Applications of Thermal Imagery in the Australian Mining Industry

Mining was once a people-intensive industry. It has since moved on to become an industry of large-scale mechanisation. Modern mining in Australia requires large amounts of investment in capital infrastructure and equipment to produce a product sold at a low unit cost.

To stay competitive, mining companies have had to focus on full realisation of its capital investment, i.e. sustained production at high levels with minimal downtime. Equipment reliability and maintenance plays an essential role in achieving this goal.

On average, mining machinery maintenance is 30-50% of the operating costs (source: World Mining Equipment, Dec ’98). While maintenance costs are significant, even more significant is the cost of lost production. Simply put, you have to keep the machine running to stay ahead of the pack. The last thing you need is machinery failure – the loss of ability of an item to perform its required function. This is where thermography comes in.

Condition Monitoring with Thermography
A major component of predictive maintenance, condition monitoring is the process of monitoring a parameter of condition in machinery, where a significant change is indicative of a developing failure. The use of conditional monitoring allows maintenance to be scheduled, or other actions to be taken to avoid the consequences of failure, before the failure occurs.

Scantherma’s thermal inspection is a major diagnostic and maintenance service that covers a comprehensive range of equipment and machinery. Using thermography (or thermal imaging), we can identify slight temperature variations across a surface with visual inspections and non-destructive testing. Heat is indicative of failing components, especially degrading electrical contacts and terminations, as well as high-speed bearings, fluid couplings, conveyor rollers, and storage tank internal build-up.

Machines with defects are more at risk of failure than defect-free machines. Once a defect has been identified, intervention in the early stages of deterioration is much more cost-effective than allowing the machinery to fail.

Condition monitoring has a unique advantage: the actual load, and subsequent heat dissipation that represents normal service can be seen and conditions that would shorten normal lifespan can be identified and addressed before repeated failures occur. Serviceable machinery include rotating equipment and stationary plant such as boilers and heat exchangers.

Benefits of Scantherma’s Thermal Inspection

  • It is able to find deteriorating (i.e. higher temperature) components prior to their failure
  • It can be used to measure or observe in areas inaccessible or hazardous for other methods
  • It can be used to find defects in shafts, pipes, and other metal or plastic parts.
  • It is a non-destructive test method

Non-destructive Testing (NDT)
Non-destructive testing (NDT) is a wide group of analysis techniques used in science and industry to evaluate the properties of a material, component or system without causing damage. As NDT does not permanently alter the article being inspected, it is a highly-valuable technique that can save both money and time in product evaluation, troubleshooting, and research. NDT is a commonly-used tool in forensic engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, systems engineering, aeronautical engineering, medicine, and art.

When compared with other classical non-destructive testing techniques such as ultrasonic testing or radiographic testing, Scantherma’s thermal inspection is safe, non-intrusive and non-contact. It allows us to quickly detect relatively shallow subsurface defects (a few millimetres in depth) under large surfaces (typically 30×30 cm2 at once, although inspection of larger surfaces is possible).

Scantherma has the ability to carry out thermal inspections of mining equipment throughout Australia. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss how we can meet the specific needs of your organisation.

Thermal image of hydraulics and tracks on mining equipment in Northern Territory.

 

Identification of hot spot on tracks made easy using FLIR T640

Possible failure points on machine hydraulics can be easily detected using FLIR cameras (Pilbara, Australia)