Optimised manufacturing through unique innovations in Quantitative Thermal Imaging

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering


The applicant's vision is that this fellowship will allow him to build a team of industrially aware academic researchers in infrared (IR) optoelectronics, providing leading research in manufacturing imaging, thermometry and related automation. This will be within a thriving and stimulating multidisciplinary environment, where researchers and industrialists from electronic engineering, signal processing, image processing, molecular materials and engineering research can come together to collaboratively bridge the 'innovation gap' and solve problems that are vitally important to manufacturing. As competition increases with developing nations, manufacturers in the west must increase efficiency, quality and reduce energy costs. 'Smart' instruments that can visually sense their environments, make decisions and communicate over wide areas will be required. The fellowship will allow the applicant to develop the resources, contacts, technology and skills required to meet these requirements. Non-contact IR temperature measurement is an indispensable tool for manufacturing. It can improve product quality, reduce energy consumption, automate processes and make high temperature manufacturing safer. In spite of the great utility of the technique, there are significant barriers to achieving its huge potential. The dominant problem is that thermometers are calibrated using ideal IR radiators, known as blackbody reference furnaces (emissivity>0.995). All real 'bodies' in manufacturing are non-ideal radiators, such as billets of aluminium; where not only are measurement errors of up to 200 Celsius common but it is currently impossible to accurately assess the measurement uncertainty. A two-fold research strategy is proposed. Firstly, the material science of emissivity must be studied on a fundamental level; where emissivity changes during a manufacturing process, algorithms must be developed to account for this change, for all materials that are important to industrial processes, such as titanium, steel, zinc and many more. Secondly, innovations in instrument components must be achieved. Detector inventions have been key to 'step changes' in how IR thermometer technology can be applied; with around one new useful detector to appear commercially every ten years. These slow to market inventions have successively brought practicality, faster measurement speed and sub zero Centigrade measurement. The unique aspect to this proposal the applicant's link with the world leaders in detector research, who's innovations can be brought within IR instruments, moving IR measurement forward as soon as new detector materials are proven, rather than waiting for commercial suppliers to market new technologies. This will open up a vast array of pioneering manufacturing research in automation, image processing and optoelectronics.

Planned Impact

The applicant's instruments for quantitative thermal imaging and overcoming the effects of emissivity can have a transformative impact upon UK manufacturing and the wider users of temperature measurement.

Advanced Manufacturing is underpinned by innovation and process improvement. The metals used in Advanced Manufacturing are usually low emissivity and novel alloys that present a particularly difficult challenge to infrared (IR) temperature measurement. This fellowship aims to meet those challenges. AEROSPACE companies, such as our partner Mettis Aerospace, will benefit by an improved understanding, visualisation and control of a major process variable that is temperature. New methods of manufacturing and automation will be enabled, such as replacing furnace heating with 'greener' induction heating. The AUTOMOTIVE industry relies on manufacture of high quality steels, glass and plastics. These are all areas that rely heavily on IR temperature measurement and the applicant's innovations promise to improve quality and reduce scrap. The STEEL industry itself is heavily reliant upon IR temperature measurement, with established and highly reliable methods adopted at the early 'hot end' stages of manufacture. However, at the latter stages, where strengthening, galvanising and coating take place, the technique is used less due to the increased problems of emissivity; yet this is the stage that most impacts visible quality in the final product. The exception is the blast furnace, which presents significant opportunities for temperature measurement aimed at reducing the huge energy costs involved in melting raw product. GLASS production is a high technology production process, with reliance on instrumentation, automation and numerical simulations in order to maximise throughput and minimise waste. The applicant's instruments can improve temperature uniformity and, therefore, quality, across flat, moulded and container glass alike. There is currently a world-wide quality problem with coated glass designed to reflect infrared radiation and improve a building's heating efficiency. This 'low emissivity' glass cannot be measured accurately by any currently available thermometer and our programme will meet this challenge. The FOOD and DRINK manufacturing sector is an important user of IR thermometry products. Intelligent thermometer instruments promise to impact through a better knowledge of storage history and potential for improved food safety. The PETROCHEMICAL industry is the biggest market for temperature measurement instruments. Chemical reactions take place in multi-story furnaces, at well defined temperatures and reaction tube lifetime is highly dependent upon running temperatures; with huge costs in replacing tubes, especially due to unscheduled failure. Currently, operators rely upon a combination of hand held IR thermometers and, increasingly, measurements are corroborated by the use of an emissivity enhancer, held at the end of a long pole. This is clearly not a satisfactory solution for the 21st century. For example, the probe cannot reach most of the tubes. The cameras produced during the applicant's fellowship will enable accurate non-contact temperature maps of petrochemical furnaces.

