Products > Thermal Imaging

FLIR Thermal Camera for teardown - my latest patient, the E2

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Fraser:
For all thermal camera fans out there, I have just aquirred a new patient in need of repair.
It is a poorly FLIR E2 that will need a tear down to determine what is ailing it  :)

This is just the introductory post and will be followed by a photographic record of its disassembly. I hope the journey will be interesting to the readership.

Some background on the camera.

The original FLIR Ex and Exx series were produced in the early 2000's and are not to be confused with the latest Ex and EXX cameras. How confusing of FLIR to use the same family name  ::)

These cameras were intended to be a very portable, yet capable, handheld thermal camera that could be used like a kind of thermal 'torch'. Hence its shape. I tested one of these when they were first released and performance was pretty impressive at the time.
The resolution is 160x120 with a thermal sensitivity of 0.12C and 30 frames per second. The removable standard lens is 24 degrees, but other lenses may be fitted. The lens material is Germanium and it is large in diameter.

The menu structure is simple and all important functions are present. Namely, Auto and Manual modes with setting of centre temperature, span, emissivity, measurement areas etc.

Connectivity options are either PC or direct composite video output. Power comes from a Li-Ion 7.2V 1.8Ah removable battery that is located in the handle. These batteries are available new for £20 on ebay.

The 'patient' that I have just received is an E2 manufactured in 2002. It was being used by an electrician and this was the target market of the series i.e. preventative maintenance tasks. My camera has stood up to a long life in service very well, so build quality appears good.

My cameras fault appeared to be 'failure to boot' in the auction description. On receipt and initial testing it is clear that the camera is booting just fine with no errors shown. The FFC shutter is activating as expected and with normal regularity BUT no thermal image is appearing on the screen. Almost as if the lens cap was fitted. A key symptom is the fact that the spot temperature reading is around -4 degrees ! Something is very wrong there ! I have also noted what appears to be fluid ingress witness marks between the LCD panel and its plastic protector. The LCD is working fine though. Overzealous cleaning with screen cleaner maybe ? That may be nothing to do with the fault but we shall see.

I will be investigating the cause of these symptoms and will have to take the camera apart to do so. As such I thought I would start this topic so that I can add pictures and updates as I delve into this little camera. It is certainly worth the effort to repair it.

I hope this will be an interesting and enjoyable thread for the readership  :-+

Pictures of the patient attached and the cameras brochure.

Aurora

Fraser:
In case anyone is wondering why I have not torn into the casing as soon as the unit arrived....

I always follow good practice and check all functionality and symptoms before opening the case.

That is to say, check all menu options, look for obvious symptoms during these checks and then do a factory reset so that camera is running a known baseline configuration. Re test camera to see if symptoms have changed.

During the testing I noted the following:

1. Measured spot and area temperatures are always around -4C
2. Setting span to its widest range and bringing centre temperature up to include ambient and 36C resulted in no thermal image data when my hand was waved in front of the camera with  and without lens fitted. The camera is effectively blind.
3. The camera information menu showed serial numbers and information for all modules fitted EXCEPT the lens. From experience, cameras with removable lenses take data from the lens which includes FOV and serial number. That appears to be missing in this case. Germanium lens element Temperature data is also provided by the lens and this is important to the cameras internal correction algorithms. Lens contact gently cleaned but this issue remains.

I am suspicious of the very low -4C measurement but the camera is performing a FFC event without complaint. The absence of lens data is also of interest. I sjall be looking at the three main thermal data providers in the camera....namely, lens temperature, chassis temperatureand the microbolometer outputs. The microbolometer contains both image elements and die temperature monitors. The microbolometer in this camera is circa 2002 and so is likely a conventional (very expensive) hermetically sealed, gold plated, module. They are normally very robust so I do not expect microbolometer failure in this case.

These cameras contain built in diagnostics so I am surprised taht no error messages occur at boot.

I still need to carry out tests on all I/O ports to see what they are producing by way of image data but that will have to wait as duty calls elsewhere.

I shall investigate this as and when time and my energy levels permit  :) 

For anyone interested, the auction I bought the camera from is here:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/331542226167?_trksid=p2060353.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

Not a great description and the pictures with flash make the screen look awful but it is, in fact, not scratched at all. Just liquid ingress witness marks  :)

Aurora

Fraser:
I have had a most enjoyable afternoon disassembling and inspecting my new patient.

How many of you have bought a piece of equipment and had the nagging feeling that someone has been in it before you ? I had that feeling with this camera and I was correct.
Thankfully no harm has been done but it is obvious that someone was looking for the easy fix etc. More on that later.

