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  THERMAL IMAGING TRAINING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

17  March  2014

  One of the great things about todayís thermal imaging technology is that relatively complicated procedures can now be accomplished with minimal effort. Notably, latest generation entry level cameras feature increasingly sophisticated user interfaces that allow simple point and shoot operation. One click saves the image in a variety of modes, complete with embedded thermal data for subsequent analysis.

As well as being unprecedentedly easy to use, thermal imaging has never been more affordable. The efficiency and application flexibility of the technology has driven its take up across all industrial sectors. There has been substantial growth in the low end camera market and also in the supply of detector cores to the automotive industry for night vision. This has resulted in cameras carrying increasingly attractive price tags thanks to manufacturing economies.

This trend is good news for industry at large as it has allowed the technology to be adopted even more widely for plant maintenance and condition monitoring. Indeed it is now an industry standard method for preventative inspection. But as the technology is now exceptionally easy to apply, the need for basic training is even greater.

Giving an unskilled person a multimeter doesnít make them an electrician. And by the same token, a thermal camera user isnít a thermographer unless he or she understands the science behind the technology. Without this fundamental knowledge, thermal images are virtually meaningless and findings are at risk of serious misinterpretation.

Training is vital as it not only ensures that the user gets the best return on the camera investment but also that application standards are upheld. And for this purpose courses are available which range from foundation through to professional, in three levels.

FLIR Systems runs courses based on the collective experience of thermographers worldwide and these learning objectives are part of the companyís ISO compliant quality control system. FLIR Level I and Level II thermography courses have also been validated by the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) so the structure of these courses provides a good illustration of what the industry expects at each level.

What do the various qualifications mean?

Any good supplier of thermal imaging cameras will provide a basic level of operational training and they will also recommend the user takes a foundation course. These are aimed at novices in thermal imaging and designed to provide a good basis for further study. They may also be application specific, for example, focusing on HVAC, electrical or building inspection.

The next stage is Level I which instructs the camera user to perform industrial thermographic measurements and fundamental infrared thermography, including basic image post-processing according to established and recognized procedures. This includes the use of measurement tools, emissivity adjustments and span & scale adjustments.

Put simply, a Level I thermographer can use the equipment without knowing too much about its inner workings and perform uncomplicated measurements following existing routines. He or she will be able to detect obvious faults, recognize possible errors in measurement and carry out post processing and data collection.

In the Level I training course, the emphasis is very much on hands-on training. Theory is kept as simple as possible and use of formulas, minimised. Whilst the student leaves the course as a competent user of an infrared camera they would need to defer to a higher-qualified thermographer to define inspection routines and guidelines.

Greater depth

In the Level II course, this knowledge base is expanded. The training course includes more theory and goes deeper into the physical laws that the infrared camera uses to generate an image and measure temperature. It also explores the causes, anomalies and patterns that are commonly encountered in thermal imaging.

The student uses more formulas and is expected to be able to perform simple calculations. Steady state and transient mechanisms are examined in greater detail and the course work involves more laboratory experiments. As a result, the certified Level II thermographer is qualified to perform and direct infrared thermography according to established and recognised procedures.

For any professional thermographer, Level III certification is the gold standard. It signifies wide experience and a standard of knowledge that meets internationally recognised criteria.

The goal of this course is to enable pre-qualified Level II thermographers to set up and run a successful condition monitoring programme. And as such, the instruction includes guidance on acquiring and developing the necessary personnel, resources and technologies.

In conclusion, modern thermal imaging cameras may be especially easy to use but thatís no substitute for knowledge. They are only effective at saving maintenance costs and minimising downtime in the hands of properly trained users. So now, more than ever, it is especially important that training should be planned with the purchase of every camera.

For more information, please contact:

FLIR Systems Ltd
2 Kings Hill Avenue
Kings Hill
West Malling
Kent
ME19 4AQ
Tel: +44(0)1732 220011. 
Fax: +44(0)1732 843707.
Email: sales@flir.uk.com
Web: www.flir.com 
   
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