Outside the manufacturing arena, HEALTH particularly promises to benefit from improved temperature measurement and imaging, since this promising technology for cancer, vascular disease and diabetes screening is in its infancy and lacks suitable instrumentation. Some medical researchers expect thermal camera screening to be available in every doctor's surgery in the coming years and the applicant's work can impact and accelerate this. The European SPACE Agency regularly has funding calls aimed at remote IR measurement and so they would benefit from the applicant's research.

Temperature measurement pervades so much of human activity that it is impossible to list all potential benefactors; however, these are the initial targets.


10 25 50
Description -World's first emissivity measuring instrument with well controlled measurement uncertainty
-First analysis of the emissivity evolution process in stainless steel as a function of temperature and surface condition (as defined by electron microscopy)
-The world's first thermal imaging camera where each pixel is capable of making a temperature measurement traceable to the national standards. This is soon to be spun out as a company. World's first two colour (ratio) thermal imaging camera - extending the idea of ratio thermometry for overcoming e.g. emissivity and sight path obscuration.
-World's highest resolution, most accurate mapping of the thermal fields during electron bean and laser melting of metal powder for additive manufacturing. We are in the process of working with Birmingham University to see if they can model our results and with UCL (Diamond Light Source) to correlate our measurements with their X-Ray imaging.
-New rigorous metrology for using silicon focal plane array detectors for high temperature thermal imaging.
Exploitation Route Radiation thermometer manufacturers can use our emissivity instrument design to provide much better emissivity measurements with known uncertainties - for input into temperature uncertainty calculations in e.g. steel, glass, petrochemical manufacturing applications.

Our single pixel thermal imaging camera will allow much more efficient operation of e.g. petrochemical furnaces where there is a need to balance the need for high temperatures for more efficient reactions with a need to keep the temperature below the melting temperature of the tubes within which the reactions take place. There are many other such needs for very precise imaging in manufacturing industries.

Additive manufacturing companies can use our imaging to improve their processes.

Our new NIR camera metrology will hopefully be useful to UKAS calibration labs and manufacturers of thermal imaging cameras.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

