Fiberscopes: What Are They And What Are They Used For?

What are fiberscopes and what are they used for? In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of these devices and the borescope inspections they’re crucial for. 

Meta Description: What are fiberscopes and what are they used for? In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of these devices and the borescope inspections they’re crucial for. 

When facing a challenging borescope inspection, turn to the fiberscope for help. These reliable tools can maneuver through the most complex machinery, making them popular in many fields, and rightly so.  Aviation industry professionals depend on fiberscopes for aircraft maintenance. The plumbing industry values these devices for their ability to snake through pipes and sewer lines. They’re even used in manufacturing and the power industry. 

In this article we will cover what fiberscopes are and what they’re used for. Let’s get started!

What Is A Fiberscope? 

A fiberscope is a type of borescope consisting of an ocular eyepiece and fiber optic cables. According to Quality Magazine, the addition of fiber optic bundles enabled the, “first major breakthrough in borescope design,” as they, “allowed borescope insertion tubes to become flexible.” These cables ensure the operator can easily maneuver through complex machinery, giving the fiberscope an edge in hard-to-navigate borescope inspections. 

Fiberscopes come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 2.4mm to 6mm in diameter – make sure you select one that suits your needs. If you regularly inspect small, narrow machinery, we recommend a flexible articulating videoscope, which allows the operator to remotely control the direction of the camera. Choose between two-way or four-way articulation, depending on how limited your movement during inspection is. 

Though fiberscopes offer great versatility, sometimes they are just not enough. If you need to boost visual clarity, consider adding LED light sources to your fiberscope. For those who wish to record their borescope inspection, try attaching a video camera to the end of your inspection tool. Recording the inspection allows you to share footage later on with your maintenance team as well as document the state of your machinery. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is also driving an increase in virtual inspections. According to Aviation Week, Luthansa Technik introduced, “a video conferencing feature for an aircraft cabin walk and virtual engine table and borescope inspection tasks.” It’s possible these technologies will stick around after the pandemic recedes – stay ahead of your competitors and consider choosing a borescope with Wi-Fi capabilities. 

No matter the job, fiberscopes ensure a thorough borescope inspection, making it a popular choice for maintenance professionals across many industries. 

What Are Fiberscopes Used For? 

Fiberscopes’ flexibility makes them the best choice for even the most complicated borescope inspections. But who uses them? From the aviation and plumbing industries to the oil and gas sector, these tools are valued by many maintenance professionals. We’ll stick to covering their most common uses below.   

What Diameters and Lengths Fiberscopes Available In? 

Fiberscopes’ flexibility makes them the best choice for even the most complicated borescope inspections.  But what is the range of diameters?  You may be surprised to learn that there are tiny borescopes with diameters as small as .37mm (.014 inches) that can fit in even the an extremely small inspection area.   The borescopes fall into the category of micro borescopes and will range in up to 2mm (.078 inches).  These small borescopes are in still very high demand as current technology does not offer a true videoscope with this diameter.   These micro fiberscopes offer lengths that are fully customizable although most inspection demands rarely require anything longer than 1 meter length.

Once we get beyond the 2.0mm threshold of fiberscopes we typically move into articulating fiberscopes.  What does that mean?   That means that the borescope inspector can maneuver or steer the tip of the probe once inside the inspection area.   These articulating fiberscopes are still in high demand in many production and manufacturing environments.   Most articulating fiberscopes will offer an external sheathing with stainless steel or tungsten sheathing.  There are some options with a PVC or polyurethane coating and some find these easier to keep clean.  There are limitations to the probe length of these articulating borescopes are this feature is controlled by steel cables that run from the handle of the borescope down to the tip of the probe.  Standard length on most articulating fiberscopes is typically no greater than 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) although there are some 6mm diameters that are available in up to 3 meters (9.8 feet).  

The fiberscopes with articulation will range in diameter from 2.1 and up to 8mm.   The flexible fiberscope is built with 2 sets of fibers inside of the probe or sometimes called whip or cord.   The higher quality fiberoptic bundle is called the image bundle as this is what will transmit the image from the lens tip of the fiberscope up to the eyepiece.   The light bundle is a lower quality fiberoptic bundle as its only function is to transmit light from the light source and out the tip of the probe.     With that in mind the larger diameter fiberoptic borescopes will provide greater light output as they offer more light fibers.

Fiberscopes In The Aviation Industry

The importance of borescope inspections in the aviation industry cannot be overstated. Safety measures aside, routine inspections can identify engine damage early on, prevent turbine contamination and ultimately increase the aircraft’s lifespan. Think of borescope inspections as an investment in your aircraft. 

When it comes to the most comprehensive engine inspections, aviation professionals rely on fiberscopes for a thorough examination. These tools are ideal for inspecting hard-to-reach spaces and they are commonly used to examine rotating turbines, cylinders, transmissions and even the airframe. 

Their unique ability to reach the most isolated machinery makes fiberscopes a necessity in the aviation industry. You will save time and money by detecting damage early on and conducting targeted repairs.   Of course with the advancement of technology most aviation maintenance personnel prefer to use portable videoscopes as these allow for easy documentation of the borescope inspection with image capture and video recording.

Fiberscopes in the Plumbing Industry

Fiberscopes, can also be used as “pipe inspection cameras” in the plumbing industry, are used to examine the condition of supply pipes and smaller waste lines. Although not real common for the plumbing industry it does provide a quick view with relative ease rather than utilizing the larger sewer cameras that can offer lengths over 200 feet.  The sewer camera, or drain camera device typically features a high-resolution camera attached to the end of a flexible insertion tube, which allows the operator to navigate twists and turns. 

Though some inspection jobs in the plumbing industry can be complex, conducting a borescope inspection is simple. Start by inserting the camera into a pipe clean out or sewer opening. While keeping an eye on the monitor, feed the cables into the opening until you have completed the borescope inspection or detected all damage.

Depending on the size of the pipeline you’re examining, it could take some time to complete the inspection. According to the Chicago Tribune, cable length is an important feature to consider when purchasing a borescope, stating, “Most general-purpose models offer anything from 12 to 30 feet or more. However, for many tasks you only need a few feet, and all that length will just get in the way.” Consider the needs of your clients before committing to a fiberscope when compared to utilizing a pipe snake camera.

Fiberscopes can help plumbing industry professionals save substantial time and money. These tools allow plumbers to pinpoint corrosion and target treatment, meaning they can avoid digging up pipes when unnecessary.   When searching for these types of plumber’s tools you may also consider inquiring about plumber camera or sewer snake as these terms will often provide good results as well.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

As with any investment in your business plan you must budget according and chose a borescope that is right for you.   Purchasing a borescope can be compared to purchasing a car, some have advanced options and others do not.   Of course we all would love to drive a Lamborghini, but do I really need that nice of a car with all those options and features?   Maybe not but, maybe so.   Is my need for the borescope long term or short term?  For many they prefer to find a borescope for rent instead of purchasing.   And with any purchase you must consider the cost of ownership.   Ask the question, what is the borescope repair cost range on this product?

Contact Us 

The most complex borescope inspections are reserved for fiberscopes. From snaking through tight pipelines to sliding past engine turbines, everyone from plumbing industry professionals to those in the aviation industry can benefit from these tools. If you think you need a fiberscope, don’t hesitate to contact us at USA Borescopes. Our seasoned staff of professionals is happy to assist you in selecting a fiberscope.

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