Bayerische Motoren Werke, also known as BMW, specialising in luxury, high-quality, safe and environmental friendly cars equipped with the latest technology, has a long history in motor sport. BMW is now back into Formula 1, as suppliers of motors for the Williams F1 Team. Both during the design of new cars and the assembly of existing models, the infrared cameras, available from FLIR Systems , play an active role.
The technological heart of the BMW Group beats in the Research and Innovation Center, also well known by its German abbreviation, the FIZ (Forschungs und Entwicklungs Zentrum).
The aim of the Research and Innovation Center is to develop new and even better BMW models in a faster and more cost-efficient way. Being able to market new products in short periods of time is one of the key factors of success for the automobile industry.
From Development to Production
Once a car has been developed and thoroughly tested it goes into production. The BMW plant in Regensburg is producing all variants of the BMW 3 Series: coupés, convertibles, touring models and saloons as well as exclusive M3 models and four-wheel-drive versions of the 3 Series. More than 9,500 employees are responsible for making sure that over 900 BMW automobiles leave the plant daily.
In order to realise this output each day it cannot be hindered by unforeseen outages. Therefore BMW Regensburg has established a predictive maintenance program. Infrared thermography is an important tool in this program.
BMW Regensburg bought its own infrared camera when it became clear infrared thermography can detect problems well before a failure occurs.
They inspected all cabinets with infrared and taken reference images. Regularly scanning and comparing the images with the reference image, helps them to detect the problem immediately and can take the necessary action.
Infrared in research and development: some practical examples
When driving a car in wintertime it is important that the windshield is defrosted continuously and totally. Driving with a partly frosted windshield is dangerous. Therefore the heat dissipation over the windshield by the car heating system is being studied. Infrared thermography allows researchers to see how the hot air is distributed over the windshield and if this airflow needs to be improved.
Another practical example is the study of the heat transfer of catalysators. Located at the back, underneath the car, it disperses an enormous amount of heat. With the help of infrared thermography the heat dissipation is being studied, to avoid that, for example the trunk of the car, overheats.
An infrared camera has been used for several years but they have decided include an extra camera. The older, but still perfectly working AGEMA 900, is less portable and will be installed permanently in one of our test bays. The new ThermaCAM S60 (now superseded by the S65) is far more portable. It has a FireWire output so that we can analyse images in real time.”
The ThermaCAM PM 695 is an easy-to-use instrument. It produces very high quality images so that we can recognize all details in the infrared image. Its built-in visual camera eliminates the need to carry a digital camera around. Furthermore, although the camera is a high precision measurement instrument and is handled with care, it is used on a daily basis and sometimes need to be carried in hard to reach areas. With its IP54 rating, the ThermaCAM PM 695 matched with the requirement perfectly.
ThermaCAM Reporter allows to generate fast and easy reports and document and archive the findings. Although most of the analysis is done in the field, the ThermaCAM Reporter includes all the features to do post analysing, if necessary.
Although an infrared camera is easy to use, it is important to learn how to get the most out the infrared system and to get some knowledge about the theoretical fundamentals of infrared. The FLIR Systems Infrared Training Center provided all potential users of the camera with the necessary information about emissivity, reflections and other important items.