Thermal imaging (or infrared) cameras are practical tools used in many fields of technology, such as electronics, electrical engineering, power generation, hydraulics, inspection of HVAC systems, machine parks and vehicles. Such equipment makes it possible to carry out two types of tests: comparative, where diagnostics is carried out based on the temperature distribution shown on the thermogram (testing of the same components working under the same conditions or comparing test results against historical data). The other method is testing based on the exact temperature measured at specific measurement points. Important parameters in the selection of a thermal imaging camera include: the range of measured temperature, thermal sensitivity, detector resolution, field of view, as well as e.g. the method of focus adjustment.
The new series of infrared cameras by FLIR, Ex-Series™, is one of the best on the market – it’s characterised by extensive functionality, simplicity of use, resistance to harsh industrial environments. In other words, this family of products is an excellent choice for both amateurs and professionals looking for reliable tools.
FLIR Ex-Series™ E4 WiFi
FLIR Ex-Series™ E5-XT
FLIR Ex-Series™ E6-XT
FLIR Ex-Series™ E8-XT
Seria Ex-Series™ was developed for professional applications. The products in this group are characterised by their wide range of measured temperatures (even -20…550°C). This makes them suitable for both detecting coolant leaks and testing high temperature components. In the field of electrical engineering, they enable quick location of faults in the power supply circuit or overheating components in control cabinets.
Another application is the maintenance of power installations where there is a risk of contact corrosion. As the oxidation of the contact surface increases the resistance of the connection, the contacts heat up – which can easily be observed with the thermal image. Using this method, you can avoid having to switch off the power supply and halt the operation of the connected equipment. Another application of infrared cameras could be building diagnostics, where thermal bridges and damp spots can be quickly detected using such devices.
Design and features
At first glance, the FLIR Ex-Series™ products are no different from each other. The series includes 4 camera models with similar capabilities. The choice of a particular variant will of course be dictated by the specific application. The differences between the products are shown in the table below.
All cameras offer a field of view of 45° (horizontally) and 34° (vertically), and the image is refreshed at 9Hz. The use of uncooled bolometer arrays allowed the manufacturer to keep the cameras compact and lightweight (575g). Regardless of the sensor resolution, the products are equipped with a 3-inch display with a resolution of 320×240 pixels, while the accuracy of the measurements is +/-2°C. It should be noted here that the Ex-Series™ cameras are adapted to operate in temperatures from 15°C to 50°C and their enclosure is IP54-rated (splash-proof and almost fully protected against the ingress of dust). Another important feature is the capacity of the replaceable, lithium-ion battery used in the products – it allows for continuous operation for approximately 4 hours (charging the battery to 90% using the original charger does not take more than 2 hours).
The user is provided with several visualisation modes to choose from. First of all, there is the thermal image, which is a direct visualisation of the information passed from the array. In many cases this mode will be sufficient, however, it may sometimes prove problematic when identifying faults (e.g. in a dense circuit or other complex installation, the heat source may be difficult to locate). In such situations, one of three additional modes can be used. Picture-in-picture mode limits the thermal imaging to a frame placed against the image from a visible light camera. The Thermal blending mode overlaps these two video channels. The most advanced, dynamic imaging mode is called Thermal MSX. When activated, the thermal image is processed in such a way as to mark the contours of the observed objects. In the menu, the user will also find a setting to change the colour palette (three options are available: classic – rainbow, “steel” and monochrome).
Data recording and processing
The Ex-Series™ products feature a Micro USB connector, which is used for both charging (use of an external charger is optional) and transmitting data between the device and a computer. Furthermore, communication with the camera is also possible via Wi-Fi. It is also possible to work with FLIR devices using the manufacturer’s proprietary application available for mobile devices (phones, tablets).
When recording measurement results, in addition to a JPEG file (including a camera image and scale legend), a separate file containing 14-bit array data is also stored. This information can be easily analysed or processed using FLIR Tools or your own software. It should be noted that the user does not need to use the automatic adaptation of the thermal image scale – the sensitivity setting can be done manually.
In addition to the features described above, it is worth mentioning a few additional ones offered by the Ex-Series™ devices. First of all, the cameras automatically indicate on the image the points with the lowest and the highest temperature (optionally, measurement can be taken in the central point of the image). It is also possible to operate in alarm mode, in which areas where the temperature remains below or above a pre-set value are indicated on a monochrome image. This feature greatly speeds up work when inspecting extensive systems. Additionally, for technicians who mostly take “field” measurements (np. when inspecting a power grid), FLIR offers via TME a mobile car charger.