This E2 came to me with the comment that it belonged to the sellers father who is an electrician by trade. He had apparently intended to repair it himself but lost interest long ago. Hence its was sold as part of a clear-out. ...... that pair of words send a shiver down my spine ...... my wife uses words like that when she see our garage contents  :scared:

Anyway, I opened the camera knowing that some form of liquid has got between the LCD and its protective window. I could also see strands of cotton wool on the inside of the screen so someone had to have been in her before me. The worst case scenario was that the E2 had gone for a swim at some point in time. That would have been bad news, very bad news  :(

With some trepidation I removed all of the screws that appeared to be associated with the case. This camera does not have any concealed screws (unlike the new FLIR TG165)  :phew:

The case separates into three parts with the display and keyboard panel lifting off of the top. One screw fixing point was damaged in the display/keyboard panel, possibly the result of a fall impact cracking the plastic around the knurled brass insert.

I was trained in forensic examination of electronics so enjoy analysing a 'crime scene' to ascertain what happened to a piece of equipment. This Camera is going to be subjected to a full inspection as I know there are fluid contamination issues that need to be addressed inside. The good news for the readership is that I have to strip the camera down to its component parts for inspection and lots of photos will ensue.

I continued with the disassembly of the case and at each stage of a PCB removal I inspected the PCB and surrounding area for signs of fluid ingress and residue. I found the following:

1. The rear of the LCD protection screen has been exposed to fluid of type unknown and then wiped with cotton wool. Poorly executed cleaning has left residue on the screen.
2. The LCD surround is tin plated steel and is showing evidence of corrosion.
3. The main PCB is fitted with an aluminium heat-sink and pink thermal transfer pads that cover two large IC's on the board. a layer of fluid was found between the thermal pads and the IC tops. This can sometimes be fluid coming from the pad as occurs with oil/silicone impregnated types. The fluid does not evaporate in warm temperatures so it is unlikely to be water. There is no fluid visible around the pins on the PCB below the heatsink.
4. The microbolometer diaphragm and chassis temperature monitoring housing has evidence of a sticky residue between it and the microbolometer. The shape of the residue is circular yet the microbolometer is a rectangular shape. I have no explanation for this disparity yet.  :-//
6. The micobolometer Germanium window was contaminated with a dried on layer of unknown origin. The layer was easily removed using IPA. There remains some minor marking on the window but this may be fine line corrosion which can occur on Germanium parts. They are not serious enough to effect a 160x120 pixel thermal camera image though.
7. The microbolometer has pins arranged around its periphery. The microbolometer hermetic housing is steel with gold plated pins egressing via glass vacuum seals. On two sides of the microbolometer there is evidence of fluid damage in the form of corrosion of the steel adjacent to the pins (rust has formed). There would also appear to be rust contamination of the microbolometer inter pin spacing. This could seriously impair the data on the affected pins.
8. The display/keyboard case is fitted with a metal finger gasket. This gasket is showing clear signs of corrosion and finger damage due to attempted cleaning using a inappropriate methodology.
9. There is evidence of fluid accumulation around the lower screw mounting of the microbolometer housing where it fits into the lens mount and FFC shutter assembly
10. There is fluid contamination residue on the laser protective window which is located directly above the microbolometer. This causes some distortion and spreading of the laser beam.

Well that is the bad news...... now for some good bits.......

1. The case shows no obvious physical damage due to a drop impact (except the brass bush retainer inside the display section.
2. There is no evidence of fluid presence or accumulation in the lower case halves.
3. There is no evidence of corrosion on any PCB or component pins (except on the microbolometer itself)
4. There is no evidence of fluid ingress through the lens mount and the matt black coating inside is pristine. (fluid would 'watermark' this for sure)
5. There is no evidence of component leakage on the PCB's and no fluid residue visible on them.

Some readers may already be thinking this camera a lost cause ? Well the good news is that I have managed to get it to produce a thermal image, albeit a noisy one. The noise may be being caused by the contamination and rusting of the area around the microbolometer pins The contamination is of an unknown origin and I shall be asking the sellers father for any information that he might have on the incident that lead to such.

This is turning out to be an interesting little project. I have proven that the camera and microbolometer are still capable of producing a thermal image so it is worth the effort to restore the unit to its full capabilities. Nothing I have seen today makes me think this camera is beyond my help.

It Lives  ;D

Pictures to follow

Aurora

Fraser:
OK here we go....internal pictures time  :)

Fraser:
More.....

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