What are articulating borescopes used for?
What is an Articulating Video Borescope?
An articulating borescope is an inspection tool equipped with optics. It is used for inspecting areas and tight spaces that are impossible to visualize without it. This tool has a handheld unit connected to a long probe with an articulating camera tip.
Typically, an articulating borescope will be inserted into an engine so that it can be inspected without having to be taken apart. A technician will use this tool to look for cracks, corrosion and general signs of wear and tear inside complicated components. This tool allows technicians to conduct routine inspections at a fraction of the time and cost of conducting a typical inspection.
These borescopes help technicians to conduct safe, thorough, and accurate inspections. These tools are available in different sizes and styles designed for specific uses. The most common inspections are conducted on components such as turbine engines, pipe systems, and car engines.
How Does an Articulating Borescope Work?
This tool consists of a few key components. These include the handheld unit with the HD LCD screen and controls, the quadruple tungsten braided insertion tube, and the medical grade camera tip. The handheld unit controls include a zoom function, playback, video and photo capture, and a joystick for effortless control of the articulating camera tip. At the end of the insertion tube is the articulating camera tip. This part of the probe articulates 4 ways and a full 360 degrees. The camera tip at the end of the probe is equipped with multiple LED lights to illuminate its surroundings clearly for optimum visualization. After photo and video are recorded, users can take out the SD card in the handheld unit and download the content onto their own devices for further analysis.
There are different accessories available to customize this tool even further. Guide tubes can be used to make a flexible borescope probe more rigid and easy to maneuver inside certain components. Guide tubes come in different lengths and thicknesses. There are also different camera attachments, such as side-view mirrors, that allow users to have more visuals when inside components.
Articulating Borescopes work by being inserted into a component, such as a combustion engine, and articulated strategically to detect any signs of damage or wear. The long insertion tube is perfect for feeding deep into components or pipe systems for comprehensive inspections. During the inspection, the technician can take pictures or record live videos to review later. Sound is also recorded in many borescope models so videos can have voiceovers for real-time inspection analysis.
How to Use a Borescope
For optimum use and longevity, it is essential that you know how to properly use this kind of tool. The following are tips for getting the best use out of your articulating borescope:
- Charge the Battery - Make sure the battery is fully charged before you start your inspection. Most borescopes have a full charge of 3 or more hours, which is enough time for most inspections to be carried out uninterrupted.
- Extend the Tube - Fully extend the insertion probe for maximum articulation. Trying to articulate the probe when it is coiled up can result in internal damage and poor articulation. This will ultimately extend the lifespan of your tool.
- Insert Slowly - Use caution and slowly insert the probe into the component. This will allow you to see clearly exactly what damage there might be inside a component. Inserting the probe too quickly or too roughly will cause you to miss critical visuals and potentially damage the probe itself.
- Articulate Slowly - Slowly articulate the probe when conducting your inspection. This allows you to completely see your surroundings and spot cracks or other signs of damage. Articulating too quickly can also damage the probe due to overexertion of the involved cables.
- Turn off the Component -Never insert the probe into a component that is moving or turned on. This can destroy your scope’s camera and probe. It is also essential for your personal safety when reaching inside components.
- Is your scope waterproof? - Do not submerge the handheld unit in water unless it is waterproof. Some borescopes are not intrinsically safe due to the electric charge the small camera and LED lights have. Inserting these components of the scope into water can cause electrocution, unless it is a completely waterproof scope.
- Safe Operating Temperature- Operate an articulating borescope in the safe operating temperature range (typically between -20 degrees Celsius(-4 degrees Fahrenheit) to 60 degrees Celsius(140 degrees Fahrenheit) Operating your tool outside of the safe temperature range can cause deterioration of the borescope, leading to permanent damage and costly repair.
- Slowly Pull Out the Probe - When you are done conducting your inspection, carefully and slowly pull out the probe. This ensures that the probe does not get stuck inside the engine or gets damaged on the way out.
Types of Articulating Borescopes ( Mechanical, Manual, Pipe Inspection)
There are several different types of articulating video borescopes. Each type is equipped with a different set of specifications for use in specific inspections. The types include Mechanical Articulating, Interchangeable, and Pipe Inspection. Probe lengths, camera types, and handheld units come in varying shapes and sizes to best fit the requirements of different inspections. Usually, technicians have a variety of tools in their toolbox to ensure they are fully prepared for any inspection they may have to conduct. Read on to find out which scope is the best fit for your unique inspection needs.
Mechanical Articulating Borescopes
There are two different methods of articulation for an articulating video borescope. There is mechanically (servo) driven articulation and manually driven articulation. The first type is a more durable and responsive type. Mechanically driven articulation provides for extremely responsive and precise movement. The joystick in the handheld component of the borescope effortlessly controls the articulating camera tip with minimal strain on the insertion tube.
This articulation is rougher than manual articulation because you can easily feel the strain if you are articulating too much in one direction. Being able to feel the strain of the probe is an advantage because you can feel when the wires might snap, preventing further damage of your borescope. This kind of articulation is best for durable borescopes that go through more rigorous inspections. Mechanically-driven articulating borescopes would be best for regular maintenance of large aircraft engines. These engines undergo very thorough, intensive inspections regularly. Aviation technicians need durable, responsive tools for the job. Articulating borescopes can give technicians the visual access they need because the insertion points for aircraft engines are small but lead to larger spaces. It is crucial that the technician has a tool that allows them to see a full 360 degrees inside the engine to detect any possible signs of wear and damage.
