Uncooled thermal imaging camera secures data in rigorous applications

If you can't stand the heat, get a real-time thermal imaging camera that can. Heat contains valuable data about production process efficiency and resulting product quality. However, cryogenically cooled thermal imaging cameras often can't handle continuous, unsupervised process monitoring and control, while spot sensors often provide too little information for true thermal profiling and c...

05/01/1998


If you can't stand the heat, get a real-time thermal imaging camera that can. Heat contains valuable data about production process efficiency and resulting product quality. However, cryogenically cooled thermal imaging cameras often can't handle continuous, unsupervised process monitoring and control, while spot sensors often provide too little information for true thermal profiling and can't trigger machine decisions.

To secure enough data and do it continuously, FSI Automation (Burlington, Ontario, Canada) a division of FLIR Systems Inc. (Portland, Ore.), recently introduced what it says is the first camera to meet these dual challenges. The "uncooled" ThermoVision infrared (IR) camera eliminates the need for cryogenic cooling of its IR detector. ThermoVision captures full-frame images at real-time speeds (60 Hz) of objects at from–20 to 2,000 °C. This "smart sensor" can also control processes directly with its onboard software.

"Heat data add a new dimension to intelligent machine decision-making," says Greg McIntosh, FSI Automation's director. "A visible-light inspection can tell you if the cans on a production line have lids. However, thermal inspection sees invisible problems, like a pinhole leak in the lid's seal, a half-full can, or product that hasn't reached its proper processing temperature."

Uncooled technology

ThermoVision uses an uncooled detector array with a 10-year-plus life expectancy. Advanced integrated circuit fabrication allows the camera's 320 x 240 microbolometer array—a structure of uncooled passive IR detectors—to accommodate the 14-bit, analog-to-digital converter and read-out electronics on the same chip. This gives the camera the dual advantage of high sensitivity (0.1 °C) and wide dynamic temperature range. With a response time of 15 msec, each microbolometer allows real-time standard video output.

A real-time digital signal processor manages the radiometric stabilization input from sensors in the camera. These sensors compensate for environmental heating or cooling of the camera's lens and body, giving ThermoVision a temperature measurement output accuracy of

Finally, the camera can trigger simple high or low alarms for an area of interest (AOI) based on temperature data, or send the maximum, minimum, average, or standard deviation from an AOI to a programmable logic controller or other computer for enhanced machine decision-making during production.

Manufacturing implications

ThermoVision's capabilities mean entire processes can now be monitored instead of several points. For example, temperature fluctuations in a heat-sterilization process are immediately visible to the camera anywhere on a bottle's surface, which means problems can be found and corrected faster. Likewise, the camera can recognize knots in logs because the wood has a different temperature relative to its density.

ThermoVision also offers a multispectral solution to complement visible light-based machine vision tools, such as XCaliper, also from FSI Automation.

For more information, visit www.controleng.com/info .





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