How did you first learn about (discover) thermography?
That was in 2002 not long after we had moved to Melbourne. A friend of a friend’s husband wanted to start a franchising operation aimed at the domestic home’s market, through real estate agents.
The technology sounded amazing, so I did my own research.
What made you decide to become a thermographer? How did you get into thermography?
The technology was cutting edge with real-world applications, particularly electrical systems. There had to be the basis for a good business in that.
Quite a few people thought it was a bit of crazy idea. I had a very little background and only a small network at the time. I took out a loan and bought an AVIO TVS700, Goratec Software, and a fancy printer. The printer was a bit over the top, probably unnecessary but the camera was a serious professional unit back then.
I worked part-time at a call centre for 18 months to make ends meet. I found out early on that there was very little demand in the domestic home’s market. It’s main business to business and it’s been on the up and up since then.
What do you enjoy about thermography? What’s the greatest thing about being a thermographer?
I enjoy turning up to a site not knowing whether I will find any faults, serious or not so serious. It’s about keeping an open mind. So the greatest thing is being in the right place at the right time to find something serious. Sometimes, at short notice, that has meant the shutdown of a High Voltage power line or the shutdown of a business, the shutdown of refrigeration plant or of production machinery. So, later I’ll reflect on that – that a major breakdown and the damage and cost of that breakdown was avoided – that’s a good feeling!
I also enjoy being a member of the Australian Professional Thermography Association (AUSPTA). It’s a great organisation with a lot to offer.
What are the biggest challenges you face being a thermographer?
Dealing with people who think they know about thermography, but who really don’t, in a polite and friendly way!! No, seriously it can be demanding to run the business, to travel to and from sites, to do the reports.
What skills, training and experience do you think are important in becoming a successful thermographer?
Never underestimate the need for good interpersonal skills in dealing with people at every level. Good thermography training, early on, makes all the difference. Experience in business and technical employment helped me. I came to thermography at a more mature age so let’s just say I bought all my previous experience with me!
It’s important to build credibility in the market, especially given there are low cost, low-end IR cameras available and used by operators with very little knowledge or skill.
Increasingly, insurance underwriters are looking for reports that are provided by professionals. Being a Grade 2 Member of AUSPTA helps me in this regard.
Also, increasingly many larger industrial, institutional and corporate clients are looking for compliance with Australian Standards. Holding a Category 1 Certification from the Australian Institute for Non-Destructive Testing (AINDT) also helps me in the market. Sometime in the next few months, I may sit their Category 2 exam.
What personal attributes do you have that you consider makes you a good thermographer?
Some of the sparkies I have worked with ask me how I keep doing, what to them looks like, the same thing over and over again. Commitment to what you are doing and the discipline that it requires are key.
Further education and training, as well as Continuing Professional Development, are also important. Being a member of the Australian Professional Thermography Association keeps me involved in the industry, both specifically for electrical thermography and more broadly for a range of other applications, which I find very interesting.
Why did you choose IPI Learning training?
IPI Learning has a very good reputation. Their alignment with Infraspection in the States is a good fit. IPI Trainers are knowledgeable and experienced presenters. Thermography is their very strong skill set
IPI also have their CITA membership which is a great way to keep informed and up to date with training and IR Camera technology development.
What was the most valuable thing you learned in your training with IPI Learning?
There’s so much more to thermography than just a temperature!
What equipment do you use?
Previously I used the Avio TVS700. Now I use a Testo 885-2 Pro Kit, which I’m very happy with.
Tell us about the most important thermal exception you ever found? What did it mean for you or the end user? (Please attach an IR image of this thermal exception if possible)
There have been a few over time and each of them have been important in their own way. The image I’ve chosen was taken a few years ago with the TVS700 which had a fixed lens. It’s in a zone-substation near Broken Hill and this is the 33Kv feed to Menindee. The hinge mechanism of the dropout fuse is 240º C. Detection of this fault enabled the immediate planning and communication of a shutdown. It actually did not take long to repair. Further damage, downtime, and associated costs were much less than had there been a failure, which was imminent.
It’s interesting to note this image shows the camera was operating close to the limits of its field of view (distance to the object). Ground to height work is an important reason I chose the Testo 885-2 to replace the Avio – with the narrow-angle lens fitted, the Testo would have produced a much better image – as it does!
What advice would you give to people who are new to thermography?
It is definitely one of the more unique areas to work in. Get the right training and education. Get the right equipment. Give it a fair go. Keep interested and get to know your peers in the industry, through an organisation – there’s support there.
Phone number: 0425 758 820
Social Media: www.linkedin.com/in/Steve-Bowman-AITS
Australian Professional Thermography Association: www.auspta.asn.au
Australian Institute for Non-Destructive Testing: www.aindt.com.au