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Process Control by Analyzing Metal Temperature Gradients with Fixed Thermal Imaging

By Jeff Kresch Product Manager, Fluke Process Instruments

Producing metal products is one of the most energy intensive industries. Improving both energy and production efficiency, as well as ensuring product quality is at the top of any manufacturers to do list.

As new technologies–such as fixed thermal imaging cameras–continue to advance, it’s becoming easier than ever for engineers to gather the data they need to understand and optimize their manufacturing process.

For steelmakers, for example, there are several variables such as product temperature, process speed, material thickness, and other dimensional measurements. These are critical in ensuring that the end-product has been made to specification and maintains its metallurgical properties while going through various heating and forming processes.

With the goal to eliminate bad product from moving downstream, product temperature can be a clear indicator of if the metal is being processed correctly. Surface temperature measurements can be continuously monitored with fixed thermal imaging solutions–like the ThermoView TV40 from Fluke Process Instruments.

Fixed thermal imaging provides manufacturers with a 24/7/365 tool to automatically record and present visual temperature gradients across each piece of metal exiting the furnace or as the metal is being formed.

By recording visual surface data, engineers are presented with a clear snapshot into their heating process through a detailed look at how evenly each product is heated across various critical points simultaneously–thus helping to ensure that temperature uniformity is achieved across each metal product.  

Thermal images, snapshots, or videos can be programed by the user to be collected at different times for record keeping or batch-to-batch comparison. Fixed thermal imagers, meanwhile, can also be programed to generate alarms based on various temperature point differences the system may see. These alarms can be set up to trigger a response such as sound an audible alarm, record an image or video, or, when hooked up to a controller, turn on or off a product or process.

Through fixed thermal imaging, both material temperature and production system can be viewed and controlled, thus improving quality and ensuring that each product meets expectations.

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Additionally, because engineers are presented with a snapshot into their heating process, they are also able to gain better insight into how their furnace is heating each product. If there are any discrepancies, engineers can make adjustments that could also potentially improve a facility’s energy-related costs.

Overall, as production equipment and sensor technology continue to advance, more methods for process data collection are becoming readily available. Plus, with thermal imaging solutions like fixed infrared cameras engineers and facilities can rest assured that they’ll receive the most accurate, up-to-date data in order to optimize their process, ensure product quality, improve production efficiency, and even save on energy-related costs.

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