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Equipment Thermal Imaging - The Want is Strong

Discussion in 'Photography, Art & Design' started by Gareth Halfacree, 11 Jul 2019.

  1. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    So, I do thermal imaging work 'cos readers like purty colours and sometimes it actually conveys useful information too.



    I use a Flir C2 for the thermal imaging, strapped to a modified mobile phone tripod adapter on a copy stand. The thermal data is then processed and overlaid on an edge-enhanced greyscale visible light image to get what you see above.

    It works, but the thermal resolution leaves a lot to be desired: it's 80x60, or 4,800 individual readings. Enough to get a rough idea of what's going on, but you're not going to see individual resistors glowing happily in the dark.

    Trouble is, there's a big-ol' gap between the entry-level Flir stuff and the pro-level Flir stuff. Most obvious upgrade route would be the Flir One Pro (non-LT), which has a 160x120 thermal sensor for 19,200 individual readings - exactly four times the resolution of what I have now. Trouble is, it is an accessory device for a smartphone - which I've always wanted to avoid, 'cos why complicate things unnecessarily?

    Then I found the Flir ETS320.

    upload_2019-7-11_16-30-34.png

    It's basically what I've built myself, except with a screen that means you don't have to be hovering over the top of the thing. Captures images in the same format as my current camera, too, which means I can continue to use the same post-processing workflow - something I'd have to give up if I went with a cheaper brand like Seek (notorious for noisy sensors.)

    320x240 thermal resolution, 76,800 individual readings. 11.5 times higher resolution than my C2. Absolute beast. No visible-light camera, so it doesn't do in-body MSX blending like the C2 or Flir One Pro would, but I don't use that anyway 'cos the quality's pants.

    There's only one real downside... price. It's £2,748. There's a dude on FleaBay in Belgium selling a suspicious amount of test gear, has an as-new used-once one for £1,640 delivered - but a whopping two feedback (for a fibre splicer and a Fluke energy monitor, both £2k a throw).

    It's all academic at the moment anyway, because I'm completely and utterly brassic - but am I mad to be considering the upgrade? My clients like the thermal stuff I do now, but d'you think I'd be able to charge more (or get more thermal work) to earn back the cost of the ETS320?

    Pipedream or plan? You decide!
     
  2. Fingers66

    Fingers66 Kiwi in London

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    If you have client demand for it, it's worth considering, especially as power (therefore heat) becomes more and more relevant generationally.

    Also, just how many places do you see reviews that include thermal imaging? You could even sub yourself out to bit-tech when they do m/b & GPU reviews as I can't see Dennis The Media Team springing for one. :)

    Ultimately isn't it a maths question - how many clients you need to cover the cost of the device?
     
  3. MLyons

    MLyons Half dev, Half doge. Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Unlikely with some of the deadlines we've got recently. Getting products with 4 days before the review
     
  4. Fingers66

    Fingers66 Kiwi in London

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    Pay his travel expenses to London with the rig in his backpack and job's a good'un.

    Gareth - if you get the gig I want comission.
     
  5. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    It's becoming increasingly common since the knockoffs hit the market and the entry cost fell through the floor. They're not usually... fantastic, though. This is one from a certain B2B electronics giant:

    upload_2019-7-11_16-59-21.png

    Same camera as mine, funnily enough.

    This one came from a colleague for a web outlet:

    upload_2019-7-11_17-0-24.png

    Some flavour of Seek, that one - probably one of the ones that dangles off your smartphone.

    Then Pimoroni's started playing, too:



    That's a Seek again, but apparently you can't lock the thermal scale - which is why it looks like the USB controller has got *hotter* in the second image, even though it's actually considerably *cooler*.

    Mine are better, though. :p

    "How long is a piece of string?" Having better-quality images for the mags won't help, 'cos I get page rate regardless. It might mean I can sell more to broader outlets, though - and I could always have a try at offering thermal imaging analysis as an outsourced service to businesses (and other journos, for that matter.)
    That'd certainly make more sense than shipping a bunch of motherboards or what have you to me!
     
  6. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    I'm about to do *ten* thermal images, and this would have been super handy. Sadly, I'm not getting paid anywhere close to enough to justify it. Boo-urns. Back to the document stand, hacked-about smartphone tripod adapter, and the ol' faithful FLIR C2 it is!
     
  7. theshadow2001

    theshadow2001 [DELETE] means [DELETE]

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    Have you asked your customers? You might get paid per page, but if they want higher res thermal shots surely this could come as extra or at a higher rate. Especially if you are using expensive, pro-test equipment. If thermal is becoming more common with the availability of the cheap stuff, then it might be advantageous to publications to be the one with the higher quality shots, or the more accurate information.

    Likewise have you offered other journalists to do shots with your current setup to see if its a potential avenue of work? Have you approached new clients offering this thermal aspect to try and get more work?

    In any case, a bit of market research might find you could use the equipment to gain or improve revenue. Or it might just be a nice to have that no one is willing to pay for. You don't know until you ask.

