Preventive maintenance of melting furnaces with Colvin thermal imaging cameras

In the concentrate smelter of Codelco Norte, located in Chuquicamata, Region II, the copper concentrates from its Concentrator Plant are melted. For this it has a Lieutenant Converter, a Flash Furnace, as well as an Electric Furnace; four Pierce Smith Converters; Four Refining Furnaces; and two drying ovens, as main equipment. To permanently control the operation of these devices, the company has used FLIR infrared thermographic cameras for several years, which were acquired from Colvin & Cía. Ltda., Exclusive distributor of the brand in Chile. According to Sergio Castillo, Chief Analyst of Metallurgical-Casting Processes of Codelco Norte,

Sergio Castillo, Chief Analyst of Metallurgical-Casting Processes of Codelco Norte.
The application of the FLIR thermal imaging cameras is basically oriented to the inspection of furnaces in the foundry, which is part of a large number of tasks that Codelco Norte has to carry out in order to maintain an adequate level of service quality. “With the thermographic cameras we control the temperature variable in the walls and / or frames of the fusion equipment, which we have enhanced with the purchase of filters for high temperatures, being able to measure temperatures of up to 2000ºC and even temperatures of molten liquids “Explains Castillo. The procedure consists in carrying out periodic thermographic inspections (trend inspections) to the outer mantle of the ovens, in order to detect the premature wear of the interior refractory material,

According to Castillo, “the problem of handling equipment that operates with high temperatures generated the need to have high-tech instruments that were able to measure this variable, without coming into contact with the source itself, protecting the physical integrity of our workers , equipment and the process itself. ” The company acquired, at the beginning of the 1990s, an Agema THV550 thermographic camera (a brand that belongs to FLIR Systems), which was an innovation at that time. “At the beginning this camera was used for research purposes, but over the years it began to be used in process control and the requirements were growing over time, as well as the different applications that are currently being given to them. “Explains Castillo.

Operational continuity

En 2000, Codelco Norte acquired the company Colvin & Cia. Ltda. The FLIR PM695 camera, a smaller equipment, but shielded against blows and pollution, a camera that is still operational today, and which is ideal for handling in extreme conditions. Subsequently, and given the good results obtained, the firm acquired the P620 camera in 2001, expanding its capacity to carry out this type of controls from the point of view of information management.

Versatility and quality

FLIR’s P-Series infrared cameras provide high thermal and visual image quality, high resolution focus and precision in temperature measurement. These devices are ideal for predictive maintenance and non-destructive inspections.

Specifically, the P660 model features on-camera recording sequence, built-in GPS, contrast adjuster, light for recording, wide range of lenses (including interchangeable 45 ° and 12 ° lenses), 8x digital zoom, extended measurement functions, USB and FireWire connection. “One of the great advantages of this team is its versatility, since it does not restrict or limit its applications. It is capable of recording comments, thermal and photographic images, which, as a whole, constitutes an effective tool in the quality of information obtained in the field, “says Castillo.

“In the time of operation of these equipment in our facilities, only have been sent to the technical service for their respective maintenance and replacement of some spare parts by term of useful life, but that has not been a problem, since they have been programmed, allowing reduce the time of permanence in the technical service of the company Colvin & Cía. This is a very important aspect, as well as the local technical support offered by the company in Chile “, concludes Castillo.