Significantly enhanced image quality, interfaces inspired by consumer technology, and more features packed into smaller packages: These are some of the trends that have shaped the latest products being offered by Borescope Sales & Service, Gradient Lens, Olympus, USA Borescopes, and ViewTech Borescopes. Aerospace Tech Review spoke to these companies recently, to get the latest news on these products.
Borescope Sales & Service
Borescope Sales & Service is a family-run business with a passion for developing high-performance borescopes that are affordably priced for small MRO shops.
The company’s current offerings include the handheld PVJ Model Videoscope, which is a Pratt & Whitney approved PWC34910-108 remote visual inspection kit. It comes with 360-degree joystick articulation, probe diameters ranging from 3.9mm to 8mm with integrated LED light sources, a 4” HD resolution video monitor and onboard video recording/image capability.
Borescope Sales & Service’ PVJ20 handheld borescope is included in its Pratt & Whitney approved PWC34910-109 kit. The PVJ20 also has 360-degree joystick articulation, a 5” LCD display screen, graph measurement capability, and supports 3.9mm probes with interchangeable tips and built-in LED light sources.
According to Borescope Sales & Service spokesperson Ariana Goolsby, her company is developing a new ‘PVJPlus’ handheld borescope that will offer high-end capabilities at a target price of $10,000 or less. “We want to pack in as many features as we can for the ‘Mom and Pop’ shops who are competing with the big MROs,” she said. “This is why our PVJPlus includes features such as HD video recording, easily-interchangeable tips, multi-line text input on captured images, 10 different zoom settings — five in Live View — and rechargeable batteries that can run for four to eight hours at a time.” (The PLJ20 and PVJPlus offer WiFi/Bluetooth connection and UV/Blacklight lighting as options.)
The PVJPlus is currently being field-tested before being released to the MRO market. “We’ve had it in test mode for a year,” said Goolsby. “However, I don’t want to start selling it until we’ve accumulated two years’ worth of proven service.”
Borescopes R Us isn’t the only manufacturer determined to bring high-performance borescopes to the value-priced market. Gradient Lens Corporation, manufacturer of Hawkeye Precision Borescopes, has made the same strategic move with its new Hawkeye V3 HD video borescope. This handheld borescope features a micro HD camera producing superb image quality, a 5.5” HD daylight viewable touchscreen, 360 degree joystick control of any attached 4mm and 6mm probes (with built-in adjustable Micro LED illumination), video/still image recording capabilities, USB and HDMI ports, and Wi-Fi to wireless transmit the screen image onto nearby iPhones and iPads.
Users of the Hawkeye V3 touchscreen soon discover that its operations and features mirror those found on consumer smartphones. This is not a coincidence: “We tried to make our user interface similar to a smartphone because people are comfortable using that interface,” said Doug Kindred,president of Gradient Lens. “That’s why we use a menu-driven onscreen interface that works just like the one on an iPhone. This makes the Hawkeye V3 very user friendly and intuitive to operate. There’s almost no learning curve.”
Nevertheless, the Hawkeye V3 is very much a professional-level borescope with some very innovative features. For instance, the Hawkeye V3’s lighting options allow the user to reduce glare in onscreen images by selecting which areas to illuminate. This feature includes a ‘Center Weighting On’ option that cuts back reflected light from the middle of the image, allowing greater detail to be clearly seen.
Depending on the options ordered, the Hawkeye V3 HD video borescope’s price ranges from $11,000 to $15,000. “A comparable scope from one of the big borescope manufacturers would cost $20,000 or more,” Kindred said. “Offering great quality for less, made in America, is what we’re all about.”
Olympus’ products are at the very top end of the video borescope market. The company’s latest ‘videoscopes’ includes the flagship IPLEX NX. It is a portable unit with a large 8.4” HD touchscreen that supports 4mm, 6mm, and 6.2mm probes.
The IPLEX NG’s image quality/clarity is exceptional. It is supplemented by this videoscope’s HD quality video/still recording capability, a range of optical adaptors, and its ability to do onscreen measuring. “This last feature includes the ability to do highly precise 3D modelling and measurements,” said Bayard Morales, Olympus IMS’ Remote Visual Inspection Specialist. “Overall, the IPLEX NX videoscope provides its users with the maximum brightness and image resolution currently available.”
Olympus’ IPLEX GX/GT videoscopes cover the midrange of the borescope market with 8” HD touchscreens (with video/still image recording) and interchangeable insertion tubes/light sources. These models support onscreen scalar measurement as a standard feature. The IPLEX G Lite packs many of these features into a convenient handheld videoscope, while the IPLEX GAir adds remote visual inspection range using either a 65’ (20 meter) or 98’ (30 meter) insertion tube.
Like the competition’s borescopes, Olympus’ videoscopes feature user friendly interfaces modelled on consumer smartphones. But this manufacturer is thinking beyond this trend to implement larger, more ground-breaking advances.
