Sunday, March 1, 2009
Shooting for The Sharper Image
Greater resolution and clearer images are just two of the goals of borescope manufacturers. Learn how they are achieving these goals and advancing the state of the art.
By Douglas Nelms
Normally, the phrase "Image is everything" is a somewhat derogatory comment on our social mores. But in today’s world of remote visual inspections, it means the next major step in borescope technology... that and greater portability. Borescope manufacturers are achieving greater imagery in their products in two separate ways, depending on whether they are producing a fiber-optic flexible borescope or a videoscope. Fiberoptic scopes are now being produced with a 17,000 fiber bundle for greater resolution.
"In the past few years, a good scope was a 10,000 optic fiber," according to Edwin Debus, product manager for Flexbar Machine Corporation.
"We opted to pick this up to 17,000 early last year. It is probably going to be the industry standard a few years down the road."
The industry is also shifting toward digital cameras for videoscopes to increase resolution image, according to Shayne Gallo, quality manager for Borescopes-R-Us. "The market is shifting from fiber-optics to digital camera chips," he says. "The cost of a new digital videoscope is comparable to older technology fiber-opted borescopes. As components become more available, the new technology becomes more affordable to the smaller aircraft maintenance facility to purchase digital videoscopes."
Gene McGarry, general manager with Karl Storz Industrial, says that videoscopes are now replacing fiberoptics scopes except in the smaller scopes.
"The industry is now going with videoscopes, getting away from fiberoptics. The CCD (charged couple device) technology is becoming less expensive, and has pretty well replaced fiberscopes. If you have a 3.8mm videoscope and the technology is there and affordable, people are always going to choose the videoscope just because of the quality of the image."
Flexbar Machine Corporation
For maintenance shops looking for high resolution flexible fiberoptics borescopes, Flexbar has introduced a series of "Super High" resolution scopes that use a 17,000 fiber bundle to up the image quality. The 19460 series of scopes (19460 thru 19463) come in two-way and four-articulation with 6mm or 10mm diameters.
All four are 40 inches in length. Debus says that new scopes have a video direct mount (VDM) that allows a camera to be screwed to a C mount fitting on the eye-piece. "There is a special prism in there that provides a higher resolution."
While the standard length for the 19460 series is 40 inches, "I can make these longer," he notes. "Technically, the length is infinite and you won’t lose any resolution with the fiber optics, but 40 inches is the standard we’ve sold here for years. And 10mm is the maximum I can do with articulation. Anything outside that window (10mm and 40 inches) becomes a special, with a six- to eight-week delivery."
Machida Borescopes has introduced the smallest diameter videoscope in the world, the VSC-3-140-N, according to Jitu Patel, vice president. "Because engines don’t have large access areas, the smaller the diameter, the better. This 3mm outer diameter allows access to all areas of an engine, even the smallest cavity," says Patel. He adds that the small bending radius allows the user the ability to look all around in the cavity as well. In addition to the size, the scope has full screen presentation with image enhancement and portable image archiving. "The unit comes with a 15 inch flat screen, long life LED lights, SD card and is easy to use," he says.
Machida is also offering a battery-operated borescope. This unit, the FBA-4B-100P, is lightweight and portable. "It’s perfect for field use on the ramp," says Patel.
That unit is easily adapted to Machida’s MCV-510S video unit if recording or monitor viewing is required. For more information on Machida borescopes please visit www.machidascope.com
Titan Tool Supply, Inc.
Titan has also introduced a 17,000 element imaging bundle fiberscope that incorporates a high power one-watt LED battery handle and a new stronger tungsten braided sheathing, according to Titan President Frank Menza. Designated the TFBS-6, it has a built-in "C" mount video adapter in the eyepiece "so there is no need for an additional video adapter to connect it to an industrial video camera." The TFBS-6 "follows the FBS-6 which has 10,000-element imaging bundling," he says.
The new scope has a 6mm diameter, with flexible lengths of 40, 60 and 80 inches. It can be deflected plus or minus 120 degrees in either two-way or four-way articulation. Cost is from $4,000 to just under $9,000, depending on articulation needed and options.
The company is currently in the process of developing a true video scope with no imaging fibers for its Envision line. "It will have a small diameter camera head somewhere around the 6mm to 7mm diameter range, with digital recording capabilities," Menza says. "We’re still in the process of developing that."
"We’re concentrating more on developing [the new scope] at lower costs," Menza continues. It will be offered to the aerospace industry with four-way articulation, 6mm to 7mm and measure one meter long with built-in LED illumination, somewhere around the $7,000 range.
Titan also offers a V Series video borescope "which is the higher end unit with many different lengths available, so you’re looking at around a minimum of $14,000 for a 1.5-meter-long scope with illumination and video recording capabilities," Menza says.
"We’re trying to get something for the aerospace industry in around the $6,000 – $7,000 range," he continues.
The company announced last January a 4.2-mm portable digital videoscope that "can either be connected to a laptop computer or an external video feature capture device made available through the video out connection on the handle of the digital videoscope," Gallo says.
