Thermal Imaging

What is Thermal Imaging?

Thermal imaging (also in some cases described as thermography, infrared imaging or thermal scanning) is the means through which human beings can see the infrared portion of the light spectrum.

To the left are two images of a Cummins diesel marine engine being operated during a sea trial. The thermal image is on the left and the Thermal MSX® image is on the right.
Left image is of a hull thermal image alone and the right image is the Thermal MSX® image.

As is evident from the images above the MSX® technology in the FLIR® camera provides a crisp clean image which enables us to better detect and locate potential problems.

What Does This Mean to Me and How Does it Help?

Using thermal imaging in inspection enables the experienced surveyor the capacity to determine potential troubles that may not be observable making use of typical evaluating devices and also equipment. Marine studies are carried out using “non damaging” approaches indicating as a general policy we do not disassemble a component for evaluation. We observe a bearing as an example to discover any type of misalignment or extreme wear without getting rid of the thing and testing the equipment such as an alternator, power guiding pump or an electrical panel. If any kind of malfunction or possible issue can not be seen by the bare eye or listened to, a surveyor might not realize a possible trouble with that unit exists. The use of a thermal check can identify possible problems such as bearings, heat exchangers for engine cooling systems or manifolds and/or risers as an instance. Thermal scanning might determine a coolant blockage which may trigger harm to the engine. This can be done without removal of the item from the engine and also examining it dismantled. An electric panel powering the onboard electrical system is another location where making use of thermal scanning can determine prospective issues that would not be identified without a qualified marine electrical professional checking each and every circuit. We are not suggesting that the demand for mechanical or electrical professionals are currently not needed however it enables the surveyor as well possibly identify possible problems before the purchase.

How Does Thermal Imaging Work?

Every thing produces some amount of radiant heat so thermal imaging is ideal for observing temperature abnormalities that are uncommon in machinery, electric tools, as well as also solids such as wood, fiberglass, light weight aluminum, and also steel. Thermal imaging does not require light to see thermal radiation (like you would certainly see in night vision cameras which need some amount of light) so thermal video cameras can see in absolute darkness. Thermal imaging is utilized commonly in other industries for upkeep and also pre-failure inspections of machinery. Although somewhat brand-new innovation in marine surveying, thermal imaging is used thoroughly in the surveying of business aircraft hulls and systems. At SunCoast we give our surveyors the best technology so it’s available for our customers.

The tool used for thermal imaging is the thermographic camera, which is similar in appearance and operation of a portable digital video camera. Our company uses FLIR® brand infrared cameras. We use specific FLIR® camera’s that utilize MSX® Thermal Image Enhancement. Not all FLIR® cameras have this MSX® technology and it is only available on FLIR® brand cameras. MSX® adds key details from the onboard visible light camera to the entire infrared image in real time. The result: an all-in-one thermal picture with numbers, labels, and other structural features intact so you’ll instantly recognize where the potential problem is and more easily recognize the object.

A special lens on the infrared cam concentrates the infrared light sent out by all of the things in view. With MSX ® the electronic camera has an extra lens which captures a digital image and also each image really produces 3 images. Utilizing the FLIR ® software each picture can be watched in 3 different formats.

1. Digital Image 2. Thermal Image 3. Thermal MSX

The Thermal MSX image actually overlays the digital image over the thermal image to produce an image that is clear and easier to recognize.

So What Are the Benefits of Thermal Imaging?

There are numerous benefits to thermal imaging in many industries. In the marine industry there are many advantages to thermal imaging. Some of these advantages are

  1. No contact is needed. Keeps the surveyor out of danger and enables the ability to examine moving and high temperature components in an engine room with engines being operated. Enables the surveyor to examine high voltage electrical components without touching wires.
  2. It is real time. Allows fast scanning and recording of stationary targets.
  3. Thermal patterns can be seen. What this means to you the buyer is it significantly reduces time and money spent on a technician or mechanic. Because of thermal imaging, time is saved disassembling and troubleshooting a component or going through miles of wiring on a boat or yacht to find the problem. The thermographic image can find the temperature anomaly quickly.
  4. Enhances the marine survey report. Our company provides this service at no additional cost on all marine surveys. Thermal imaging on components such as engines, transmissions, tanks, electrical systems, electrical devices, hulls and decks can determine if malfunctioning components, leaks, or delamination may exist within the vessel prior to the purchase
Thermography and How It makes Your Vessel Safer

As you can see in the photos above, thermography can make your vessel (or prospective vessel) a safer investment. Thermography can sense the heat that may prevent an electrical fire. Thermal imaging can detect leaking fuel or water from tanks that may prevent an explosion or water damage to the interior of the vessel. Thermal imaging can detect temperature anomalies in the engines or transmissions that can prevent much more costly engine or transmission repairs later on.

The images to the right are issues of delamination that were identified by the use of thermal imaging. The use of thermal cameras in the marine surveying industry helps the trained surveyor to identify potential structural issues that may be missed by using traditional methods.

The marine surveying market still utilizes the basic attempted and true approaches of checking that have been educated for years. At SunCoast Marine Surveying and Consulting we utilize most of these same techniques such as using a GRP33 dampness meter and also percussion soundings. The added use the FLIR ® thermal cams with MSX ® Imaging modern technology is what separates our firm from the remainder.

Thermal image of a onboard generator operating under a load.

Thermal image of a Cummins Diesel engine

Infrared thermal image of hull delamination on the lower right side of the image.

Infrared thermal image of a hull bottom with hidden delamination under the fiberglass