What: Thermal Imaging In Broadcast Facilities
When: November 20, 2001 7:00 PM

What would it be worth to you to know well in advance that a critical bullet, elbow, clamp, circuit breaker, or other component essential to your being on the air, was going to fail? You would have enough warning to order a spare, plan a time to change it before it fails, and complete the repair without that embarrassing unplanned off-air time you hate to explain.

That was the topic at our November meeting, presented by Gary Cavell of Cavell, Mertz, and Davis. CMD has been experimenting with Thermal Imaging, a method well known to the heavy industrial world, but largely unused by broadcasters.

First experimenting with a standard camera and infrared film, they quickly learned that the infrared images they needed to see were well above the segment of spectrum which infrared film is able to see. They were also unable to predict the focus point of the images they did capture, leading to blurry, worthless images. Research led them to the camera and technology they sought.

A digital camera with special infrared sensors, cooled with liquid nitrogen, allowed them to see temperature differences as little as .1 degree. This change in temperature can indicate a component under stress. The proper understanding and interpretation of the images they capture enables them to "see" future failure points before they cause trouble. You have precious lead time to locate parts for outdated equipment or plan a wholesale upgrade to current equipment, before it catastrophically fails, and do the entire repair on your schedule.

The testing procedure is totally non-intrusive. It is done while the equipment is operating at full power and load, thus rendering an image of the normal operating condition. It can establish a baseline to use as a comparison with future tests, as well as uncover hidden problems. Some insurance companies even offer a discount for annual tests.

CMD is still developing the methodology, and experimenting with the interpretation necessary to do this on a large scale. It promises to make the engineers life much easier, and substantially reduce the unexpected failures that drive us nuts.