Insane Hydraulics

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Two Years With a FLIR Smartphone

A couple of years ago I got myself a smartphone equipped with an infrared camera, and now I want to make a "long-term impressions post" for those who may be considering getting something like that.

The smartphone that I've been using is the Ulefone Armor 9, and I have absolutely no affiliation with this brand.

What can I say? It is an average Android smartphone, that has quite a few drawbacks, and I would not recommend it to anyone as a smartphone, however, it possesses three qualities that make me look past all the drawbacks because they turn it into an invaluable tool for someone like me - the FLIR, the ruggedness, and the large battery.

Yes - it is bulky and heavy, yes - the finger-print sensor sucks, and yes - the camera is not the best, but it is enough to make calls, display pdf documents, and run my app for remote pressure and flow measurement - and that's what I need from it smartphone-wise. I don't care much about the screen's resolution or the refresh rate. It's rugged as hell, waterproof, and I have been treating it with the same care I would treat a brick for the last two and a half years, and I am yet to break it. That's good enough for me... I can't use it in social situations, though, because its appearance scares people away, and I have to think twice before I even bring it close to my normal closes, especially if they are white.

But let us get back to the most important part - the FLIR. I can tell you that even its very basic, 8 fps 80x60 FLIR sensor, coupled with the two apps that the smartphone had pre-installed (MyFLIR and FLIR Tools) have been very useful for me. The phone is basically an infrared thermometer with enhanced features that is always on hand, and that is what I use it for most of the time. It is extremely useful for taking and documenting temperature readings, and if you are serious about hydraulic maintenance, this is something you do a lot.

The biggest advantage would be the fact that I can easily sweep a large area for hot spots, and see immediately the max. temperature in a large area, and then pin-point where exactly it is. This is way more convenient than a normal infrared thermometer, which can only read a tiny spot. It has become a habit of mine to scan a hydraulic system through the "infrared lens" whenever I approach one.

I can even tell you a short story of how it saved a hydraulic system from a catastrophic failure. I was working on this big HPU, and several mechanics were helping me with the installation of my testing gear. After making all the necessary connections, we started the motors, and, as usual, I took the phone out of my pocket, turned on the FLIR camera, and did a "quick swipe" of the system. Almost immediately I saw a hot spot light up in the middle of the HPU, and on a closer look, I saw that it was one of the gear pumps.

I stopped the motors, and then squeezed myself into the rat's nest of hydraulic hoses to investigate - the problem became apparent immediately - someone must have brushed the suction ball valve lever with a foot and accidentally closed it! It was a gear pump, so no harm was done, because it ran "relatively dry" for less than a minute, but still - catching this with my phone was the moment when I realized that my newly acquired habit of FLIRing hydraulic systems left and right was actually a good thing! By the way - that particular system ran with two electric motors, and each of the gear pumps was feeding the same pilot circuit, so we would never detect the "missing" pump during the operation! Most likely (if I hadn't done what I did) the malfunction would have been detected only at the "smoke stage".

A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the ways a tech can use his hands as diagnostic instruments, well - there you have it, folks - having such a gadget in your pocket is a great way to reduce excessive hose- and pipe-groping!

So, in short - am I happy that I got myself a FLIR phone? Absolutely!

And here are a few examples of the FLIR in action for your appreciation:

This is a good example of catching a tiny hot spot. This is the battery of our loader, and by simply scanning it with the FLIR you can immediately see a nasty hot spot in the middle. This would be very hard to spot with a normal IR gun. (The third image is just to show you another format the images can be exported - with a very useful color-to-temperature ruler on the side. Very neat to send to clients when you need your reports to look professional).

These reducing valves have excessive internal leakage. (Like very excessive...)

Here are some more examples of internal leakage. The A10VO DFR regulator, and a DCV with a leaking relief valve.

You can barely see the solenoid valve in the dark, but the coil shines in infrared, which means that it is powered.

In certain situations, you can visualize lines with the flow pretty easily. For example, here you can see which of the three lines doesn't have flow in it, and which of the radiator's sides is the hot inlet.

Taking surface temperature readings has never been easier. You can clearly see that the front part of this CAT Kawasaki is the hottest (where the gears are). Here, in Portugal, these babies can easily pass 100Cº on hot days!

Some accumulators for you now. The one on the left was not filling properly - the pressure in the system was too low. The one to the right is nice and hot, which means that it is "accumulating" all right!

This Hagglunds drive relief manifold has a logic element partially open due to contamination. Can you guess which one?

These pics are from this week. The valve at the back is the reducing valve that was suspected to have internal leakage due to the noise it was making when the feed pressure would raise above 250 bar. You can see that the tank line is cold - so it's not an internal leakage problem. The noise was due to abnormally high flow demand in the reduced pressure line.