Established in 1969, Mikron Infrared has evolved into a leader in the field of infrared non-contact temperature measurement. Through the years, it has consistently innovated temperature measurement devices, temperature sensors, and calibration sources. Dan Harvey reports how the company is heading into new directions.
Mikron Infrared has become a leader in advancing innovative infrared technology in myriad directions. The Oakland, N.J.-based company develops, manufactures and sells technology that demonstrates exceptional speed, accuracy and high-resolution thermal imaging for preventive-predictive maintenance (PPM) and research applications. Its range of product offerings encompasses lightweight portable units, process and laboratory instruments, and complex, computer-compatible thermal imaging systems.
Always a forward-thinking operation, Mikron Infrared recently trained its 20/20 future vision on the area of process control as
well as toward specialized markets that provide substantial
Where No Companies Have Gone Before
Jon Chynoweth, Mikron’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, indicates that his company is targeting niche markets and applications, which provides it a leg up on competition. “While we operate in the traditional, uncooled, vanadium oxide, hand-held portable imaging marketplace, and we cover the common PPM markets, we also develop products that reach into areas competitors haven’t entered,” he says “For instance, we have a unique patented thermal camera that can look inside furnaces and boilers, to measure wall temperatures.”
Specifically, with its high-temperature functionality and patented filtering optics, this fully-radiometric camera allows users to “see” through furnace flames for boiler-tube monitoring. The latest iteration, the MikroScan 7604, boasts a high temperature range (200°C – 1600°C), as well as specialized infrared filtering capabilities, radiation shield, and protective window assembly that enables it to measure tube wall temperatures without interference from combustion flames. A versatile device, it also can be used for standard PPM monitoring of items such as electrical cabinets, motors and bearings.
The MikroScan 7600PRO/7604 is ergonomically designed for easy, one-handed point-and-shoot operation: It features joystick operation, an intuitive menu system, five direct access buttons, a viewfinder and high-quality articulating LCD display. It also includes onboard digital voice recording and can simultaneously record high-definition, 14-bit thermal images with digital visual images. Further, its battery operator includes extensive onboard image processing software, and it can store images and data to a standard compact flash memory card. Images can also be viewed in real-time via the video output or through a built-in IEEE 1394 interface.
Moving into Process Control
Chynoweth says Mikron, named by Forbes magazine as one of the 200 Best Small Companies in 2006, also sees a large future market in the area of process control. “Loosely defined, process control involves a camera focused on a target and then taking image data from the camera back to a processor, either wirelessly or otherwise,” he explains. “Custom software acquires and then crunches the data, and that eventually affects a process control of some sort. That control could be something as simple as blowing a horn or spinning a light, changing speeds on a conveyor, or turning a furnace up or down. Essentially, it’s remote monitoring.”
Mikron’s focus on process control has led to its development of an innovative infrared thermometry product called the ThermalSpection 724 Remote Thermal Monitoring System. Employing multiple cameras, ThermalSpection is the first system that enables remote monitoring of temperatures in real time through image data obtained from one or more cameras to a single PC. The system offers unmatched accuracy for demanding industrial and scientific applications while quickly measuring temperature without contact in even the most adverse environments.
“The initial market was in electrical substation monitoring, using multiple cameras to monitor the equipment in substations,” says Chynoweth. “But applications actually run the gamut, ranging anywhere from monitoring rocket launches to prison security. The bottom line is that thermal imaging for process control will dwarf the PPM market.”
In-House Software Development
As Chynoweth indicated, ThermalSpection includes custom software, and that’s another area where Mikron stands out from its competitors. “We do all of our software in-house. We write and develop all of the software, and we do all of our own commissioning of the systems,” he says. “In this way, we can react to our customer’s needs in a more timely fashion.”
Software, he points out, is a huge issue when it comes to process control. “Customization is required to integrate remote monitoring.”
Moreover, by customizing software, Mikron offers its clients the whole package. “We provide the hardware, the software and the integration,” says Chynoweth. “That’s another thing that makes Mikron unique. We provide a total solution to a customer’s project, from the top down.”
Mikron’s history demonstrates fairly rapid evolution thanks to a consistent, forward-thinking vision among its leaders. The company was founded in 1969 by Keikhosrow Irani. “He originally established the company to develop non-contact point sensors, measurement devices, and blackbody calibration sources,” says Chynoweth. “About 12 years ago, the company formed a relationship with NEC of Japan to market thermal imaging cameras in North American markets.”
In the late 1990s, the board of directors hired Gerald Posner as the chief executive officer and Dennis Stoneman as the vice president – two appointments that would have tremendous impact. “Together, Posner and Stoneman envisioned thermal imaging as the future for Mikron, and that became one of the company’s leading product lines,” says Chynoweth.
Subsequently, Mikron purchased Texas Infrared to serve as its infrared technology representative. Further development will no doubt be pushed by a very recent transaction: In February 2007, Mikron signed an agreement with LumaSense Technologies, Inc. to merge Red Acquisition Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of LumaSense, with and into Mikron. LumaSense is a global leader in providing quality sensor instrumentation to the industrial, medical and energy markets, and the $65 million transaction made sense from both sides. LumaSense saw it as a way to significantly strengthen its position in its markets. Mikron saw the agreement as a way to gain significant strategic advantages via access to the technology and distribution channels of the other LumaSense portfolio companies.
“This will provide us with the finances to do bigger and better things, from sales and marketing and research and development standpoints,” says Chynoweth. “It will help us develop more products and become more competitive. LumaSense also has a well-established sales and distribution channel in the European and Pacific Rim marketplaces, so we’ll expand our presence in those areas.”
Customers and Applications
Mikron brought to the merger its own manufacturing and sales facilities in the United States and Western Europe. Further, it provides extensive application expertise in a variety of industries. “We have a wide range of customers and applications. People ask ‘what is the typical application?’ Well, there is none,” comments Chynoweth.
Indeed, Mikron products are used in diverse arenas such as steel, glass, semiconductor, chemical, power generation and medical industries, and by OEMs and scientific researchers. Specific products include a line of blackbody sources for the calibration of infrared thermometers, thermal imaging systems, radiometers, and spectrometers; and accessories and options for infrared thermometers such as infrared temperature sensors, lenses, fiber optic assemblies, calibration equipment, mounts, protective jackets and cases, batteries, chargers, and camera adapters.
The various products are applied to manufacturing processes to measure the process temperature of metals, wood, plastics, paper, textiles, rubber, glass, ceramics, food, and chemicals. For condition monitoring and PPM purposes, they’ve been used to keep tabs on temperatures of kiln walls, heat exchangers, boilers, engines, compressors, transmissions, bearings, gears, pumps, steam lines and traps, transformers and electrical switchgears.
No matter the industry or application, Mikron helps it customers solve the most challenging problems. By providing turnkey design, engineering and installation services it can help clients tackle their most complex thermal imaging requirements.