The Winter Solstice this week marks the shortest day of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere. It has been a fascinating “spin around the Sun” these past twelve months, and we also end the year with a total lunar eclipse of the full moon! To our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, we wish you all the best on this, the longest day of the year.
As I think back over the year, I must say I’m honored to have had a chance to write these weekly blog posts—I hope they’ve been of interest to readers! Second, I very much appreciate the partnership with Fluke in their effort to bring quality information to their customers. As you know, The Snell Group has always remained “brand agnostic.” At the same time, these kinds of relationships provide an important avenue for educating users of these remarkable imaging products.
Among the highlights for thermographers in 2010, I count:
• Adoption of the RESNET Guidelines for Thermographic Inspections of Buildings. This has been a 3+ year effort on the part of an active committee and support from the RESNET leadership. I expect many thermographers will become RESNET certified in 2011 and look forward to the difference that it makes in the home efficiency marketplace.
• The $5 billion boost to the Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). Since the late 1970s, WAP has been helping low-income Americans make their homes safer and more efficient. Much of the work has been done by a dedicated group of people—many of them at one time also low-income—who have mastered the art of upgrading the often very challenging homes the program targets. Thousands of new workers have been trained this year to rapidly expand the program with the dual intent of providing work and reducing dependence on fossil fuel. A significant part of the expansion has been the widespread use of thermal imagers, mainly for audits and monitoring.
• Industry worldwide is slowly but surely edging back to production. Those who are in the forefront of the recovery are the ones that used this downtime to become even more efficient. Many of our customers rely heavily on thermography as a lead technology for their Asset Health Management, a core concept in how to increase the bottom line by having production machinery reliable and ready
• More imagers than ever and less expensive than ever! We have seen the continued growth in the number of infrared imagers being sold worldwide. While the core of the non-military market is still in the industrial sector, the fastest growing sector is for building thermographers. We’ve also seen the prices of systems drop further than I would ever have imagined a few years ago. The lower end systems, while limited in their capabilities, have opened up new markets. The “sweet spot” of the whole industry, however, remains the 160×120 and 320×240 arrays, now available with both amazing performance and prices. I hear rumors that these technological advancements will continue in the New Year, but more on that next week!
• The (near) infrared image was 100 years old! Some of the thermal infrared folks teamed up to help celebrate the occasion at Infrared 100. Thermography, as we know it, really got its start with Herschel’s discovery of the “dark heat” in 1800 and the development of crude imaging systems in the early 1940s.
• The Fluke Ti32! This imager may look like older Fluke systems, but it represents an important breakthrough as the first under $10K system in the market with optional interchangeable lenses. Whether it is being used with the wide-angle lens inside a home, or with the normal lens in a manufacturing plant, or with the telephoto lens in a substation, this is one hot imaging system! Combine the lens options with a 320×240 detector array that is sensitive beyond belief, and you’ve got a system that puts a big smile on my face.
Despite a lot of good news, the year has not been easy for many people, plants and creatures on planet earth. I’m grateful that many in this industry have done a great deal of good by using this remarkable technology to make a difference for people, from helping keep them a bit warmer to making their products run more efficiently. I thank you all for doing what you can and light a small candle—an ice candle just to keep things thermally interesting and to keep brightness nearby—on this darkest day of the year.
John Snell—The Snell Group, a Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner