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Inframetrics / FLIR PM280 cooled thermal camera teardown for repair

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I am fortunate enough to now own two Inframetrics / FLIR PM280 Stirling Cooled thermal cameras.

One was bought some time ago and proved to be a bit of a bum deal as the camera did not work. Yesterday I was kindly gifted another PM280 that was described to me as very noisy. My sincerest thanks to my fellow forum member for gifting such a nice camera to me. He knows who he is  :)

I just thought 'typical Stirling Cooler noise' ....... oh how wrong I was  ;D

I fired up the camera and was greeted with a sound akin to  a mass of ball bearings in a tin that is being shaken  :scared:  One very sick Stirling cooler  :( The amazing thing is that the cooler actually reaches -196C and the camera works well. The cats were not amused with the noise and scattered and I must say I had to muffle the noise with a towel as it is just so loud !

I was quite frankly amazed that the noisy camera was working. My original PM280 is younger and sounds very sweet when running. I had originally thought that its cooler had run out of gas but I am no longer sure. Maybe it has or maybe there is another fault that means the camera never sees the correct -196C detector temperature that it is looking fro, so all functions work except image production ? Wishful thinking on my part I know. It would be so great if I could make one good camera out of two poorly ones though  :)

I dismantled the noisy camera today as I will be giving it a good clean and service anyway. As I know some members of the forum have an interest in what lives inside such a camera, I have taken some photographs for you. The PM280 is a bit of a pig to work on though. Nothing like as simple to disassemble as the FLIR PM 5xx and 6xx cameras. The PCB's form a box around the detector and cooler and that makes access for fault finding a bit of a nightmare. Its an old school pcb configuration often seen in older Vidicon CCTV cameras and I dislike it. Getting at the microprocessor board is a total nightmare. You must remove the cooler and detector assembly in order to gain access, and then the pcb can be removed. NIL points for technician friendliness  >:(  How the heck are you supposed to fault find to component level when the whole camera has to be stripped to the chassis in order to get at the pcb that has the 'brains' on board. This type of camera layout is designed to be worked on using long pcb interconnect extension cables and PCB jigs to hold everything in place. It is also a sad fact that most repairs would in fact be just PCB replacement with no 'on-camera' diagnostics to component level.

I will try the working cameras PCB's with the non-cooling cameras detector and cooler to see whether the cooler is unserviceable or not. If its actually working, I can decide which boards need to go with which detector and, if required, trace the fault to source if a board is detector  specific. I can always transfer the calibration and dead pixel map FLASH chips onto the the known working detector board if that is needed. Lots of options but little time to play at the moment. This will be an ongoing project over the next few days or even weeks.

Here are the pictures.... there will be quite a few !


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