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How do I Choose the Best Fiber-Optic Scope?

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  • Written By: Mal Baxter
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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A fiber-optic scope is a tool that extends viewing inspection through use of a rigid or flexible tube with lens illumination and imaging technology. Coming in many shapes and sizes, these scopes perform diverse inspections in fields such as mechanics, manufacturing, and forensics. They are known by various names, depending upon their function, including bore/boroscopes, videoscopes, and in medical contexts, endoscopes. Choosing the best scopes for your needs requires consideration of many factors, including physical properties, field or depth of view, imaging, and magnification.

A fiber-optic scope utilizes an optic image bundle, eyepiece, and lens. Individual fibers range from 3,000 to 30,000 elements, or pixels, carefully arranged to transmit accurate images through a rigid or flexible tube that can be fed through narrow spaces. Inflexible borescopes suit fixed industrial applications such as inspections of equipment and machinery. These can also be fitted with video and charge-coupled device (CCD) chips to provide high-quality video recording and playback. Allowing for all the factors that influence performance of a scope, the right scope should be optimized for specific conditions of use rather than for various applications.

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Factors influencing selection of the best fiber-optic scope require careful assessment, best aided by consultation with an informed product specialist. Rigid scopes may be used in predetermined manufacturing inspections, and flexible scopes for building and other inspections requiring more exploratory maneuvering. Generally, rigid scopes provide greater economic value except where costlier flexible scopes are essential. Length and diameter are limiting factors; these dimensions should not only fit their space tolerances, but afford extra wiggle room to allow for movement.

The direction of view of a fiber-optic scope allows for pre-angled imaging. For example, inspection of a rifle bore would require a 90-degree angle to make insertion and viewing as easy as possible. Angles up to 120 degrees are possible.

Field of view refers to the width of the viewing angle, from wide angle to narrowed telephoto. Maneuverability in the inspection area will influence this choice. Magnification incorporates fiber-optics' broad focal range without the need for constant refocusing; the closer the object, the greater the magnification.

Unlike outmoded incandescent bulbs, today's boroscope illumination relies upon fiber-optic glass fibers, which essentially ricochet light through reflective glass tubes over extended distances. These deliver illumination from an external light source through the scope to the distal end. This increases safety and decreases contamination by bulb heat.

You might take additional factors into consideration when choosing a fiber-optic scope, such as whether the provider can assist in determining your needs, or provide demonstration services. This technology requires precision, quality construction sensitive to any flaws. Issues regarding serviceability, warranty, or discount also factor in. You may require light source or imaging replacements in the future.

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