Nearly 75% of engineers and managers currently use thermography as a predictive maintenance tool, according to a study completed last summer by Portland, Ore.-based firm Acuity Market Research. That's a 31% increase in usage compared to five years earlier. This growth trend is expected to continue, since nearly 40% of respondents indicated their facility would increase usage of thermography during 2006.

For those still not using thermography as a predictive maintenance tool, cost and lack of knowledge were most often cited as barriers to taking advantage of the technology. In fact, 15% of the companies surveyed that were already using thermography had people conducting thermography tests who have not been formally trained in using the technology.

The majority of respondents were familiar with the use of thermography for detection of overheating electrical components and measurement of transformer temperatures, but uses varied widely from one industry to another — as you can see in the Table.