    If things look favourable initially, you could buy it and give it a go for a while. If things don't work out, it could be flipped to minimize the loss or to break even depending on how things go. I would be looking at the cost as what I can buy it for minus what I could sell it for, rather than just what I could buy it for.

    Nothing ventured nothing gained and all that.
     
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  8. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Eh, not so much. If you're spending £3k on a piece of lab equipment, you're usually A) not spending your own money, and 2) need a VAT invoice, certificate of conformity, and calibration certification. Saving £1k (or whatever) by buying second-hand sounds good, but when it's not your money and you don't get any of the latter - nor any real guarantee it's not been ridden hard and put away wet - it's a tougher sell.

    There's literally only one showing in Sold Listings on FleaBay, and that was sold in the US for just shy of £1,500 - which would leave me in the hole for £1,300-ish if I flipped it, and that's even assuming I was lucky enough to find a buyer.

    There's a BNIB one from Canada pretty (relatively) cheap buy-it-now, which is tempting, but it wouldn't arrive in time for this particular project - the deadline's the 12th.
     
  9. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    I mean, it's not like I can't get anything decent out of what I'm using now...

    pi4vlisdramclocking-idle.jpg

    pi4vlisdramclocking-load.jpg

    That's the Raspberry Pi 4 at idle and load, using the latest firmware.
     
  10. yuusou

    yuusou Well-Known Member

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    It's looking really good now. No longer is the USB controller on the fritz.
     
  11. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    There's a firmware coming out that makes things even beterrer:

    pi4latest-idle.jpg
    pi4latest-load.jpg

    Bear in mind, this is what it looked like with the launch firmware installed:

    pi4launch-idle.jpg

    pi4launch-load.jpg
     
  12. Arboreal

    Arboreal Well-Known Member

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    Not a bad 'free' upgrade. Those images on the newer firmware look noticeably more professional.
    Good to know that there is ongoing support for your device.
     
  13. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    What, the FLIR C2? Nah, hasn't had a firmware update for about four years. Doesn't really need one, though: it spits out low-res JPEGs with embedded thermal data, I run 'em through a script to interpolate that data into a bigger PNG with a scale of my choosing (while also compensating for environmental and reflective temperature, thermal emmisivity, and humidity, 'cos those are the kinds of stupid things you have to do if you want actual accurate readings instead of just pretty colours), then it goes into The GIMP to be overlaid on a visible-light image of the target device.
     
  14. Arboreal

    Arboreal Well-Known Member

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    Ahh, I misunderstood your previous post.
    Your workflow looks good; I thought the FLIR cameras overlaid heat and visual anyway.

    Just watched this Fully charged episode on YT and thought of you!
     
  15. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    They do - it looks like this:

    upload_2019-11-13_12-17-8.png

    They're not designed for close-up work: the absolute smallest distance you can align the "multi-spectral imaging (MSX)" at is a metre. Less than that, and you get the above: the IR image being pushed above the visible-light image. Couple it with the fact the visible light image is a 640x480 webcam shot, and... yeah. There's a reason I do it by hand.

    The above £3k actually-designed-for-what-I'm-doing camera? No visible light capture at all, so no MSX.
    I just skipped through some of that, and I'm already annoyed. You can't do what they're doing: the surfaces they're measuring have completely different thermal emmisivity. The "data" they're getting from that camera - several models above mine - are junk.

    Here's what I mean, borrowed from FLIR itself:

    [​IMG]

    See that "hot" spot? That's Kapton tape on a shiny metal can filled with hot water. It's the exact same temperature as the can it's stuck to, but the tape has a high thermal emmisivity and the can a really low thermal emmisivity. The result: it looks like hot tape on a cold can, even though that's absolutely not what it is.

    That's what they're showing in the video: there's no way of knowing (aside from common sense, like "yeah, the brakes they were just using to brake with are probably hot") whether you're seeing a real heat difference or a difference in thermal emmisivity.
     
  16. Arboreal

    Arboreal Well-Known Member

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    Interesting all round.
    I did think the under bonnet (Hood? We're in the UK, please....) comparisons were a bit hand waving, especially as the thermal scale reset between the 2.

    The emissivity thing is a real eye opener! It makes complete sense to the inner physicist, but I hadn't thought about it affecting the validity of thermal images.
    I have wanted a thermal imager for over 30 years, since i first saw one; but as yet have no real need or justification to own one.

    The insurance surveyor who came to look at some buildings at work had a low end FLIR camera assess the electrical distribution boards.
    Apparently, he was looking for hotspots which could indicate overloading.

    It seemed OK, but wasn't great as he'd dropped the thing, and it needed replacing.

    Blimey, so more work needed to compare things with each other; baked apples to baked apples if you will
     
  17. Gareth Halfacree

    Gareth Halfacree WIIGII! Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Oh, it's a total pain. If you just want pretty colours, it's point and shoot. If not, you need to compensate for thermal emmisivity, environmental temperature, reflected temperature, and even humidity. Massive ball ache, but it's the only way!
     

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