Manual Articulating Borescopes
The second type of articulating borescope is the manually-driven articulating borescope. This type of articulation works by using a 4-way, marionette design in which the joystick is connected to 4 different cables. These cables go the entire length of the insertion tube. Depending on what direction you pull the joystick, the corresponding cable will be pulled in response, articulating the camera tip.
This type of articulation has a slight lag, but is still smooth and very responsive to the touch of the joystick. This kind of design has its benefits: the handheld unit is lightweight, more portable, and the probes can easily be interchangeable. Technicians can achieve the full 360 degree range of motion with this type of articulation. These borescopes work efficiently in automotive inspections. Combustion engines are compact but have cavernous regions inside where an articulating video borescope would be essential.
Pipe Inspection Borescopes
The last type of borescope is a pipe inspection borescope. These have major differences between the other articulating video borescopes. Pipe inspection borescopes, or pipe cameras, are used primarily for inspecting pipes, chimneys, drains, behind walls, and sewers. The length and durability of these probes are perfect for inspecting deep into pipe systems to check for puncturing, buildup, rust, root intrusion, corrosion, blockage, and other signs of damage. The camera attached to the probe takes pictures and records video as the probe is being pushed through the pipe. Pictures and videos from previous inspections can be used to construct a standard by which other inspections will be compared to for quality purposes.
These types of borescopes have several core functionalities that make it perfect for pipe inspections. These features include photo and video recording, zoom function, 360-degree camera articulation, long probe lengths, and bright LED camera lighting. All of these features equip technicians and plumbers with the ability to carry out thorough and accurate inspections.
In the case of sewer inspections, pipe inspection borescopes work very well. Sewer systems can be very expensive to inspect and repair, in terms of time AND money. By using a pipe camera, technicians can easily and quickly pinpoint the problems and fix only what needs to be fixed. The alternative would be replacing an entire section of the sewer to make certain the problem is fixed. This also prevents the damaged pipes to be physically excavated. Because of this, a pipe camera inspection is an essential type of non-destructive inspection.
How to Pick the Right Borescope for Your Inspection Needs
Here are some tips and things to think about when determining which scope is the best fit for your toolbox.
Inspection Duration Time
How long do your inspections usually last? If the inspection is a lengthy one you might want to consider buying a lightweight handheld borescope. Different borescopes have different lengths of battery life. Some are mobile and thus have a battery life of a few hours, and others must stay plugged into an outlet and can last as long as possibly needed. There are also borescopes with magnetic bases that can attach to metal engine blocks and components for hands-free scoping.
Diameter / Length of Insertion Points
How wide and long are the insertion points of the components you inspect? For example, a traditional turbine engine has a combustion chamber that needs to undergo regular maintenance. A combustion engine has very small holes that lead into the inner chamber, so a borescope with a smaller probe diameter would be more useful for the technician. Another example is if you know you need to inspect pipes that are more than a couple meters in length, a pipe inspection system would be ideal. The very long probes in this scope are perfect for feeding down pipes and vessels for optimum inspection results.
Rigid / Flexible Borescopes
There are two main types of borescopes: Rigid borescopes and Flexible/Articulating Borescopes. Rigid borescopes are more basic and cannot articulate, but they often have higher quality images and lower prices. These are better for insertion points that are very short and straightforward.
Flexible borescopes, however, are usually more useful for a wider range of inspections. The articulating camera tip on these tools allows users to easily navigate inside complicated components for more thorough inspections. These can also record video and sound. This proves to be very valuable because technicians can play back these recordings and spot signs of damage or wear that were not noticed during the inspection.
Industries That Use Articulating Borescopes
Many different industries use articulating borescopes to conduct their non-destructive inspections. They utilize mechanical articulating, manual articulating, and pipe inspection borescopes that provide them with the accuracy they need for their unique maintenance processes. From Aviation and Aerospace to Energy Generation, these borescopes can be trusted for the most extensive, important inspections. Here at SPI Borescopes, we continue to provide our excellent articulating video borescopes to every industry, including the ones listed below. Read on to find out how our borescopes are a great addition to the toolboxes of all of these industries.
This industry focuses on the design, production, selling, and maintenance of automotive vehicles. This is easily one of the world’s most profitable and essential industries. These inspections are primarily done on car engine blocks, such as external combustion engines and internal combustion engines.
Aviation and Aerospace
This industry produces all things that are aircraft-related. The aviation industry specifically covers the manufacturing and operation of aircraft within earth’s atmosphere. On the other hand, the aerospace industry focuses on aircraft outside of the earth’s atmosphere- space travel. These machines include commercial airplanes and airbuses, space shuttles, and satellites.
Energy and Power Generation
This industry encompasses all of the separate industries related to the manufacturing, refining, and distribution of different types of energy. A broad industry like this has many uses for non-destructive testing equipment such as articulating video borescopes. A common inspection in this industry is an inspection of a wind turbine, specifically its engine and gearbox components.
Military and Defense
This industry deals with the production of arms, aircraft, naval crafts, and more for the armed forces, primarily for defense operations, and for civilians. The buying and selling of these arms are also handled through this industry. There are many different machines and components that must have regular maintenance and repairs. Some include fighter jets, tanks, and naval ships.
Oil and Gas
This industry is unique in that it is a global industry. It concentrates on the exploration, extraction, refining, and logistics of petroleum. Many huge, complicated components are utilized in this industry to carry out these core functions. Borescopes are great tools for this industry because of their easy to maneuver, non-destructive testing design. Different components that are usually inspected include pipelines and pressure vessels.