“As long as the simple truth prevails that something gets hot before it breaks down, applications for infrared cameras will be endless.”

Infrared radiation is emitted by every object above a temperature of -273 degrees C. To capture this radiation and make it visible, you need an infrared camera that can take clear thermal pictures, measure temperatures instantly, and convert these infrared images into a standard electronic format for further processing.

In industry, thermography is used for monitoring and troubleshooting the condition of machinery, structures, and systems — going beyond just inspecting electrical equipment. This wide range of applications make IR cameras extremely effective for improving manufacturing efficiencies, managing energy, improving product quality, and enhancing worker safety.

Industrial applications include:

  • Supervision of the production process and detection of hidden faults.
  • Detection and measurement of excessive heat in electrical and mechanical devices.
  • Identification of insulation defects and blocked pipework.
  • Optimization of product development and R&D.
  • Improvement of production output.

Predicting and Preventing Failures

The introduction of thermal imaging at a UPS facility resulted in the immediate servicing of 572 metering conveyor motor gear reducers after Root Cause Failure Analysis of “metering” conveyer system malfunction. In addition, it was decided that servicing of this type of reducer would be added to UPS’s semi-annual preventive maintenance inspection matrix and that OEM specifications for lubrication would be adhered to systematically. The introduction of thermal imaging technology at UPS also proved that inadequate lubrication of the mechanical system can cause undesirable heating of the electrical systems.

Preventive repair of the gear reducers resulted in significant cost savings to UPS as the cost of breakdown and breakdown repair are quite high compared to proactive servicing:

Thermographic analysis allowed UPS to reduce the frequency of metering conveyor failure by 82 percent and achieve an annualized savings of more than $370,000. On-time customer service increased as failure and downtime decreased, improving customer satisfaction.1

Increasing Energy Efficiency and Conservation Via Thermal Imaging

Thermography has been shown to be an effective way to analyze, and then take corrective action to increase energy efficiency in manufacturing. For example, in the paper industry, thermography has been used to: 2

  • Detect hot roll bearings, which may result in premature failure and higher energy demand to turn the rolls.
  • Detect plugged motor intakes that may cause premature failure and require more energy.
  • Detect steam coil leaks, making thermography a valuable tool for reducing the amount of steam needed to dry the paper product and thereby saving energy.
  • Show moisture profiles in the paper web, to identify process components that are causing moisture streaks and therefore require more energy to dry the paper.

Innovating Through Thermal Imaging

In a study sponsored by Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc., researchers from the University of Kentucky looked at infrared thermography for inspecting the adhesion integrity of plastic welded joints and demonstrated thermography could be utilized to inspect different defective behaviors in plastic kissing bond applications, making it a flexible and an effective inspection tool. 3


The continuing trend to less expensive, lightweight, and extremely versatile IR cameras makes thermography uniquely valuable in identifying energy-saving and money-saving areas of opportunity in operations. Thermography’s role is growing simultaneously in plant and product R&D and innovation.


  1. Predicting mechanical systems failures using IR thermography, Brian D. Susralski and Thomas Griswold, United Parcel Service, Hodgkins, IL
  2. Using Thermography to Reduce Energy Costs in Paper Mills, Robin J. Thon, Albany International Corp.
  3. Infrared thermography for inspecting the adhesion integrity of plastic welded joints, M. Omar(a), M. Hassan(a), K. Donohue(b) , K. Saito(a) and R. Alloo(c)
    • Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Kentucky,
    • Electrical Engineering Department, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506
    • Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc., Erlanger KY 41018

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