What is an Articulating Borescope?

by | Nov 4, 2022 | Blog

An articulating borescope is categorized as non-destructive test equipment that allows the inspector to steer or direct the tip of the probe. At the very tip of the borescope probe this is a micro camera with supporting LED lighting. The articulating borescope provides the inspector to look around to see more of the inspection area. The borescope is called a non-destructive test tool because it allows the inspector to enter the borescope probe into a small area and vie the inside of the inspection area without having to dissemble or destroy the product.

The term articulating refers to the last part of the borescope probe. This ‘bending section’ of the borescope is where the design of the borescope allows the tip to be manipulated by either a lever or switch on the borescope body. This articulating borescope is also referred to by some as a:

  1. Steerable Borescope
  2. Angulating Borescope
  3. Deflecting Borescope
  4. Bending Borescope
  5. Pivoting Borescope
  6. Manipulating Borescope
  7. Traverse Borescope
  8. Turnable Borescope

The articulating borescope offers a micro camera at the tip that will send the image to the color screen of the borescope so that the inspector can see clearly inside the inspection area. This inspection camera not only allows for a safe and accurate visual inspection but also greatly reduces down time as well as the decision-making process. Typical inspections are for any abnormality inside a product, vessel or machine component such as corrosion, debris, FOD, broken or damage engine components, etc. The Articulating borescope provides a clear advantage over non-articulating borescopes when a technician or inspection professionals needs to inspect tight and hard-to-reach areas inside a complex item, such as automotive and turbine engines.

What Types of Articulating Borescopes Are Available?

Articulating Borescopes are available in defend configurations such as borescope probe length, borescope diameter as well as how many angles are available. For examples, there are borescopes that offer, one way articulation, 2-way articulation, 4-way articulation and joystick articulation. The most advanced is the joystick articulation as it provides the ability to control the borescope tip to move 360 degrees. Early on the term borescope was assigned to the early generation of fiberscopes that provided fiberoptic fibers to transmit the image to an eyepiece for the inspector to view. In the 1980’s the introduction of videoscopes or sometimes called video borescopes changed everything. With the ability to take pictures and streaming video of the inspection area the ‘borescope’ use across many industries increased. Early on the primary focus with videoscopes was with the use of inspection aviation and helicopter engines for issues related to turbine blades. Instead of having to dismantle an engine to view the condition of the engine the aviation maintenance professional could now simply introduce a borescope camera into the inspection area to get a complete view of the critical areas.

Most borescopes with articulation are controlled with cable guided systems. These cables run from the tip of the probe and down through the entire borescope probe up to the body of the borescope where the articulation is controlled. The bending section of the borescope offers an armadillo like design that allows the probe to move in different directions without losing shape and the ability to return back to a straight position.

Some borescopes will offer manually articulating controls where the borescope tip is moved with only mechanically cable guides and controls. Other systems with offer electronically assisted articulation with diodes and limit switches to assist the inspection. There are also some very long length articulating borescopes that utilize air bladders in them to control the tip. The smaller diameter borescopes like the 2mm borescopes, 3mm borescopes and 4mm borescopes offer lengths up to 3 meters in length. At the writing of this borescope blog the 3 meter length is the maximum length that can be offered on this small articulating borescopes. As Technology advances we expect that to increase. Larger diameter borescopes like 6, 8 and 10mm can offer cable guided articulating borescopes with up to 30 feet in length. At present, anything over 30 feet in length with this size diameter will offer air bladder borescope articulation. These pneumatically articulated borescopes can offer a length up to 100 feet.

What does the Borescope Bending Section Mean?

Another factor in deciding which is the best articulating borescope for you is to consider the ‘Bending Section’ of the borescope. The bending section is the last part of the borescope that actually bends or move when you desire to articulate the borescope. Not all articulating borescopes are equal when it comes to bending section lengths. A cheap articulating borescope may offer a much longer bending section length than a more advanced articulating borescope. This becomes a factor if you have a small area that you require to see the side wall of and the bending section is too long for it to make the turn. Another factor with the bending section articulation performance is the camera housing. The borescope camera housing refers to the distal tip where the metal can surround the camera and supporting LED lighting. The longer the camera housing, the more area will be required for the borescope to make the complete turn. It doesn’t happen often but the bending section collar that is at the base of the bending section can also be a factor if it is too long.

What are the Advantages of using an articulating borescope?

The articulating head of the borescope camera gives you a broader range of vision so you can inspect a larger area, even in confined inspection areas. Non-articulating borescopes typically offer a straight view (0 Degrees DOV) or Direction of View to you can only see straight ahead. Some more advanced videoscopes are now offer a dual camera non-articulating video probe that allow you to see straight and side view. However, this option is no valid replacement for an articulating videoscope that will allow you to look around inside the entire inspection area.

With the wide range of applications and uses, an articulating borescope can provide a very thorough inspection without the cost and downtime to dissemble equipment or products. Overall, the borescope tool with articulation can reduce the cost of inspection and maintenance.

What Is an Articulating Borescope Used For?

Aviation Borescope

Portable borescopes with articulation are used across almost every facet in the mechanical side of the aviation industry. Predominately, they used use to inspect the turbine blades inside the engine. Engine manufactures have designed the engine with supporting ports for the aviation maintenance personal to enter the borescope. This expedites the process but also allows the borescope to be entered at the precise area in the engine. The articulating borescope is used to steer the borescope probe tip to clearly view the entire turbine blade so that the inspector can look for signs of overheating, cracking or other foreign material that could affect performance.

