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What is a thermal imaging camera?

A thermal imaging camera is a handheld electrical testing device which is used to detect heat energy. It works using a special lens and image-capture technology to give a visual indication of regions of heat energy. This enables users to quickly identify areas of excessive temperature, areas where heat energy may be wasted and areas where temperatures are normal. In electrical terms this is useful for detecting overheating components and thermal insulation gaps, for example.

Thermal imaging cameras use an underlying technology that was first developed around 200 years ago and first gained popularity when used for military procedures, but it has more recently been developed as a convenient and reliable form of health monitoring and electrical safety testing.


How does a thermal imaging camera show us the temperature?

Infrared radiation and visible light are both part of the electromagnetic spectrum, but only visible light can be detected by the human eye, infrared radiation cannot. So thermal imaging is the idea of converting infrared light into electrical signals to create an image we can interpret and take information from. This is a coloured map which represents the varying temperatures of the range or area you are pointing the thermal imaging camera at, and the related temperature readings.

Areas represented by reds, yellow and oranges are very warm, and the brighter they are the hotter the temperature is. Areas represented by blues or purples are colder areas, while green colours are roughly room temperature. Most models of thermal imaging camera can convert these colours into an accurate temperature reading and we can interpret the readings to decide whether certain areas are excessively hot, excessively cold or normal. And because we are measuring infrared radiation and not visible light, this means that the thermal imaging camera can identify heat sources in very dark environments or in areas where key areas are obscured from view or are difficult to access.


What does a thermal imaging camera look like?what is a thermal imaging camera?

A thermal imaging camera is an ergonomic and user-friendly hand-held device. It is shaped like a gun that is held by the user and can be pointed towards a region of interest. The heat sensor in the ‘gun’ then picks up the infrared energy and converts it into a coloured image and a temperature reading that can be seen on an integrated visual display.

The range of thermal imaging cameras supplied by Test Instrument Solutions includes various models with different degrees of resolution and temperature range. The TIS 1900 is a very popular model which has a high resolution screen for ultimate accuracy, and can measure a temperature range of -20°C to 350°C. It also has a zoom facility and a memory card for recording images and video.


How does a thermal imaging camera work?

The infrared energy emitted by an item is what thermal imaging cameras use to create the thermal images we see. The camera lens on the thermal imaging camera allows infrared frequencies to pass through it and focuses the infrared energy onto a set of detectors, these create a detailed pattern called a thermogram. The thermogram is constructed of a grid of pixels which each react to infrared wavelengths hitting them and are converted into electrical signals, which is what we can see and interpret. This is also how we see a live picture that changes as we move the thermal imaging camera around.


In what applications would a thermal imaging camera be used?

A thermal imaging camera can be used in any environment where regions of excessive temperature are required to be detected. They can be used for health monitoring in commercial settings, where a line of people entering a building can very quickly be tested to detect if they have an excessive body temperature, ie. if they currently have a virus. The thermal imaging camera can be pointed at the forehead to give an accurate temperature reading.

Thermal imaging cameras are more commonly used for electrical safety testing where they can give emergency response readings, but can also be used for inspection, testing and maintenance of electrical installations in all types of commercial and industrial buildings, such as motors, panels and circuits.


Video Demonstration

The TIS 1900 is a popular thermal imaging camera offered by Test Instrument Solutions. Below is a video demonstration of the product:

Please note that this section is for information purposes only. Anyone using equipment referred to in this section must be suitably qualified and/or experienced within the respective field. If in doubt before use, please consult a qualified electrician or engineer & thoroughly read all instruction booklets.

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