The new videoscope has two-way articulation providing plus or minus 120 degrees up and down and is available in 6mm and 8mm diameters. Standard length is one meter, although it is available up to two meters. A battery pack provides up to eight hours of inspections. Optional features for the new videoscope include an MP-4 and a USB video capture device for video recording.
Last December, Borescopes-R-Us introduced a new "cost-conscious multi-purpose semi-rigid videoscope" that is "durable, easy to use and can be customized for [a customer’s] specific needs." It can be linked to a USB video capture display enabling the users to capture video images of the inspections and download them onto a PC. The kit includes a 4mm diameter with one-meter length, a 6mm with 1.5-meter length and an 8mm with two-meter length. It also has an optional eight meter working length, a USB video capture device and a 90-degree tip.
Gallo says that Borescopes-R-Us does carry fiberscopes, "but we’re emphasizing the digital videoscopes that use a digital camera chip located at the tip of the borescope because of the extended life cycle."
Gradient Lens Corp
On January 1, 2009, Gradient Lens Corp. acquired FRS Omega, "significantly broadening our product line," according to Gradient President Douglas Kindred. "We were primarily a rigid scope manufacturer. We did have some flexible scopes, but we were a middle man. We’d been buying those scopes from FRS because we liked the quality and we liked doing business with them. So now, by making this acquisition, not only do we have a broader product line, but we’ve been able to drop the prices substantially."
Gradient also announced the launching of two new Hawkeye videoscopes — the Hawkeye Pro videoscope, a new lightweight, portable videoscope with a 6mm diameter in lengths of 1.5 meters to 3 meters with two-way or four-way articulation, and the Hawkeye Classic Videoscope with an 8mm diameter, 1.5-meter or 3-meter length and no articulation. Lengths can go up to 6 meters. Recording camera uses JPEG digital photo format. Cost of the hand-held videoscope is in the $8,000 to $10,000 range.
Gradient also added two new versions of its Hawkeye Pro fiberscopes. Initially offered only in a 5mm version, "now we’re adding a 3mm and 4mm diameter scope," Kindred explains.
It also offers the Hawkeye Blue line, "which is the higher-end flexible that we carry," he said. "Now that we are the manufacturer, we’re dropping the price by $2,000 to $3,000 each. They were in the $10,000 to $13,000 range, so they will now be in the $7,000 to $10,000 range."
Aqua Communications Inc. designed and manufactures the SnakeEye II and SnakeEye III models of portable video inspection tools that "Let’s Your Eyes Travel Where You Can’t," according to Bill McCafferty, director of sales & marketing. Both units deliver clear, full-color images to the display under low-light conditions. It features an interchangeable waterproof camera head with its own adjustable light source that can be attached to a rigid articulating wand, a ring finger adapter, variable length cables, or telescopic poles. The SnakeEye III allows the user to record images and voice directly onto a SD card that can be read by a computer. In addition, the SnakeEye III is IP68 compliant, meaning that the display is waterproof to 10 feet and the camera on both models is waterproof to 100 feet. Either model weighs approximately 3 lbs. and operates on A/C power or batteries. Both SnakeEye models can be coupled to a video recorder or computer to create a training video or maintain a video record of repairs and/or inspections. It also has a number of accessories including a C-Mount camera for attaching a fiberscope or a borescope, an infrared camera for seeing distances in no light conditions and for use in covert operations, a "bend and stay" gooseneck, a sun shield and an extended use (10-hour) wearable battery pack.
Olympus Industrial America
Olympus launched a new upgraded versions of its IPLEX line of video borescopes (below) last November. The new IPLEX FX is now the "flagship model" among the IPLEX videoscopes and "tends to be on the higher end of the price point spectrum in our scope line," according to Grant Reig, product manager for remote visual inspections. "It typically will be more in line with commercial aviation. It’s not uncommon for the individual business owner to own an FX, but there are other Olympus scopes to sell in the event that they are more price conscience."
The IPLEX FX incorporates both a camera and LED lighting at the distal end of the scope, Reig said. The industry "is shifting to LED technology as it becomes brighter and more efficient," and Olympus has been able to put the LED on the tip of the scope "without the need to increase the price," he says.
The new FX also enables interchangeable scopes, allowing the operator to change scopes if it becomes damaged, or if there is a need for different length, he says. Additional software will allow operators to make measurements such as the length of cracks or the area of a chip.
Also newly launched were a scope unit and an enhanced base unit for the IPLEX FX. The IPLEX FX internal working channel scope IV8635X1 will have six types of interchangeable object retrieval tools that can "transform the IPLEX FX into a fast and efficient retrieval tool system," while the IV8000-2 base unit has a newly mounted 6.5 inch LCD monitor for outdoor use and the addition of ImageNotepad to allow comments to be entered on recorded images.
Pacific Borescopes has introduced the EX Color Videoscope system that is "perfect for PT6/JT15D inspection," according to Truman Rockwood, sales manager. The system provides a 4mm diameter by 1 meter scope with a CCD imaging sensor in the distal tip. The scope has plus or minus 120-degree two-way articulation and has a tungsten braid insertion tube for toughness.
