WHY ARE THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS SO EXPENSIVE? | AN ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS

Do you know what thermal imaging cameras are and why people prefer to use them?

Unsurprisingly, the thermal imaging cameras are an expensive piece of equipment, but their adoption and popularity are increasing due to high availability. But before going to their reason for being expensive, let us discuss a brief about the introduction of thermal imaging cameras.

WHAT ARE THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS?

The thermographic cameras used in infrared inspection, temperature measurement, firefighting are thermal imaging cameras, or called thermal imagers sometimes. While utilizing the infrared radiations beyond visible light, these cameras can detect the infrared radiation from the object. They can see through darkness or smoke. The thermal imagers can measure the surface temperature. They observe the infrared energy reflected, transmitter, or emitted by all the materials – at temperatures above zero Kelvin degree (absolute ZERO), and transform the infrared energy into a thermography heat map.

WHY THERMAL IMAGING?

While the spot infrared thermometers can only show an average temperature at a single spot area, the thermal imaging cameras provide you with the complete picture, up to almost 307,200 points (for example, Fotric 228 Pro. Thermal Camera) with higher accuracy and much higher resolution. The most effective method for finding a potential hot spot or overheating problems in numerous applications is thermal imaging.

HOW DO THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS WORK?

The thermal imaging cameras depend on a combination of circuits and infrared detection sensors for creating a thermal image that you can view on the screen.

When started, the lens of the thermal imaging camera is pointed towards a specific area or object. The lens of the camera concentrates on the infrared radiated by all the objects inside the lens’ field of view (FOV). There is a scanning of the focused light through a phased array of infrared scanners. The detector pixels that detect the radiation create a precise and detailed pattern of temperature that is renowned as a thermogram. The detector’s field of view gathers the heat from multiple thousand points. The thermogram made by the detector elements is interpreted into electric impulse. The circuit board receives the impulses with a peculiar chip that convert the information from the components of the detector into usable data for the display of the camera.

At last, the signal processing unit directs the interpreted infrared data to the screen’s display; make an image of numerous colors that vary on the heat or intensity of the infrared emission.

WHY SHOULD YOU PREFER A THERMAL IMAGER TO MEASURE TEMPERATURE?

The thermal imagers permit the users to measure temperature in specific applications where there is no employment of conventional sensors. When dealing with the objects that move like a conveyor belt, moving machinery or rollers, or where the non-contact measurements are necessary due to hazardous or contamination reasons for example high voltage, where the temperature is too high for contact sensors or thermocouples.

The thermal imagers give an image that reveals the difference in temperature of the objects that are being measured.

WHY ARE THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS SO EXPENSIVE?

There are numerous reasons for the high cost of thermal imaging cameras.

First, let’s define what the term “expensive” means. The assumptions for the pricing of cameras probably come from the market of the visible camera, as numerous individuals have got the visible camera earlier as they recognize the pricing and it is the price that they expect. A rate more significant than the visible light camera is regarded as expensive or costly for various individuals.

Unluckily, as far as the fundamental technology is concerned, the thermal imaging is dissimilar to the visible light cameras. With the components of the latest technology, production of high volume assists in bringing the cost down, but there are different techniques utilized in thermal imaging that is produced in quite relatively low amounts in comparison with the visible imagery, the prices of components are higher.

One expensive component involved in the thermal imaging camera is IR detector. The infrared detectors permit human beings to see the heat released by an object. The infrared technology grants them for viewing the wavelengths of visible light to the normal eyes, providing the users more details at the colors’ price and the ability for distinguishing the same warm objects from one another. The common materials used in the detector to convert infrared radiation into an electrical voltage signal include Indium Antimonide (InSb), Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), and Mercury Cadmium Telluride (HgCdTe), which are exotic materials than the Silicon material used in the widely used visible light cameras. 

Another principal issue that makes the thermal cameras so expensive than the visible light cameras involves the price of material used for lenses. Glass is not crystal-clear in the range of wavelength used by the infrared sensors of thermal imaging. Hence, a unique and distinct material is needed for lenses. Most of the thermal lenses constitute germanium. Germanium is the only metal that costs almost 1,500 dollars per one kilogram it the raw state. After the cost, when refining and forming it into a precision lens, you will reach up to 50,000 dollars for the only lens (the long range, and high-performance thermal surveillance systems).

