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Formula One team warms to infrared thermography

15 February 2015

Formula One racing is probably the pinnacle of performance and speed in sports. But it’s as much a technical development race as it is a race on the track, which is where test and measurement equipment features very prominently.

Racing teams are always pushing the boundaries of technology in search of higher performance and reliability. This is no different with the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team, who recently called upon FLIR Systems to help them gather critical temperature data for a variety of trackside and factory activities. 

In 2014 FLIR Systems was named an Innovation Partner with Infiniti Red Bull Racing, and the two worked to gather temperature data from Infiniti Red Bull’s 2014 challenger, the RB10. FLIR developed methods using its miniature thermal cameras, like the FLIR Lepton core, to provide insights into the thermal characteristics of the cars’ components and operations.

Managing car temperatures effectively is essential to ensuring reliability, as Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s team principal, Christian Horner explains: “The insights which FLIR technology can give us will be critical to our understanding of the new car and could give us a key edge over our rivals. Thermal imaging has become a vital tool for controlling temperature management and tyre performance.”

But Infiniti Red Bull Racing is not only using thermal imaging on the trackside. The same drive for performance and reliability is felt at its headquarters in Milton Keynes. Here, thermal imaging cameras help to monitor critical temperatures for the company’s assets, and the team has purchased a variety of thermal imaging cameras and test & measurement equipment to aid it in this task.

“The FLIR E4 and E8 cameras have vastly improved the way we perform electrical and IT maintenance and inspection activities,” says Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s maintenance manager, Steven Geary. “When inspecting large arrays of electrical switches and junction boxes at the factory, we are able to look for hot-spots and problem areas when the live wiring is exposed.

“Being able to do this without physical contact has clearly improved the safety of our team, but it has also increased the speed and reliability with which we can perform this kind of maintenance activity, which results in less downtime in the factory.

“One of the really good features of the FLIR E-Series cameras is the MSX mode. It allows us to see detail underneath the actual image such as labelling, numbers of circuit breakers and so on, in the actual thermal image.”

Thermography and more
Next to its existing range of Extech test and measurement equipment, FLIR Systems also launched a new line of test and measurement products in 2014, and the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team has also included a variety of these products in its maintenance toolkit. 

The new FLIR DM93 digital multi-meter designed with advanced VFD filtering and shielding, for example, is now in use at both the Infiniti Red Bull Racing electronics and site facilities departments. “An extremely accurate and versatile tool that is now in daily use within our team,” says Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s head of electronics, Paul Everington. “With Bluetooth connectivity we’ll soon be able to send test results remotely from the race track back to our headquarters in the UK via our mobile devices.” The team is also using the FLIR CM83 power clamp meter. Steven Geary again:

“Precision and accuracy are key factors in every area of our Formula One business. The clamp meters are now an important piece of equipment in the toolset for my electrical and maintenance engineering team, and are offering an excellent level of quality and reliability.”

The team also purchased the FLIR VP52 voltage pen and is using it for electrical installation and fault finding across the site. “The intelligent design of the voltage pen has been a big hit with all of my team,” says Mr Geary. “It allows my electricians to check electrical circuitry very quickly before they’re working on it, which means they are working very safely. It also has a very handy torch on it. When we are working in very confined switch panels, fuse boards, and so on, it helps us out a great deal.”

Head of technical partnerships, Alan Peasland, concludes: “2014 has been a great year for the partnership between Infiniti Red Bull Racing and FLIR. It has been really successful for us and we’ve been able to take advantage of a lot of technology, skill and support that FLIR can offer. We hope that continues and we look forward to a very strong and bright future together.”

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