GlencoMetrics Inc. Infrared Thermography and Power Quality Analysis Specialists
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Infrared Thermography
 

 

Infrared Thermography


Sample Report Data


Industry Case Study:

Infrared Predictive Maintenance Solutions

Abstract

On July 6, 2001 an electrical fire broke out at a plastics manufacturing plant located in southern Ontario. The fire and subsequent damage to the distribution network downstream of the fault could have been avoided. By integrating Infrared Thermography (IRT) within a comprehensive predictive maintenance program businesses have the ability to foresee failure of critical equipment components under stress modes that might otherwise be missed. Most importantly, the cost of implementing an IRT PdM program is more than offset by the savings in maintenance and repair costs, revenue-loss due to unscheduled shutdowns, and insurance costs.


Background

The following case study will show the benefit, to both industry and its insurers, of utilising Infrared Thermographic (IRT) inspections as part of a comprehensive predictive maintenance program for electrical distribution equipment.

More insurance firms are seeing the advantages of having their industrial and commercial policyholders perform regular IRT predictive maintenance inspections on critical and costly components of their electrical distribution network. In many cases, the realised savings in insurance claims due to premature equipment failure have pushed insurance companies to obligate their clients to perform regular IR inspections as a term of their policy renewal. Although this might seem onerous for the client, study after study has shown that the financial and safety benefits to industrial and commercial facilities far outweigh the costs of implementing and maintaining an effective IRT program (see Table 1).


Table 1.

IRT predictive maintenance? Premature equipment failure Possible results Costs to client Financial costs to insurer
No Likely not detected
  • Unscheduled shutdown
  • damage to critical equipment
  • safety hazards to personnel
  • Cost of damage repairs
  • lost revenue due to unscheduled shutdown·
  • potential liability for personal injury
  • Property damage claims·
  • possible health insurance claims
Yes Most likely detected
  • Scheduled maintenance
  • Cost of inspection
  • maintenance costs
None


IR Inspection

On June 26, 2001 an infrared thermographic inspection was carried out at the above-mentioned plastic manufacturing plant. The inspection run was limited to two main electrical distribution boards situated in the West and East buildings respectively.

The inspection was conducted by a Level II Certified thermographer using the AGEMA 570 long-wave infrared camera, with a 24-degree lens.

Fig. 1. Looking at the visual image (bottom) of this 3-phase capacitor bank gives no hint as to the impending danger that the Phase A feeder connection imposes. The thermogram (top), however, clearly betrays the existence of a serious deficient connection. The problem in this case could have been corrected with little interruption to equipment operation.
Thermogram of Capacitor Bank Bushings Shows Trouble Connections


Follow-up Events

It is unfortunate that many businesses, which are new to the idea of on-condition monitoring of equipment, often are reluctant or even suspect of the reliability and effectiveness of implementing corrective actions recommended as a result of IR inspections. Often, resources are not fully utilised to help properly integrate IR inspection runs and their results into the existing maintenance program.

Damage to Electrical Conductor

Figure 2. The damage caused by the overload of this Phase A conductor is significant. The oxidation of the copper strands is evident. The soot residues also reveal the severity of this phase-to-ground fault event.

For whatever reasons, corrective maintenance actions to the capacitor bank termination were delayed and the consequences are not new. In fact, they are predictable and, most importantly, avoidable. The ensuing electrical fault caused by meltdown of the conductor insulation, a week after the IR inspection report was issued, caused an unscheduled shutdown of a critical section of the plant. As is obvious, any fire in a plastics plant, where volatile and extremely flammable materials predominate, can quickly lead to disaster. Fortunately the problem was contained and no one was injured, but there was significant damage to the capacitor bank. Durham York Electric & Communications Inc. was called in to do the repairs, which kept the manufacturing line down for half a day.

Quality Assuance of Repairs Using Infrared Thermography

Figure 3. An infrared inspection was conducted on the capacitor connections subsequent to the repairs. As the image reveals, all phase conductors were operating at relatively similar temperatures, with similar loads on each phase. Compare this thermogram with the one in Figure 1 above. The difference in temperature rise is substantial. Without the use of infrared thermography, this anomaly would not have been evident to the naked eye, upon conventional inspection.


Cost-Benefit Analysis

A quick look at the figures below will convince most of the benefits of employing predictive maintenance through the use of IR imaging. Being able to see specific stress modes before they lead to outright failure of a component or jeopardise worker safety has its advantages. The analysis compares the on-condition IR approach to the outdated maintenance standard of the preventative or "if it ain't broken don't fix it" approach.

No IR inspection or follow up

Cost of electrical repairs including labour .......................................... $ 1,700.00
Estimated lost revenue due to unscheduled ½ day shutdown............... $ 20,000.00+
Total: $ 21,700.00+


IR inspection with corrective actions taken

Cost of IR inspection .........................................................................$ 695.00
Cost of implementing corrective actions ...............................................$ 150.00
Total: $ 845.00

Total savings to the company: ~ $ 21,000.00


Management Perspective

The preceding scenario easily shows the financial benefit of implementing a comprehensive predictive maintenance program through the use of IR imaging. In this case, the company took the first step in attempting to integrate IR inspections into an effective maintenance program. However, the effectiveness of any on-condition monitoring of equipment depends strongly on the proper co-ordination of management and maintenance personnel and the efficient implementation of corrective actions as recommended in the infrared thermographic reports.

An investment is needed at the start of any IR predictive maintenance program to help integrate this tool and help realise long-term costs savings. Both management and maintenance staff should be educated on its application, logistics and most importantly, what the inspection results say about the operating condition of equipment critical to their business.


Conclusions

As illustrated by this case study, long term cost advantages can be realised through Infrared Thermography, by companies in any almost industry sector. The effective use of Infrared Thermographic Imaging reaches beyond simple electrical system inspections. It can be applied in a myriad of different circumstances, such as:

As illustrated by this case study, long term cost advantages can be realised through Infrared Thermography, by companies in any almost industry sector. The effective use of Infrared Thermographic Imaging reaches beyond simple electrical system inspections. It can be applied in a myriad of different circumstances, such as:

  • Mechanical equipment analysis - motor alignment, conveyors, pulley and drive belt alignment
  • Heat loss and building envelope efficiency
  • Detection of buried structures and sub-surface leaks
  • Detection of disbonds or leaks in flat-top roofing or composite materials
  • Detection of fluid levels in storage tanks, condensers, condensed gas spheres, etc.
  • Clinical applications – circulatory problems, inflammation detection in animals, etc.

    Through the use of Infrared predictive maintenance there is no “shutdown” time. The advantages of infrared inspections are realised by looking at “live” equipment, operating as it normally should, thereby providing the opportunity to see potential problems, that may not be evident during “shutdown” maintenance.

    There is a cost effective IRT solution for your company. Please feel free to contact us to discuss a customized IRT predictive maintenance program that can reduce your business’s maintenance costs, reduce unscheduled down time, and provide a safer environment for your employees and customers.

     

     

  • GlencoMetrics Inc.
    16 Sims Cres., Unit # 28, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, L4B 2P1
    Tel: (905) 764-9297, Fax: (905) 764-8084

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