For instance, Morales expects artificial intelligence (AI) engines to eventually provide automatic analysis of the videos/still images captured by videoscopes, based on parameters predefined by their users. He also foresees a time when many remote visual inspections will be carried out autonomously by AI-driven devices.
“The only real limit on AI autonomous tests in aerospace is the need to maneuver probes in confined and curved spaces,” said Morales. This is why human operators will remain essential to handle the most challenging inspections.
Another upcoming trend is to counter the declining number of trained inspectors at MRO facilities, by Olympus providing videoscope inspection support to its customers remotely. In this scenario, the customer would handle inserting and moving the probe inside the aircraft at their own hangar, while an Olympus-trained technician would guide them over IP and analyse the results on the customer’s behalf.
Bayard Morales doesn’t expect either of these trends to take hold for at least a decade. But he also notes that the automated analysis of some inspection results are already taking place.
When it comes to trends in borescope capabilities, “probably the biggest thing to affect the industry is highly improved image quality, even on the economy systems,” said Bill French, Owner of USA Borescopes. “The way I explain this improvement to customers is by comparing it to home video. Where we once had VHS, now we have Blu-Ray. Well, the improvement in borescope video has been just as significant.”
This level of improvement can be found in USA Borescope’s new USA1000 video borescope. “Available in 4mm and 6mm probe models, the USA1000 offers a very crisp and clean image thanks to its high resolution display,” said French. “The interface is also touchscreen-based. You just touch the screen to zoom in or out or to take a picture, just as you would on your smartphone.” This new unit also has a built-in temperature sensor to detect overheating, “which allows you to avoid costly mistakes and repairs,” he said.
“Major breakthroughs in borescope technology are driven primarily by smaller and more powerful LEDs and by the development of higher resolution micro-image sensors,” said Zack Wessels, Senior Sales Representative with ViewTech Borescopes. “While these two factors — light output and image quality — are the main drivers of borescope performance, other advancements, such as those in image processing software, battery technology, lens design and micro-assembly techniques, also contribute to product performance and the user experience.”
In combination with these advances, another trend driving borescope design — at least in the case of ViewTech’s new VJ-3 video borescope — is an ultra sleek, lightweight form factor. Designed to work with 2.8mm, 3.9mm and 6mm probes, “the VJ-3 is ViewTech’s latest video borescope, the third-generation scope in the VJ Series following the original VJ (2008) and VJ-Advance (2012),” said Wessels. “The VJ-3 improves upon the best features and attributes of the earlier VJ models: It is rugged, easy to use, has 4-way joystick-controlled articulation and delivers excellent image quality.”
The advances offered by the VJ-3 were inspired by the company’s “thousands of interactions with borescope customers and users, in person and on the phone, every year,” Wessels explained. “We listen to their needs and are constantly working on new features and product line extensions to meet those needs. For example, just in the past two years we have introduced a UV/IR scope, a dual-camera scope, a scope with ultra-high power fiberoptic illumination, and the world’s smallest articulating scope at just 2.2mm in diameter. Each of these borescopes is based on the new VJ-3 platform and was conceived and developed as a direct result of customer dialogue and our own experience in the field.”
Collaboration Helps Military Veterans Transition into NDT Careers
Olympus, maker of nondestructive testing (NDT) equipment, is supporting training school Warrior To Inspector’s mission to help transition retiring military veterans into a new NDT career by providing advanced inspection instruments for their ultrasonic testing (UT) courses.
Transitioning into an NDT career can be challenging without the right training, certifications and hands-on experience. Warrior To Inspector helps veterans find job success through their 3-semester, full-time NDT program that offers classroom and field training on real-world job sites. This ASNT CP-189 compliant program includes certifications in magnetic particle testing, ultrasonic thickness testing, ultrasonic shear-wave testing, phased array ultrasonic testing and Creaform laser profilometry.
This collaboration will enable veterans to train with Olympus’ cutting-edge UT equipment used in the NDT field today.
“We’re very excited to contribute to the Warrior To Inspector mission,” said Dave Menne, VP of Sales and Marketing at Olympus. “Kenny Greene and his team are exceptional trainers with a unique educational approach. The veterans and other civilians in the class are clearly energized to be in such an impressive program.”
Kenny Greene, president and lead instructor of Warrior To Inspector, explained how Olympus has remained a vital resource for their programs. “During a significant project in 2004, Olympus showed how committed they were to customer service. Olympus brought in as much demo equipment as we had purchased to help ease the burden of outfitting a team of shear-wave technicians. Again in 2011, I was part of another quickly growing NDT department in need of phased array equipment. This led to a very large purchase of OmniScan MX2 flaw detectors, and the Olympus team exceeded all expectations again,” said Greene.
Greene continued, “As I am tasked to create an NDT and Pipeline Integrity Trade School that the industry has been demanding for decades, Olympus is once again there for us as we help meet the needs of military veterans and civilians and join their commitment to training tomorrow’s inspectors.”
For more information about the collaboration, visit Olympus-IMS.com/Training-Members.