Oil and Gas Borescope

Articulating borescopes are used in this industry for turbines, gear boxes and other support equipment through various processes and stages of production. In addition to requiring borescopes that articulate it is also common for this industry to seek out explosion proof borescopes as they are working with combustible materials. The borescopes are often very long as there is much process piping in this industry and in many cases in addition to borescopes this industry will utilize pipe inspection cameras.

Windmill Borescope

As with many Power Generation arenas wind turbines require borescope inspections as well. The articulating borescopes are used to inspect both turbines and well as gear boxes. Long length borescopes are sued to inspect the wind turbine blades for cracks as well.

Engine Borescope

Gas powered engines are found in cars, helicopters, boats, motorcycles, trucks and more. Automotive borescopes with articulation are used to inspect inside of the engine as well as other supporting features such as the transmission, cooling paths and even the exhaust. Piston borescopes are very common with automotive inspections. The Automotive Technician can introduce the articulating borescope in through the spark plug port and inspect the top of the piston, the piston side wans and even articulate up to see the valve ports. This borescope inspection technique will save hours of work as the borescope does not require any significant tear down of the engine to see inside.

HVAC Borescope

Articulating borescopes can be used in the Heating and Cooling industry to identify not only performance issues with mechanical parts of the HVAC system but also help to see if there are any biological mold or mildew issues.

Industrial Borescope

Articulating borescopes are used throughout industrial facilities and maintenance facilities in almost every manufacturing discipline. These tools not only save time and money but they also assist with the safety of maintenance personnel. Instead of a maintenance team having to go through all the steps to enter a confined space they can simply introduce a borescope camera to the inspection area and let it be the eyes of the inspector.

Home Borescope

With advancements in technology there are a number of low-cost articulating borescopes that homeowners are buying. Borescopes in many cases have become a consumable item as the borescope price has decreased on many of the entry level systems.

Weld Borescope

With advancements in technology there are a number of weld borescopes to consider. A weld is described as, join together (metal pieces or parts) by heating the surfaces to the point of melting using a blowtorch, electric arc, or other means, and uniting them.

Borescopes are used to inspect and confirm the structural integrity of welds. These borescope inspection cameras can be used to identify cracks, sugar, pitting, discoloration, inclusions, residue, unification, leaks, and other defects, which can compromise the strength and dependability of welds.

A word of caution when using a borescope for weld inspections is to confirm that the inspection area is at an acceptable temperature to introduce the borescope camera. A high heat or overheat exposure can damage the micro camera at the tip of the borescope. Hot slag and weld splash can also compromise your video borescope. The lens of borescope are usually constructed of glass or a polished plastic material which is not designed to withstand arcing or splash from the point of work while welding. There are high temperature borescopes available but they are not designed to have direct contact with the hot surfaces or hot liquids but work within the hot air.

How To Use an Articulating Borescope?

Articulating borescopes are more expensive than their non-articulating borescopes due to their advanced design and cost of production. With small moving parts involved during operation, articulating borescopes can be damaged more easily than the non-articulating borescope systems. So, it is important to follow proper procedures to use your articulating borescope.

Initially articulating borescopes were introduced with 2-way articulation. This enabled the borescope inspector to articulate or steer the tip of the borescope in two directions. This innovative design increased the functionality of borescope inspections as well as reduced other time-consuming efforts to view the inspection area. This design utilized two high tensile strength cables that run from the tip of the borescope probe up into the handle of the borescope.

As technology advanced 4-way articulating borescopes entered the scene which made borescope inspections even easier and faster. While you could reposition your two-way articulating borescope to view the same general area that a four-way borescope could, there was no lost time of loss of positioning with this new borescope technology. Shortly, thereafter joystick articulating borescopes entered the scene. Now with just your thumb and usually with just one hand-held borescope you could maneuver the tip of the probe in 360 degrees.

Here are some pointers for use and care for your borescope investment:

  1. An articulating borescope is a delicate instrument and should be treated as such
  2. Before use, check your borescope for damage. If you address a small issue before it becomes a large issue you can save yourself time and money.
  3. When the system is not in use, keep it in the designed storage case.
  4. Before articulating have the borescope probe as straight as possible. If the borescope tube is coiled it increases friction on the cable guides and can damage internal components.
  5. When removing the borescope probe from the inspection area make sure the articulation section is straight as possible and remove it slowly.
  6. Only introduce the borescope insertion tube to temperatures less than 160 F (71C)
  7. When inside the inspection area articulate slowly. If you feel resistance do not force the probe to articulate.
  8. The borescope wand is not designed to be a debur tool. Do not use the probe to push or extract foreign materials.
  9. Do not introduce the borescope to acidic or caustic environments as this can compromise the adhesive and lenses at the tip.
  10. Most borescopes are water resistant but not waterproof. Do not submerge the borescope in liquids for long periods of time.
  11. Do not introduce the borescope probe to live electrical equipment. Follow you company lock out tag out procedures.
  12. If the borescope offers a removable battery, remove the battery if the system will not be used for a significant time.
  13. Clean the probe and probe tip after each use. A clean soft cloth and Windex type cleaner is sufficient to properly clean your borescope.
  14. If you have friends like mine, don’t let your friends borrow your articulating borescope.

Following these helpful tips will help you to correctly use your articulating borescope and prolong its life.

We trust that this information on articulating borescopes will help you to identify the best borescope for your specific application and budget. If you have any additional questions please don’t hesitate to contact our Borescope Sales and Service Team.