Thermal imaging is a well-established and proven method of preventative maintenance for electrical equipment. But the process does not come without risk. Removing panels to gain access to switchgear for thermal inspection is a very risky business. The danger of arc flash – a short circuit through the air that creates a fireball explosion – is huge. Simply dropping a hand-tool or a cover-panel can make accidental contact with energised parts. Changing the state of equipment is another common trigger. The results can be fatal.
The use of an IR window effectively allows the switchgear to remain in an enclosed and guarded condition, so that the IR scan becomes a non-invasive task. Infrared passes through the window’s transmissive polymer lens without compromising the IP65/NEMA 4X seal on the enclosure panel.
This not only keeps personnel safe, but it also allows the system to be thermally inspected under normal load conditions. As a result, both quantitative and qualitative data can be acquired on the status of the electrical system. Furthermore, applications previously considered to be too hazardous for thermal imaging can be brought into the regular inspection schedule.
Stansted Airport has to be open for business 24/7. Stansted’s engineers previously only had four hours a night in which to conduct predictive maintenance on electrical equipment. The entire inspection cycle was protracted and no system could be checked under load. Also the airport is classified as a strategic airport, thus having to take redirected traffic at any time of the day or night. Any deviation from this ability is detrimental to air traffic safety around London and comes with large fines. Engineers had to find a way to reduce inspection turnaround time without compromising safety.
Chelmsford-based IRISS, clinched a deal with the airport to construct and install 72 custom-made infrared windows which allow the engineers to complete more efficient safe inspections of the fuses that feed terminal systems, such as computers and baggage belts.
Stansted Airport’s engineering compliance manager, David Potter, who spearheaded the project, said: “Previously, the entire inspection cycle was a very long process and took engineers two nights to shut down the system and inspect just one electrical panel by hand. With the installation of IRISS infrared inspection windows and the help of a thermal imaging camera, we can carry out checks of all the panels in just five hours, making huge savings in survey times and equipment costs. The windows are really well constructed and the overall service from IRISS was second to none. Nothing was too much trouble and their engineers were extremely professional.”
By facilitating closed-panel inspections, the use of IRISS infrared windows eliminates 99,9% of arc flash triggers during IR electrical surveys and helps companies to comply with NFPA and OSHA mandates. IRISS infrared windows are unique in the market, being made of polymer instead of crystal. They are shatterproof and can be manufactured in any shape or size.
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