Thermal Imager Zeros in on Maintenance Problems

Bill Gray, Paper Corp.

Bill Gray is an electrical maintenance reliability specialist at a paper mill in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Gray selected the Fluke Ti30 thermal imager on July 15, 2005, for use in inspecting some of the 8,000+ mechanical and electrical systems in use. Within four months, that decision paid off.

Each year, Gray contracts with an outside thermal imaging firm to conduct a survey of the mill’s electrical switchgear. Following the survey, a work order list is generated and repairs are made to any problem identified in the survey report.

However, due to the expense, follow-up imaging to verify repairs is not traditionally being performed by the contractor. Gray believed that having the affordable, easy-to-use imager to use on a daily basis could help verify effective repair.

Shortly after the imager was purchased, Gray surveyed completed repairs on problems identified in the report and was surprised to find that some of the problems still existed. “We were not having operational problems or failures, but the repairs we made didn’t always help,” he said. “Without the imager, we would have had to wait another year to find that out.”

A follow-up survey will now be completed in-house. Gray says that’s only part of the issue he faces in making sure the plant and its equipment performs reliably. He plans to also check items such as pumps, motors, process controls and steam traps in conjunction with other detection processes (such as vibration and oil analysis), as well as establish an effective predictive maintenance program.

A proactive vs. reactive response is a key goal. “If something is running extremely hot and is considered a critical piece of equipment, it is easier and less costly to schedule the repair than to respond to a breakdown situation later,” Gray said.

Gray is satisfied with the new imager. “I heard about the Fluke imager and other cameras while attending a Snell Infrared Level I training course,” he said. After seeing the Ti30 imager in action, he admitted he was impressed. This model provided the immediate feedback that was desired.

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