I''m really hoping to put together a video for you, but there are some nice ones on YouTube for the ETS320. In the meantime, I wanted to get my thoughts out to you. After using it for a couple of weeks, I do like it (and like it better than when I first got it), but it does...
I''m really hoping to put together a video for you, but there are some nice ones on YouTube for the ETS320. In the meantime, I wanted to get my thoughts out to you. After using it for a couple of weeks, I do like it (and like it better than when I first got it), but it does have some potentially important shortcomings. Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions because I know that I won''t cover everything about this unit.
Here''s the short of it:
You can tell from the photos that this is a niche product, but the short focal length and lack of focus adjustment leads to a fairly small imaging area on a board (40 x 55 mm), meaning that a lot of CCAs can''t be imaged as a whole...or even nearly as a whole. You can get focused images of leads on components, which is awesome, but the small imaging area and lack of MMX (visual/IR image blending) does make it more difficult to tell where you are looking on a board and less useful to me overall. It''s capabilities make it a valuable tool for the niche user checking out CCAs, but it''s limitations make it less likely to be the only thermal imager that you''ll want in the lab.
The slightly longer summary:
The resolution of the ETS320 is currently quite good for the price, FLIR Tools+ may be the best that I''ve used (and their free software is excellent for the casual user), the spot size of 0.17 mm is excellent for most electronic components, and the static-safe workspace (once you hook up a ground strap) and hands-free operation are very handy. The lack of a visual sensor and MMX image blending, while understandable at these focal lengths, is disappointing. The inability to manually focus the image is a big problem, IMO, even at this price because the fixed focal length and field of view limit you to about 40 x 55 mm as an image size...so large circuit card assemblies (CCAs) are going to be out of focus if you want to see all of them...assuming that you can raise the camera up on the stand high enough to see them. FLIR really should have included a manual focus capability. It would have been nice to be able to angle the display to avoid glare, as well as accommodate users of different heights. The control panel with buttons is usable and not bad, but the button that takes image snapshots works about 50% of the time on mine (I have to push it just right to get it to take an image). If you only have computers running Mac OS, you probably want to pass on this model unless you''re willing to get Windows because Tools+ is Windows only and the free Mac version won''t recognize the ETS320. You can still post-process the images on Mac OS, but you can view any of the images real-time on your Mac.
I''ve been in search of a good overall "low cost" thermal imaging system for circuit card assemblies for about two years. I''m most familiar with using higher end FLIR cameras in the $15k+ range on electronics, but those are usually overkill for checking out prototype CCAs. I bought a Seek Thermal Compact Imager in early 2015 and loved it for hobby use, but never gave much thought to using such a system for real work until I bought a FLIR ONE Thermal Imager. FLIR''s free post-processing software is really quite useful (and the Tools+ version included with the ETS320 is even better) and got me thinking that these imagers are potentially a real alternative. I also got a Seek Reveal, FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System, FLIR DM284 Imaging Multimeter with IGM, and Fluke FLK-TIS20.
If you''re in the market to drop (currently) about $2500, you almost surely have already read the specs on FLIR''s website. To expand a bit on those, what the ETS320 gives you is hand-free operation, a static-safe (if you ground it) work top, a spot size of 0.17 mm, and pretty good resolution at 320 x 240. What you don''t get is a visual sensor for the blended MSX image, and you are fairly limited by the ~70mm focal length and field of view because it lets you image an area of about 40 x 55 mm. The camera doesn''t really lend itself to being taken off of the mounting stand because of the fixed-angle display, so you''re also pretty much limited to imaging horizontal boards. For a number of you, a hand-held unit would be a better choice because it allows you to image things at any angle.
The "near-sighted" remark that I made in the title refers to that last part. It images pretty well when you are close to the CCA, but if you have a CCA larger than about 40 x 55 mm, then you can''t image the whole thing while still being in focus. The lack of adjustable focus is a big drawback, IMO, and the primary reason that I don''t "love" this. If this allowed you to adjust the focus and move it up higher on the mounting stand, then you could focus on much larger portions of CCAs. Sure, the spot size would be larger, but you could check out hot spots, potential shorts, and unintended design aspects on entire CCAs in one image. As an example, I once caught a design flaw in a CCA that was meant to have two identical circuits on the same card because it was obvious that the heat loads were not symmetric as intended. With the ETS320, that would have been possible but less obvious because I would have had to scan across the CCA in multiple images and then stitch them together to catch that flaw.
I''ve been impressed by FLIR''s free software for quite a while, and the included non-free Tools+ adds in some very valuable functionality like the ability to record and real-time plot temperatures as a function of time. A drawback to Tools+ (for me) is that it only works on Windows, and a drawback to the ETS320 is that the Mac software won''t recognize it. Outside of the added functionality, you can download FLIR''s software for free from their website (or Apple App Store for Macs) to check it out.
(*) Good resolution for the price, at least in mid-2017
(*) Excellent spot size at the focal length of ~70 mm
(*) Battery-equipped so that you don''t have to have it plugged in all of the time
(*) Related to the above, the built-in display for real-time imaging without a computer
(*) On-board memory that can store many images
(*) Static-safe work space when attached to a grounding strap
(*) Adjustable camera height to accommodate assemblies of different heights
(*) Tools+ included, which adds valuable functionality above their already excellent free software
(*) Battery is charged via the micro USB input, either with the included charger or by any powered USB port
(*) No built-in focus adjustment (you can adjust the focus by revolving the frame around the lens, and their are 3D printed tool designs available for download, but that can affect the calibration)
(*) Limited viewing area when in focus (only 40 x 55 mm)
(*) Mounting approach for the camera on the vertical stand relies on friction from bolts that you tighten down, resulting in the camera moving a bit (at least on me) every time that I push a button on the control panel
(*) Plastic exterior and display panel potentially make this not ideal for professional lab use, where things aren''t always treated with kid gloves
(*) No visual sensor for blended visual/IR images (FLIR''s MMX technology, but some Fluke units can do it, too)
(*) Tools+ is Windows only, and software available for Mac OS will not recognize this camera, so image post-processing is possible but real-time access is not
(*) Built-in display angle is not adjustable