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Unread 07-19-2018, 06:45 PM   #1
Rich Z
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Default Thermal imaging for automotive applications

I've been watching this technology for a long time, but cost has always been out of reach for what I could expect to get out of it for practical purposes. Even now, a unit with 640x512 pixels with 30 hz or better refresh rate, the capability of detecting and reporting on temperatures you could expect a turbo or headers to get to, and also have a spot area that would display the actual temperature at that spot is still quite prohibitively expensive. At least for some old retired guy who would find limited use for such a thing.

But at the latest gun show here in Tallahassee, they had a FLIR Scout TK thermal imaging scope right there on the table. So what the heck. Not exactly suited for automotive applications specifically, but still, it gives me a pretty good idea of relative temperatures while the engine has been running for a little while. This sort of monocular hand held unit is probably better suited for temperatures no more than 200 degrees or so, and for close up purposes such as finding hunting game in the nearby brush. Or to just quick check things such as excessive current through a circuit breaker or wall electrical receptacle. But from what I can see, even with the high temps under the hood of a car, this thing doesn't do a half bad job for what it cost.

One thing I noted is that it would be a real good idea to first take regular video of exactly what I will be taking thermal imaging of, and incorporate that in the actual video. I know what I am looking at in the thermal image, but probably no one else would that is not real familiar with my car. Matter of fact, a list of specific things I want to analyze for thermal issues would have been a good idea too, as I know there are some things I should have looked at that I did not. But it is what it is, concerning this is my first try with this device.

First I did the engine bay, then went underneath with the car up on the lift to look at the exhaust system and the turbos. Also showed the exhaust rigging I set up to draw the exhaust fumes out of the garage. Some things I did note were the turbo scavenge pump up front, as well as the oiling line going to the turbos themselves. And now thinking of it, it probably would have been interesting to scan the inside floor of the vehicle to see where the hot spots are there. Maybe next time.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dns_c-AetPw

Pretty plainly shows where the most heat is located. The headers probably should be wrapped or recoated with a ceramic coating. The Jet Hot coating I originally had on them has apparently degraded over the years. That insulation wrap I put on the rest of the exhaust system seems to do a pretty decent job of holding in the heat, but I can definitely see weak spots that could be insulated better. The headers get mostly whited out, as I believe they are exceeding the limits of this thermal imager, and in some areas actually produce black specs, which I think the temps REALLY exceeded it's limits.

Sorry about the apparent high speed panning and jerkiness of the thermal image video. I really didn't do that intentionally, but what you are seeing is an artifact of converting a 9 fps video stream to 30 fps, which tends to speed up the viewing more than I like, but not sure how to fix it in post processing. I was actually moving very slowly as I panned that thermal device, which means I need to move even slower, I guess, if I intend to make a video of the info later on. I guess I could use a slower rendering speed in my video editor, but I found that when I would render the image at a higher resolution, it does a pretty decent job of upscaling the video clips. The actual video resolution from the camera is actually 320x240 pixels which is itself upscaled from the 160x120 pixel thermal imaging sensor.

I can see where I would like to get a better unit with more resolution, so hopefully prices will come down soon on the better units. But the price hurdle now is just too high for something I can't see using all that much to justify the high price.

But for now, this doesn't do that bad of a job.
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Unread 07-19-2018, 09:05 PM   #2
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Be nice if they would superimpose a conversion chart on the screen indicating
which color is what temp. But definitely cool nonetheless!
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Unread 07-19-2018, 09:26 PM   #3
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Thermal imaging is pretty cool. Back when I was a deputy we had a crashed stolen car. The suspect at the scene was found outside the car and stated he was not the driver, that he was only a passenger. The Fire Chief was on scene and heard him make this statement. He had a thermal imaging video camera and shot the interior of the car. It indicated that there was only one person in the vehicle, and that person had been in the drivers seat!
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Unread 07-20-2018, 12:16 AM   #4
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The other night I walked out into the family room with the FLIR and could see the imprints on the couch where both Connie and I had been sitting. Pretty incredible stuff. And this is a cheap hobby grade unit. No telling what the military has now at their disposal.

Heck, you can even see footprints on the ground and the temperature differential is enough. But I'm guessing it is more effective in the Winter than in the Summer months. One thing I have learned just messing around with this little unit, is that it is very difficult to hide from thermal imaging. Even hiding behind something doesn't work too well, because the heat signature can be seen right through a lot of materials, or your heat makes the surroundings warmer too. I was watching a video where a guy found a rodent's nest UNDERGROUND using a thermal imager. And yes, you can see stuff through walls, like hot water pipes.

But I am still puzzled about some things concerning this technology. The other day I was outside and stood in front of the storm door on my front porch figuring I would see if I could tell if much cold air from the AC inside was leaking through the doors. Well, the image I got really puzzled me. I could see the thermal image of my reflection on that glass. And I certainly was not close enough to the door to have any of my body heat affecting it. I have heard that you can't use a thermal imager through a window, because it will only detect the heat signature of the glass itself, and nothing on the other side of it. So how did my reflection get captured as a thermal image? I would have thought that my reflection wouldn't have registered at all? That only the heat of the actual glass would have been in the image.
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Unread 07-20-2018, 10:55 AM   #5
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Yeah, your heat reflected off the glass. Another time a guy got into a fight and ran from us at a local bar down there. Imagine that, right? He ran into the woods. We didn't have a canine that night so we got the Fire Chief's thermal video camera again and found him hiding behind a tree. It's quite a handy tool.
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Unread 07-20-2018, 11:04 AM   #6
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I wouldn't have thought I was close enough for the heat of my body to be reflected off of that glass. But thinking about it, I guess if a thermal imager can detect heat from a distance, then no reason why heat can't also be reflected at a distance.

They also make little thermal imagers that can attach to a smart phone and seem to be pretty handy. There are even some smart phones with thermal imagers built in. I suspect as prices on the sensors come down, they will be found in more and more applications.

Honestly, I'm surprised that thermal imagers aren't standard issue for LEOs. As you pointed out, they are real handy for tracking down perpetrators on the run and hiding out in the woods.
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