A leading manufacturer of MDF is benefiting from infrared maintenance surveys that include data from clamp meters.
Medite is claimed to be the leading European brand of medium-density fibreboard (MDF). It is manufactured by Medite Europe Ltd in a production plant in Clonmel, Ireland, where Flir thermal imaging is an important part of a predictive maintenance programme.
The Medite product range is extensive, including seven families of MDF products and many variants, with over 400 possible specifications. All are manufactured at the company's 410,000m3 Clonmel factory, which prides itself on its high productivity. A key element of this is ensuring that any electrical or mechanical fault is identified and repaired before it becomes a production-disrupting failure. The detection task is, of course, a prime application for infrared measuring technology.
Regular infrared maintenance surveys conducted by thermographic consultant Bob Berry, of Thermal Vision, have helped to ensure the factory's smooth running for more than 10 years. Recently, however, Berry has been able to add even greater value to his thermographic inspections at Medite Europe thanks to a new introduction by Flir. This is a Bluetooth wireless connection technology called Meterlink. It enables measurement data from meters to be embedded in an infrared image, bringing greater accuracy and intelligence to the infrared inspection.
The correlation between temperature and electrical load is well established and, for many years, thermographers have included load ratings where relevant. Berry explains: "The most common way of doing this is to take readings using a clamp meter, write them down and add then them to the report some time later."
Berry is a certified Level 3 thermographer and, in common with other consultants, he performs more than 100 inspections per year. This creates a lot of data and the potential for readings from different instruments to be lost or mixed up. Berry states: "The more time it takes me to assimilate the information, the longer the report generation process becomes. And that means I have less time to spend in the field, which is where I need to be to earn a living."
For Berry, the new Flir Meterlink facility is a real boon. It is available on a variety of Flir infrared cameras including the Flir T425 mid-range model, used at this inspection. It is suitable for a wide range of electro-mechanical inspection tasks that are common at larger industrial plants such as Medite Europe Ltd.
Berry states: "The menu system of the Flir T425 camera is intuitive and easy to use and it has many analysis tools that can be set up according to the needs of the job. Its Meterlink feature allows the camera to receive data automatically from an Extech EX845 clamp meter and this is a function that is easier to use than I expected. Its effectiveness is obvious, both in the field inspection and at the post report processing stage."
Berry believes that Meterlink means he is much more likely to take time to stop and use the clamp meter than when he is taking independent readings and making notes: "The clamp meter is simply fitted to the first phase and the infrared image frozen, complete with embedded current reading. The camera then prompts you to add more current readings, one at a time, each being stored in the appropriate image."
On this basis three phases require three readings. No notes need to be taken and there is no danger of the readings being attributed to the wrong survey or lost. It may require slight changes to the inspection routine but, in Berry's opinion, this is not at all inconvenient and, indeed, no bad thing.
The saved measurements are fully accessible in the Flir analysis and reporting software Reporter 8.5 and easily added in the results tables. This means thermographers can be certain that the current readings tally with the thermal image. It eliminates all possibility of any mix-up. Additionally, the title and location of individual faults can be saved directly in the image as voice or text comments and annotations.
Berry concludes: "This combination of a Flir infrared camera and Extech clamp meter completely rules out the possibility of confusing the location, the equipment or load data from individual faults. With more work being done in the field it also reduces associated office time and frees me up to spend more time on site with customers."
For Berry's customers, such as Medite Europe Ltd, these benefits are equally valuable. The company has the assurance that its infrared inspection survey is being conducted more thoroughly, accurately and intelligently so that maintenance resources can be more effectively targeted.