URL https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/eee/staff/publ/all_jrw
Description Our thermal imaging (Boone, et al., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addma.2018.06.004) has been an integral part of a new 3D printing Electron Beam Melting approach to additive manufacturing being developed by Reliance Precision Engineering. This has increased the value of their IP as they look to further investment. The details are confidential. Our thermal metrology has allowed us to make accurate temperature measurements of iron at Port Talbot as it leaves the blast furnace. They had asked companies to make this measurement but they were unable to do so. Previously, they made two dip thermocouple measurements per cast. Now, they have our thermometers providing a continuous measurements. This is helping them to tune the parameters in their blast furnace and with such huge running costs, turning can save significant amounts of money. It can also improve product quality, with the chemical reactions taking place in a more controlled fashion, particularly reducing the amount of silicon in the iron.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description EPSRC Responsive Mode
Amount £1,284,837 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R045240/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 12/2022
Description Future Compound Semiconductor Manufacturing Hub
Amount £10,330,423 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P006973/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2023
Description Printed Spatial Light Modulator
Amount £90,000 (GBP)
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 05/2018
Description Researcher in Residence with AFRC
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 10/2020
Description Land Instruments Interntational Ltd. (AMETEK Inc.) 
Organisation Land Instruments
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Land is a ~70 year old company that manufacturers Infrared Thermometers, Thermal Imaging Cameras and Combustion Monitors. Land aspires to make their own infrared detectors. They have funded a KE project where we are enabling them to both do this and also extend the state of the art i.e. make something that differentiates them in the market. We have developed three different types of detector that are sensitive to two different wave bands of light in the infrared. We have added chip temperature monitoring, which we believe will be critical to making an accurate non-contract temperature measurements in the final thermometer. The detectors are engineered for various unmet applications e.g. measuring the temperature following quenching of aluminium. We have provided/transferred our 'knowledge' of the science and also the semiconductor supply chain in the form of monthly reports. We have provided finished, prototyped detectors.
Collaborator Contribution Land has provided funding, steer on what is required, marketing expertise and project management. They have had an engineer working in my group one day per week. He has modified thermometer PCBs to accept our new detectors. Land will provide UKAS certified testing facilities in the near future.
Impact Currently, the only outputs are in the form of prototype detectors from one of the three detector sub projects. These are currently with Land for evaluation.
Start Year 2017
Description Reliance Precision Electron Beam Melting Additive Manufacturing Thermal Imaging 
Organisation Reliance Precision Limited
PI Contribution We have re-engineered a high resolution, high speed, metrologically precise thermal imaging system that we devised for our internal (EPSRC MAPP HUB) EBM Additive Manufacturing system. This is unique to us and provides an insight into the thermal fields within the process not available elsewhere. Reliance has a unique approach to BBM AM. Our thermal imaging is both enabling them to develop their printing technology and also helping them to understand the material science of the materials they are printing. We are providing the metrology, software development and some image processing.
Collaborator Contribution The partner has developed their own EBM metal printing machine for Additive Manufacturing. They are using our camera to take huge data sets, that we are processing and working with machine learning academics in our university to uncover new meanings behind the thermal fields. Their intellectual contribution is from being professional material scientists.
Impact Our thermal imaging system in an integral part of their printer and their technology.
Start Year 2017
Description Thermal Measurements in Tata Steel 
Organisation TATA Steel
Department Tata Limited UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution I have provided my expertise in temperature measurement science to Tata Steel, with a visit to Port Talbot for ~3 days every ~2 months. £50k of funding came from IIKE. £50k in kind from Tata and a further £55k has, so far, been given. I also wrote a £500k Innovate UK proposal with them. It was not awarded, though it received a score of 74% and could be successful upon re submission. I began by sending my group introductory PowerPoint slides to Tata's lead on Six Sigma. He distributed them to potentially interested parties. This led to several sub projects; with the aim to solve temperature measurement problems that they had not found a commercially available solution to. I am working my way through these by modifying or combining commercial products; then adding my thermal metrology, in the form of corrections to the data and image processing. We have created demonstrator instruments and data for: 1) Temperature measurement at Blast Furnace as liquid iron goes into torpedo car; 2) High resolution thermal imaging and slag detection when iron is poured out of torpedo cars; 3) Thermal imaging of sinter (Blast Furnace burden) after is is first created; 4) Size information/statistics of sinter as it comes out of the sinter making process; 5) High resolution thermal imaging and accurate temperature measurement (using radiometric models that we have produced) of the inside of teeming ladles (used to pour/cast the liquid steel) for comparison/validation of Tata's models of their refractory temperature; 6) Thermal imaging of coke before it is quenched.
Collaborator Contribution Tata has provided a lot of help. 'Nuts and bolts' help in terms of staying safe on site and providing access to anywhere I need to go. Scientific help (experienced researchers and EngDs) in helping me understand the challenge from a materials/steelmaking point of view. For example, they understand the link and chemistry between the creation of silicon in the Blast Furnace and the temperature of the furnace and the subsequent costs in additives later down the process, to control the silicon and increae the temperature. They understand the relationship between sinter size and efficient Blast Furnace operation. I am providing a tool for seeing what is actually happening and they will be using this to save money and reduce emissions.
Impact Every drop of iron that is made in one of the two Blast Furnaces (BF4) passes past one of my thermometers. For a few months, only this BF was operating and so all iron was measured by my instrument. This fed into, for example, the quality of steel used to make Jaguar cars and Land Rovers. The accurate temperature has been deduced by emissivity correction and corrections added to the instrument. We should soon be putting the same systems in the other furnace, BF5. They have funded, though we have not yet completed, a permanent installation of sinter temperature measurement (by accurate, high resolution thermal imaging) and sinter sizing statistics. We have proven this works using data taken on site and we now need to develop a systems that survives the harsh environments.
Start Year 2017
Description A thermal imaging device is provided, comprising: a detector for receiving radiation and outputting a detector signal corresponding thereto; a steerable mirror device arranged in relation to the detector; wherein the mirror device is steerable to scan an entrance pupil over a plurality of locations such that the detector outputs respective detector signals indicative of temperatures of respective portions of the object corresponding to the said locations of the entrance pupil, and wherein the thermal imaging device is configured to provide a substantially constant etendue for all of the entrance pupil locations of the said plurality of entrance pupil locations. 
IP Reference CA3033573 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact None yet. In process of forming spin-out company as described in collaborations section.
Title Thermal Imaging in EBM Additive Manufacturing 
Description We wrote MATLAB software for using Planck's Law to measure the temperature of the Electron Beam Melting process and track melt pools (including correcting for the phase change emissivity). This was provide to Reliance Precision Engineering for use in their EBM system. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The software enabled the company to develop and tune their novel approach to additive manufacturing. It also helped them understand the material science (physical properties) of the materials that they printed as a function of their machine parameters. 
Description Talk on temperature measurement in Greifswald Plasma Institute INP, Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presented a talk on temperature measurement at the INP Plasma Institute in Greifswald, Germany. This was to a university and academic audience. It led to me becoming part of a £15,000,000 EU bid that is in the review process currently.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Workshop for Industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We held a workshop on sensors and emitters (me with two other academics). This was to show industry professionals what we do, giving tours of our labs and a description/understanding of our work. As a result, one company, Faraday Scientific, would like to fund some research with us and we are in advanced stages of discussions about this. The company was developing their own instrument but had difficulties. Our research can overcome those problems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017