Cooled infrared detector sensor is even more expensive when you get into high-end short or medium wave thermal cameras. The thermal imaging can perceive heat, the sensor senses any temperature from its parts of the camera and makes the addition to the noise and background of the resulting image. The cooled detector fixed the back of the sensor to a cryogenic cooler (usually about 70 K, or about -200 C) to decrease its temperature that assists in reducing the noise in the background and enhance sensitivity. Of course, a cryogenic cooler is not an inexpensive component for adding in a camera system.

One last thing is about the uniformity of temperature measurement. The material of each infrared detector pixel is usually not consistent, which results in different voltage signal from different pixel even with uniform infrared radiation toward the detector. A bias testing or calibration testing is needed to create a usable and accurate thermal image with powerful interpreting algorithm. This is substantial important when the thermal camera is used for temperature measurement. 

Thermal imaging involves a diversity of configurations and prices so that there are some numerous reasons for the high costs, but I believe it covers all the principal ones.

 

BENEFITS OF THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS

In spite of the high cost of thermal imaging cameras, there are various benefits that people can get when they buy these cameras.

The thermal imaging cameras allow the individuals to see what the eyes cannot see included the invisible heat radiations reflected or emitted by all objects, in spite of the lighting conditions. Most of the fantastic benefits of thermal imaging cameras lie in the domain of safety as well as security.  The Security Cameras are a mean of protection for all the businesses in the country, and in for instance a landscape, the requirement to produce the quality images is essential for providing fixed protection in comparison to the potential intruders. The thermal cameras permit a high level of security in demanding situations.

LOW LIGHT SCENARIOS

When cameras monitor the perimeter of a property, they deal with the scenes having low light, such as during several hours of night time. It is an area through which the thermal imaging cameras can shine.

CAMOUFLAGING FOLIAGE

The regular cameras capture the visible light only; it can be misled, by visual camouflage, or in conditions, where there is a blending of patterns of similar colors together. It can make people or objects that want to be noticed invisible.

IMMUNE TO VISUAL LIMITATIONS

The visible cameras are similar to human eyes, face trouble with seeing through the naturally occurred visual obscurants that obstruct the reflected light. Hence, as the thermal radiations pass throughout the visual barriers, the thermal cameras can watch what is happening when the real cameras do not.

HIGH RETURN ON INVESTMENT

The professional thermal cameras are a reasonable option for numerous businesses that require ensuring they have the best protection and security solution on today’s market. The average cost of the ownership of a security system with the help of thermal imaging cameras is less as compared to the security system of the CCTV cameras. For instance, due to the high range performance, least number of thermal imaging cameras is necessary for the projects that require the use of visible cameras. Also, most of the cameras cannot be able to see behind 200 meters at night time and need supplementary lighting that is expensive to install and maintain itself.

FEWER FALSE ALARMS

The thermal imaging cameras are cost-effective in a scenario in business protection as they assist in decreasing the number of false alarms. It is achieved utilizing the advanced analytics software that executes at high caliber with the videos and images of high contrast that thermal offer.

WHAT ARE THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS USED FOR?

The modern versions of the thermal imaging cameras were made initially for the use in the military, but nowadays they have various applications as follows:

PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE

It is the most famous use for thermal imaging because professionals and novices can gain benefit from it. Different machine and devices overheat due to several reasons that fail, and it involves electrical and circuitry outlets. The thermal imagers are the easiest way for scanning these objects for particular areas that can overheat. It cuts out hours of diagnostics and guesswork quickly, and it can be accomplished in a routine to have a look at the issues before they create a problem for you. Typical applications include electrical inspection, mechanical inspection, roof inspection, etc.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

When it comes to safety, thermal imaging can be a big help to you. If you heard anything in the middle of the night, you are searching for a noise in the backyard of your home; the professional thermal camera can show you what is present in the darkness. The cloud-based thermal camera becomes more secure to save the incident recorded data into the cloud. People can easily to investigate the things happened after.  

COOLING AND HEATING TROUBLESHOOTING

The air leaks around the home can make your home troublesome for you, and it also involves a considerable amount of money from the high energy bills. The thermal imagers permit you to scan all the areas to find for the air leaks that result in a decrease in cooling and heating in the home. With the thermal imaging, you can pinpoint some areas around the windows and doors that are not sealed properly.

With the multiple aspects of thermal imaging cameras, I hope you have understood the fact behind, “why are thermal imaging cameras so expensive?”