thermal imaging

A couple hours of downtime due to equipment failure can be costly. That’s especially true on a large farm or agribusiness operation on which there are multiple complex operations happening at once. Thermal imaging can help you stay on top of machinery and equipment performance and prevent small issues from becoming big costly problems.

Infrared thermal imaging, or thermography, provides operators a 'sixth sense.' A thermal camera and software visually document and record temperature anomalies, namely excessive heat. Such a temperature anomaly may indicate a looming mechanical or electrical failure and potential catastrophic property losses. Seeing a machine’s operating heat spectrum without direct physical contact during routine inspections cuts downtime, improves productivity and makes your operation safer.

In other words, it gives you an up-close view of an operating machine’s health based on the heat it’s putting off. You can see if it’s “running hot.” Then, you can take action before a minor issue becomes a major one that throws the brakes on your farm’s productivity.

How thermal imaging reduces downtime

Equipment mechanical and electrical components can show problems in the form of excessive heat before they fail. Early identification of anomalies is the first step in being proactive with general equipment maintenance on a farm or agribusiness. Thermal imaging helps you do that. It shows when parts like these are generating excessive heat in components including:

  • Electrical wiring, including loose, corroded, overtightened or improperly sized connections
  • Breakers, fuses and starters
  • Motors, bearings, gearboxes, belts and couplers
  • Conveyors and bucket elevators

Infrared thermal imaging is the equivalent of pinpointing a small water leak in a levee so you can patch it before it becomes a flooding breach. You’re no longer reacting to breakdowns after the fact. Now you’re able to better see problems coming and take steps to prevent them altogether. Though cameras range in cost from below $1,000 to over $10,000, that’s a relatively small price range compared to the damage overheating parts can cause.

“When you can see a heat anomaly in a piece of electrical circuitry or equipment, you can take corrective action before a more significant problem develops. You can be proactive or predictive with preventive maintenance,” said Nationwide Risk Management Property Engineer Dan Pfeffer. “Being proactive versus reactive usually means less downtime. It’s a way to find problems before they cause a fire or explosion. We can find a hotspot before it starts a fire.”

Why it’s important to take thermal images regularly

Infrared thermal imaging is best conducted on a regular basis on a farm or agribusiness. That enables you to see trends in machinery operation and the frequency of any overheating machinery or components. It helps you see patterns that could foreshadow breakdowns. For example, a grain bin ventilation fan belt may be overheating when drying grain under certain environmental conditions. Make infrared thermography part of your preventative maintenance. Regularly taking thermal images of the system can help you make changes to prevent that overheating.

“The last thing you need is downtime in the middle of harvest when everything needs to be running smoothly,” Pfeffer said. “If you can take thermal images on a regular basis, you can spot trends that can help you be even more proactive with maintenance and upkeep. You can set a baseline, identify problems as they develop, and ultimately track down issues before they develop into full-blown problems.”

Attend an instructor-led course on thermal imaging

In partnership with Nationwide, Fox River Systems is offering a fee-based Online Introduction to Infrared Thermography Training on the essential concepts needed by anyone looking to put thermal imaging into practice. The 8-hour, instructor-led course is aimed at training individuals to conduct basic infrared thermal imaging inspections of electrical and/or mechanical equipment as part of a proactive preventative maintenance program.

The online, virtual classroom allows you to participate and interact with the instructor to address your questions and get critical feedback in real time. We recommend you have a thermal imaging camera prior to the training to get the most from the hands-on lab experience. Those looking for guidance in the purchase of hardware can contact the trainer directly or your local electrical supply company.

Upon completion of the course, you will have the skills necessary to complete a basic infrared thermographic survey, interpret the resulting images, build a basic report and be on your way to improving your overall preventive maintenance program.

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