Included with the system is a 24-watt HID metal halide light source, power supply, and all required cabling. Hardware and software is provided to view the inspection and record still photos or video on a customer-supplied laptop computer.
GE Inspection Technologies
GE has introduced XL GO (below), a new lightweight, hand-held, highly transportable videoprobe, with the total package weighing only 3.8 lbs "while still providing a large amount of light output," according to Todd Brugger, general manager.
The light is sufficient to illuminate "things such as combustion chambers [with] a pretty large dark void. So one of the things that makes XL GO unique is not only the sub-four-pounds size, but the fact that we are putting out considerably more light than some of the alternative video probes."
The image produced by the XL GO camera can be recorded and downloaded via a thumb drive flash memory device into the USB port. Images are high-resolution, with MPEG4 video for analysis or collaboration.
The XL GO, which has been tested to the MIL-STD-810F environmental test standards, runs the latest generation of software called menu directed inspection (MDI).
"This allows you to predefine what you are inspecting," Brugger said. "You can define the various sections of the engine, sub-divide the asset in a way that makes sense to you, [then] load that onto as many devices as you have. The MDI automatically combines the image with the place where it was taken during the inspection, and allows the inspector to run a report automatically as soon as the inspection is over."
GE also provides a complete data management software platform called "Rhythm" that allows its customers to manage all the inspection history for their aircraft, Brugger says.
Karl Storz Industrial America
Karl Storz Industrial has added the TECHNOPACK XT to its product lineup, including "LaserTrue" measuring. The new system supports videoscopes ranging from 3.8mm to 8mm in diameter in lengths up to 7.5 meters, including a new 6mm videoscope designed to optimize performance in larger aircraft engines and other aviation applications, according to Gene McGarry, general manager.
The XT also has touchscreen display, with functions that can be controlled "remotely from the videoscope control body, wireless interfaces or directly from the display itself," he says. It is supported by an internal, non-volatile 20 GB hard drive with six hours of uninterrupted MPEG video "and storage of thousands of digital still images."
The new 6mm videoscope includes color coded, multipurpose, threaded tip adapters that also provide measuring. "This reduces the cost of ownership as one set of tip adapters, direct and side viewing, covers the range of applications common to the market and measure as well," he notes.
"LaserTrue measuring allows the user to go into the inspection site and activate a laser that determines working distance and angle of orientation, critical data for any measuring system," McGarry says. "The real advantage lies in the fact that when you are inside the inspection site, or wrapped around in an engine, you simply activate a button on the videoscope control body to project the laser and measure. You don’t have to bring the scope back outside and change tips. Inspect, detect, measure... just that easy."
The XT provides "a broad range of useful PC type functions on a Windows XP platform. Information may be exported or downloaded via an integral CD/DVD burner, four USB ports or an Ethernet port. The Ethernet port allows a view of the inspection live from a remote location via the internet," McGarry explains.
Lenox is in the process of introducing a new black light/UV videoscope, according to Bill Lang, vice president. "Black light has been available for a long time for aircraft inspection, now we’ve introduced a videoscope with black light/UV illumination."
The probe is available in 6mm or 8mm diameters, with lengths up to 10 ft. Video produced by the camera in the tip of the probe is analogue, "but can go to digital very easily," Lang said. Cost of the new videoscope is in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
"The UV lights highlight only flaws," he says. "You can convert it to white light with the flick of the switch. The ability to switch it to white light allows you to better interrogate what that flaw is."
Lenox also now offers a new "Swing Prism" rigid borescope with a moveable prism for the combustion chamber of either piston or turbine engines, Lang says. "You can change the direction of view remotely, reducing the need for multiple borescopes. The illumination is very bright, the optics are very high resolution," he says. Cost of the Swing Prism rigid borescope is $3,000 to $4,000.
Lang explains that the cheapest Lenox borescope is the "Autoscope." Actually designed for the automobile industry, "it is the best instrument to use on a Lycoming or a Continental engine. In fact, those companies recommend it." Cost of the Autoscope is $995.
195 Newton St.
Waltham, MA 02453
781-642-7088 Ext. 3029
2686 Davidson Cemetery Rd.
Clarksville, TN 37043
Flexbar Machine Corp.
250 Gibbs Rd.
Islandia, NY 11749
GE Sensing & Inspection Technologies
721 Visions Drive
Skaneateles, NY 13152
Tel (toll-free): +1 888 332 3848
Tel: +1 315 554 2000 ext. 1
Fax: +1 866 899 4184
207 Tremont Street
Rochester, New York 14608
Phone: 585-235-2620 800-536-0790
Karl Storz Industrial-America, Inc.
600 Corporate Pointe 5th Floor
Culver City, CA 90230-7600
Lenox Instrument Co
265 Andrews Rd.
Trevose, PA 19053
40 Ramland Rd. S.
Orangeburg, NY 10962
Olympus Industrial America Inc
One Corporate Drive
Orangeburg, NY 10962
2828 Cochran St. #319
Simi Valley, CA 93085
Titan Tool Supply
68 Comet Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14216