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FLIR Systems’ infrared cameras installed in BASF for preventive maintenance

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article image Thermal images of electrical installations from infrared cameras are useful for preventive maintenance in BASF

Badische Anilin & Soda-Fabrik (BASF), one of the international chemical groups in the world, have production facilities in 38 countries and employ almost 90,000 people worldwide. The Preventive Maintenance department at BASF has been using FLIR Systems’ infrared cameras for more than 10 years.

BASF markets approximately 8,000 products globally in a diverse range of economic sectors. Major customers include the automotive, chemicals, textiles, construction and packaging industries. Agriculture, healthcare, the energy sector and the paper industry also purchase many products.

BASF’s plant in Antwerp employs a staff of 3,800, who are mainly involved in producing basic products and half-finished goods that find their way to numerous applications for consumers and industry.

To meet the demand and to ensure an optimum yield from the production resources, the factory in Antwerp is involved in production 24 hours a day. Production interruptions must be avoided as much as possible. The Preventive Maintenance department has to ensure that the company can operate continuously.

Infrared history

Earlier, BASF’s installations were inspected periodically by an external service provider. The utility of infrared thermography in a preventive maintenance programme, led to infrared inspections on a continual basis and resulted in the purchase of a infrared camera.

The infrared camera, available from FLIR Systems , is being used continuously and daily and a member of staff at BASF is working fulltime with the infrared camera. In certain units, periodic fixed routes are followed and inspections are carried out at previously defined points. In addition, there are also measurements taken following a specific request if a given production unit in BASF suspects it has a technical problem.

The infrared camera is an ideal detection tool irrespective of the applications such as hot-spot detection, insulation checks, level measurements, switchbox inspection, process optimisation.

A full picture of the thermal situation can be obtained quickly in a non-contact mode and detect faults before they lead to real problems. As a result, lot of time and money are saved.

Infrared camera detects all electrical problems, mechanical faults, insulation damages

The infrared camera enables the detection of faults before they actually lead to serious production or safety problems. All the electrical installations in BASF are inspected regularly with the infrared camera.

At BASF there are more than 6,000 electrical cabinets which are examined at least once a year. In addition to the production problems, which can be caused by electrical faults, electrical problems can lead to fire.

The ammonia production installation is checked regularly. The temperature of the cracking pipes are checked primarily. It is important that the insulation on these pipes must be in perfect condition; otherwise, there is heat loss.

Moreover, if the temperature rises too much, the insulation loses its mechanical characteristics, which can lead to leaks. This is a dangerous situation which can cause halts in production and even explosions. In the past these temperature checks were carried out with measuring probes. The advantage of the infrared camera is that the temperature can be measured much more rapidly, without any contact.

There are a large number of vertically positioned engines within BASF. Dust can settle on ventilator hoods, which leads to temperature increases, and therefore more rapid wearing out of the engines.

With the help of the infrared camera the engine can be studied clearly and the dust can be cleared, when detected.

First detect, then report

After carrying out the inspections an extensive report is prepared. There are standard templates for reporting on inspections carried out on switchboxes. The infrared image is incorporated into the report along with the thermal analysis.

And the visual image is also incorporated. The report is sent through email to the department concerned, which can analyse it further and, if necessary, take action to resolve the problem.

More than preventive maintenance

According to Franky Oste, in addition to enabling preventive maintenance, the infrared camera also helps in process optimisation.

Franky Oste added, “We also often look at new installations with our infrared camera before they are put into use. We check whether everything has been supplied in accordance with the standard. In addition, with a view to safety in the company, we look at a number of critical locations for excessive temperatures and define the level in tanks filled with chemical products.”

Investing more in infrared technology is becoming necessary

According to Franky Oste, a number of inspections which are now carried out weekly should actually be done daily to ensure continuity of production and the strict safety standards now enforced in the company even more effectively.

The infrared camera has proven its usefulness daily within BASF over the past ten years. The infrared camera has demonstrated its utility and therefore the company would like to extend their infrared inspection programme.

Infrared Technology

Thermal, or infrared energy, is light that is not visible because its wavelength is too long to be detected by the human eye; it’s the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we perceive as heat. Unlike visible light, in the infrared world, everything with a temperature above absolute zero emits heat.

Even very cold objects, like ice cubes emit infrared. The higher the object’s temperature, the greater the IR radiation emitted. Infrared allows us to see what our eyes cannot.

Infrared cameras produce images of invisible infrared or heat radiation and provide precise non-contact temperature measurement capabilities. Nearly everything gets hot before it fails, making IR cameras extremely cost-effective and valuable diagnostic tools in many diverse applications.

As businesses strive to improve manufacturing efficiencies, manage energy consumption, improve product quality, and enhance worker safety, new applications continually emerge.

Working of infrared camera

An infrared camera is a non-contact device that detects infrared energy (heat) and converts it into an electronic signal, which is then processed to produce TV/video images and perform temperature calculations.

Heat sensed by an infrared camera can be very precisely quantified, or measured, allowing you to not only monitor thermal performance, but also identify and evaluate the relative severity of heat-related problems.

Recent innovations, particularly detector technology, the incorporation of built-in visual imaging, automatic functionality, and software development, deliver more cost effective thermal analysis solutions than ever before.

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