Infrared Thermography and Maintaining Electric Motors

In the industrial world, it’s almost second nature for technicians to seek out ways of preventing costly failures within facilities and machinery. After all, it takes less time and money to perform an inspection than to deal with sudden repairs. Infrared thermography — also known as infrared analysis — has gained popularity recently, as an effective approach to predictive maintenance. This condition-monitoring technique allows users to identify potential causes of downtime, and limit equipment failure.

When facilities regularly monitor their equipment performance, they encounter less reactive maintenance costs; while extending the lifespan of assets, maximizing production, and maintaining efficiency. With non-contact infrared thermography, organizations can obtain an extensive temperature profile, without disrupting mechanical operations — allowing them to pinpoint an emerging failure before it becomes a problem.

Using Infrared Thermography in Predictive Maintenance

Thermal images of electric motors reveal their operating conditions by capturing a two-dimensional insight into their temperature profile. Unlike a standard thermometer — which only shows temperature at one point — a thermal imager can show heat patterns at thousands of points throughout the motor at the same time. With these images, technicians can see the internal workings of various critical components; including the shaft bearings, gearbox, and shaft coupling.

Infrared thermography makes a good foundation for a predictive maintenance program, as it allows technicians to quickly compare and measure heat signatures for electric motors, without disrupting operations. All mechanical systems naturally generate thermal energy — and all motors have a normal thermal pattern, and maximum temperature, at which they can operate. Usually, you can find the maximum temperature for the motor installation on the nameplate; most are designed for no more than a 40oC (104oF) ambient temperature environment.   

Problems within the motor — such as unbalanced voltage, inadequate air flow, partial discharge, insulation failure, or degradation in the stator — often generate excessive thermal energy. A thermography camera can pinpoint that energy, and display it as color through an image, so that technicians can physically see excessive heat. Because many factors contribute to overheating, infrared thermography is often used alongside other maintenance technologies — such as motor circuit analysis and vibration analysis — when it comes to finding a root cause.

Why Infrared Thermography is Beneficial

Infrared thermography allows technicians to literally see thermal energy, making it one of the most effective and versatile solutions for monitoring motor condition. By recognizing features in a motor that are suffering from overheating, professionals can more accurately predict equipment failure — giving companies a chance to take corrective measures before an expensive shutdown, personal injury, or equipment malfunction occurs.

Today, infrared thermography is often recommended as an essential aspect in predictive maintenance programs. Consistent monitoring is the best way to determine if something is wrong, before a problem evolves into something far more detrimental.

Not only does using infrared thermography allow companies to protect their employees (staff members are less likely to work with a malfunctioning piece of equipment), but it also generates a more productive working environment that helps to protect a business’ finances. Monitoring machinery, examining wiring terminations in circuit panel boards and motor control equipment, and conducting maintenance before problems emerge is much less expensive than dealing with unexpected shutdown costs. In an energy audit, infrared thermography can also detect excessive energy loss, which might affect the bottom line in production.

Handling the Heat

Because infrared analysis detects potential issues in the earliest stages, this procedure helps to sustain the life of manufacturing equipment, protect workers, and ensure quality, efficiency and performance.

Most experts recommend that motors undergoing normal operating conditions should be frequently checked using infrared thermography equipment. Though an infrared camera cannot see within the motor itself, it can see exterior surface temperature points — and those points indicate internal temperature. An experienced individual can use thermal imaging to determine conditions such as impending bearing failures, inadequate airflow, shaft coupling problems, and even insulation degradation in an electric motor.

Do you use infrared thermography as part of your predictive maintenance strategy? Let us know in the comments below.


Infrared Thermography and Maintaining Electric Motors was last modified: July 20th, 2017 by admin

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Jerry is the owner of Sloan Electromechanical and is active in all aspects of the company. He is passionate about doing the work RIGHT and proposing the best product solution, hence the Sloan team is focused on aligning company values with client values. Please post your questions or comments and Jerry will respond. For a faster or confidential response, please contact Jerry directly 619-515-9691 or LinkedIn
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