3S7: Utilizing Infrared Thermography on Mechanical Assets to Increase Reliability

Roy Huff , Vice President, The Snell Group


Mechanical assets encompass a diverse variety of equipment. Infrared thermography has proven itself as an invaluable tool for looking at a wide range of rotating and stationary equipment, as well as high temperature systems and process monitoring situations. Some of these applications are quantitative in nature, often comparing the current thermal image to a previous one and understanding the cause and extent of any changes. In fact, conducting baseline inspections of new or rebuilt equipment has proven to be of particular value. In other situations, with proper diagnostic skills, a simple image of the asset can instantly pinpoint or diagnose the reason for equipment failure. Either way, as with electrical equipment, it is beneficial to establish inspection routes and periodic frequencies based on needs and resources.

During this presentation, the speaker will provide an in-depth look at how thermography can be utilized for non-electrical applications in an industrial environment. You will learn how to:

  • Think Thermally® to apply the technology to a wide range of mechanical assets.
  • Implement electric motor screening for mechanical and electrical issues, and how to integrate other technologies like vibration and electric motor testing.
  • Inspect couplings and what problem signatures look like.
  • Scrutinize bearings for overheating with their potential causes, and how thermography can be the primary technology of low speed equipment, such as trolleys or overhead conveyors.
  • Implement inspection methodologies on high temperature vessels, such as boiler, rotating kilns, torpedo cars, flue ducts, etc. for refractory issues.
  • Examine steam lines and steam traps and what the thermal patterns are that indicate problems within the steam system, including insulation and underground issues.
  • Explore process/product lines for faulty valves, line blockages, and heat tracing issues.
  • Understand the theory of how to inspect storage vessels for common problems such as liquid level gauges being wrong, to foam, sludge and other problems that can arise in trying to determine the fluid levels in tanks.
  • How to inspect other types of miscellaneous mechanical equipment.


With a professional background in reliability engineering, Roy’s strengths in management and program development have been a tremendous asset to The Snell Group. He is a partner in the firm and oversees technical and program issues for the company’s offerings in both infrared thermography (IR) and electric motor testing (EMT)technologies. Roy teaches a very wide range of classes for The Snell Group, including Level 1, Level 2, Level 1 NDT, Level 2 NDT, Level 3, Electrical Specialty, and Mechanical Specialty courses. Earlier in his career, Roy spent twelve years as an Equipment Reliability Engineer with Allied Signal Aerospace and he was instrumental in establishing their infrared program. He also served as a field service consulting engineer for a Midwestern predictive maintenance company. In that position he provided engineering consulting and technical services specializing in infrared, vibration, lubrication, motor analysis and passive and active ultrasound. In 1998, Roy was the lead professional for The Snell Group on a large project with the International Nuclear Safety Program. In that capacity, he traveled to several (former) Soviet-designed nuclear power plant sites around the world and conducted training to help them improve their safety procedures. He has presented at several conferences, including the P/PM National Symposium, ThermoSense, Thermal Solutions, NETA, EPRI and SMRP. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He holds an ASNT NDT Level III in IR/T as well as a Level III IRT under NAS 410. Roy is also certified by SMRP as a Certified Reliability Maintenance Professional (CMRP).