveillance, thermal imaging cameras are now used for many industrial and medical applications. These include; firefighting, autonomous vehicles and building inspections.
A thermal camera is a non-contact device that detects infrared energy (thermal energy or heat) and converts it into a visual image. Everything gives off thermal energy—even ice. The hotter something is the more thermal energy it emits. This energy is called a “heat signature.” When two objects next to one another have even subtly different heat signatures, they can be detected by thermal sensors regardless of lighting conditions.
The primary components of a thermal imaging camera are the lens, the thermal sensor and processing electronics. The lens focuses thermal energy onto the sensor. The sensors come in a variety of pixel configurations from 80 × 60 to 1280 × 1024 pixels or even higher. The resolution is low compared to regular digital cameras. This is because thermal detectors need to sense energy that has larger wavelengths than visible light so requires the sensor elements to be larger.
There are 2 types of thermal imaging camera based on:
Thermal Camera Resolution: The resolution of the thermal camera is the number of pixels you have on the image. The popular resolutions are 160 x 120, 320 x 240 and 640 x 480 pixels. A higher resolution camera means that each image contains more information: more pixels, more detail. Hence, that means you can find significant problems that could be missed with a lower resolution camera.
Thermal Imaging Field of View: The field of view is the angle of vision at which a camera operates. To achieve an accurate temperature reading, the targeted objects being shot should completely fill the field of view of the camera.
Thermal Sensitivity: Thermal sensitivity or Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference (NETD) defines the minimum temperature difference you can see with the camera. If the targets measured have large temperature differences, thermal sensitivity is less important. However, for applications like detecting moisture issues, it is necessary.
Temperature Range: The temperature range tells you what the minimum and maximum temperatures a thermal camera is calibrated to and capable of measuring. Knowing the temperature range of your applications to choose a suitable thermal camera.
Knowing your application to choose the right thermal imager, there are two most important factors which are the resolution and the thermal sensitivity. Besides that, there are also other factors to be aware of when selecting a thermal imager.
Electrical applications: detect overheated components, underfloor heating, hot or loose electrical connectors, etc. The suitable resolution is 240 × 180.
Construction applications: detect the source of a water leak, find gaps in all kinds of insulation materials, detect air leakage, waste heat from equipment, etc. The suitable resolution is 320 × 240.
Inspection of mechanical systems: check heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, detect overheating pumps, motors, bearings, and conveyor belts, see how temperature varies across and along the weld, identify potential failure points within hydraulic systems, identify blockages and leaks in ventilation systems and pipework, etc. The suitable resolution is 320 × 240.
Safety applications: show up hot stumps and other issues that may reignite a bushfire and reduce the risk of fire, search victims through the smoke, and detect fevers through body temperature.
Find wildlife & pests, and detect termites. The suitable resolution is 320 × 240.
Healthcare & veterinary applications: detect variations in skin temperature. etc.
No training is required to operate a thermal camera to get results. However, to ensure accuracy, people using the thermal imaging camera should be properly trained in Level 1 Thermography.
It is recommended that calibration is checked annually. Same as with other measurement equipment, thermal imaging cameras can provide inaccurate data without proper calibration.
The biggest difference in cost typically depends on the resolution. The higher the resolution, the better the image clarity at a greater distance. Hence, if the target is close, the camera requires a lower resolution, which translates to a lower-cost camera.
If you are looking to a buy a Thermal Imaging Camera for sale, suppliers on IndustrySearch include Bestech Australia, Fluke Australia, Teledyne FLIR, Russell Fraser Sales NDT, Pyrosales, HIKMICRO, MSA Australia, OBIAT Electronics Pty Ltd, Lastek, Slentech, Queensland Calibrations