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Embedded Logix: Thermal imaging solutions

Non-contact analysis tools offer engineers quick, reliable and accurate results. Embedded Logix is championing the use of thermal imaging cameras and software to diagnose a variety of automotive applications

 

Thermal imaging in automotive applications is becoming commonplace. The non-contact nature of these systems allows for quick, accurate diagnostics and analysis of components and parts. But how and where can thermal imaging help engineers understand their product better? Automotive Testing Technology International sat down with Jon Chynoweth, corporate director of sales and marketing at Embedded Logix at Automotive Testing Expo North America to find out more.

Automotive Testing Technology International: So tell us a little about your company...

Jon Chynoweth: Embedded Logix is a company dedicated to designing and developing instrumentation. For instance, we have a contract right now to design the instrumentation and verification instrumentation for the new seats in the 2013 Viper.
Recently we developed an inner-group within the company, dedicated to thermal imaging and process control. The latter involves putting infra-red cameras on a line, thermally looking at targets and certain points, collecting that data back in to a customizable software affecting a solution and creating an output, based on that thermal profile.

ATT: How long has Embedded Logix been involved with the automotive industry?

JC: We have been involved for a while now; we’ve had projects with the Ford Motor Company for example, and numerous other automotive companies. At Automotive Testing Expo we chose to showcase an imager looking at a rear window defroster, which is able to pick up on the couple of elements that are out. We also have a thermal imager looking at a heated seat, which is verifying the coils within it. The applications for thermal imaging in the automotive sector are huge: anything that creates heat, we can monitor, be it rollers on a conveyor belt, part verification and so on. Through non-contact realization, we can find cracks in products thermally, parts that you can’t visually see a crack in.

The biggest challenge that thermal imaging has, in general, is in teaching. If you have 100 engineers in front of you and you start throwing up applications – ‘You can use infra-red for this, and you can use infra-red for that’ – they’ll sit there after the presentation, blank-faced saying ‘I didn’t know you could use it to monitor welding tips,’ or ‘I didn’t know you could use it for finding problems in electrical systems.’ They just don’t know, so it is an educational thing.

Essentially, most companies want you to supply them a solution. They don’t want to figure out the pieces and the parts. They don’t want you to give them a SDK and make them do their own programming; they just want a solution. So the problem, historically, for manufacturers of infra-red cameras, has been they have been trying to sell cameras to engineers for these applications. And they run into some firewalls. Because engineers love the cameras and technology, but who is going to do that for them? The manufacturer doesn’t do it for them, so we are the inner media that pulls it all together.

ATT: How have you seen this market develop in recent years?

JC: The biggest market, potentially, for sensors in process monitors, is thermal imaging. The problem with it has always been that the thermal imaging cameras have been expensive. When you do a single-camera system, with the engineering, software, hardware and commissioning of the system, it quickly becomes cost-prohibitive.

Now, with both the price and size of cameras coming down, and the sensitivity of them increasing, the advent of new software and computer technology, it is all coming together to give affordable thermal imaging systems. The bottom line is that every time a new Windows platform comes out, the market increases. Every time a camera comes out at a lower price, the market increases. So ultimately, I'd say the market for process control was worth US$400-600m per year. It is a growing market and it is going to be the biggest for thermal imaging by far.

ATT: Aside from this thermal imaging aspect, what else is Embedded Logix working on?

JC: We have around 30 engineers in our company who design, develop complete software systems, instrumentations etc. We are also in to the medical markets, as we design and develop medical devices. We do complete solutions for companies; we’ve just built someone a ‘camera in a box’ system, and were able to do the whole package.

ATT: Is this something you offer as part of the turnkey system?

JC: Yes, it is all part of the sales pitch. One of the most effective ways of reaching people is a ‘Lunch ‘n’ learn’, where we bring in a bunch of pizzas and drinks and have a Q&A for an hour. The clients don’t have to leave, they don’t have to go offsite for dinner or whatever and they have the technology showcased right in front of them. Engineers like to figure things out for themselves, so basically we throw information at them and let them figure out how best they can use the equipment themselves. And that is how thermal imaging is going to grow – through teaching and education.

ATT: You mentioned earlier, a couple of automotive makers that you are dealing with. Are you working with many OEMs and manufacturers?

JC: Yes, and if you head to our website, you’ll see a list of who we work with. And we work in several different countries; our products are all over the world. The issue with this is not necessarily in the sensor, in the camera. The camera is part of the solution, it’s a tool. But the real value in what we bring to the marketplace/customer is that we have engineers that can come in, identify the problem, and work out what the customer is trying to do. And then from that data we will engineer and decide what camera they need, what lens they need, what software is needed and what its requirements are. We will design the software specifically for that application. We will install the system and commission it for the customer, which brings in their engineers. We’ll then train them on how it works, that being a teaching moment for us, then, we’ll turn the system over to the customer and then provide 24/7 support for them if they have any issues.

ATT: You mentioned that there is a broad range of applications suitable for thermal imaging, are you seeing any areas or applications that are repeatedly requested?

JC: The ‘Hot’ one right now…there’s a pun coming here…is that the entire automotive industry, and others, is going with hot stamping. Hot stamping is where you take a sheet of metal, put it in a bowl when it’s hot and you press it in there, hot. So you are creating a product under hot circumstances, rather than cold forming and stamping. There is a big push in the automotive industry for hot stamping. GM is developing, for example, a complete set of specifications that they are going to require their vendors to subscribe to, in that application. And we are helping them develop those specs with thermal imaging. It’s an excellent tool as you are looking at the entire thermal profile of that part – hot spots, cold spots etc. Hot stamping is a little buzz application right now, but it really is endless.

ATT: What would you say is the most useful aspect of thermal imaging?

JC: The non-contact imaging of pieces, parts and processes allows you to collect data and make an effective decision through customized software. This results in improved product performance, efficiency, quality etc, all by simply looking at the heat profile of a part. If we can get that message to the engineers, that it is a tool that can immediately give a visual presentation of a thermal application process, then they can say, ‘Maybe I should look at that, for this’. And if they are looking for someone to give them the complete package, then they will turn to Embedded Logix.

 

 

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