Use of the Wedge Method for Emissivity and Reflection Independent Temperature Measurement

By: Ralph Rudolph
R. Rudolph Consulting LLC @

clip_image002A technique called the Wedge Method or Roll Nip method is finding increased use in measuring strip temperatures in the metal production/processing industries as it is touted as providing the dual advantages of appearing to be independent of the material emissivity and the presence of any ambient reflected radiation. Basically, the concept is quite simple: Picture a horizontal steel strip that contacts and at least partially wraps around a large roll, usually a deflector roll used to change strip direction or a bridle roll used to set strip tension. Aim a radiation thermometer almost parallel to the strip into the gap formed between the roll and strip tangent point, as deep as you can go. (Viewing at an angle from the side is fine). This gap, as the claims state, can be treated as a blackbody with an emissivity of 1.0 (see Figure 1). Hence, you don’t have to worry about ambient radiation as reflectivity is 0.0 and you don’t have to worry about changing material emissivity. This is partly true and partly wishful thinking.

Blackbody conditions exist for a cavity if and only if all sides of the cavity are at the same temperature. If the roll being used has a very low thermal mass (heats up easily) and there is a large wrap around the roll and sufficient strip tension to allow heat transfer to occur between the strip and the roll, then the roll will heat up to near strip temperature over a time period, but because the roll has natural convection, conduction and radiation losses, the roll can never quite reach the strip temperature. Emissivity never reaches 1.0. It should be obvious that if the strip abruptly changes temperature, which can happen with strip thickness or furnace temperature changes, it will take time for the roll to change temperatures. Heat transfer between the two can take quite a while during which time the temperature reading from the wedge system will be quite inaccurate.

Wedge or cavity measurement method
Figure 1.

So, if a system is designed well, with a major roll wrap, low thermal mass roll, sufficient strip tension and steady long term operation (no major changes in strip temperature), this method can work as claimed (except that emissivity must be set somewhat lower than 1.0 to compensate for the roll being at a slightly lower temperature than the strip).

Given human nature, however, I’ve seen numerous instances where folks have not understood why the wedge method can work and who have misapplied it. Believe it or not, I’ve seen an instance where a so-called wedge method has been applied with zero roll wrap, with the strip simply passing over a support roll. And this system was (unfortunately) designed by the equipment provider who should have known better. I would guess that a majority of wedge method applications that I’ve seen have been poorly designed, with little attention paid to the amount of roll wrap or roll material and with little understanding of what occurs during changes in strip temperature.

There is a modification to the wedge method that can provide a significant improvement: Mount a second Radiation Thermometer to monitor roll temperature and compare this reading to that of the wedge RT. Using a PC with input and output cards (and most any older PC will work), abrupt deviations between the two readings which occur as strip temperature changes can be used to correct for errors. If accuracy is desired, it’s well worth the extra expense. You get what you pay for.

Furnace and Heater Tube Inspections

by Ron Lucier, ASNT NDT Level III
ITC logo registeredOne of the more challenging applications of infrared thermography is in the measurement of process heater and furnace tubes. In fact, we get dozens of inquiries each year from our clients on this very subject. Quantitative thermography is the practice of measuring temperatures accurately and with furnace tubes this requires experience and knowledge.  Success in this science is gained by being properly trained and certified as a Level I Furnace Inspection Thermographer. Certification training from the Infrared Training Center ( teaches you the techniques required for determining these values and will provide a complete understanding of temperature measurement and heat transfer.

Process Heaters
There are as many uses for process heaters as there are designs. The basic configuration consists of a shell (outer casing),   tubes (where the process fluid flows) and a heat source. These units are both thermodynamically and hydraulically complex.
Process heater or furnace diagram
The simple drawing illustrates convective gas flow, which is turbulent, and radiant heat from the flame, refractory and other tubes – all non-uniform and time varying. When you view tube from an access port typically you can only see a portion of the tube or the tube at an oblique angle. Sometimes tubes are in rows, difficult if not impossible to image.

Why are heater tubes of interest anyway?

Tubes in a fired heater

There are several reasons for inspecting tubes. Qualitatively scale buildup on the outside of the tube can be readily identified. Buildup on the inside of the tube (coking) is a bit more difficult but commonly performed. In both cases the scale or coke prevents the transfer of heat into the process fluid. In the case of scale buildup, the process fluid may not be sufficiently heated, affecting downstream processing. The case of coking on the inside of the tube is more serious. Since the coke has an increased resistance to heat transfer, the tube surface temperature increases. After all it is the flow of the process fluid that is keeping the tube “cool” in the first place. The external tube surface, unable to conduct its heat to the water, increases dramatically, causing a failure (opening) in the tube. Metallurgists use the measured temperature to calculate the life of the tube so accurate measurements are critical.

Sample Thermal Images

Tube with restricted flow
Coking on bottom of tube

IR offers the operators of process heaters the ability to visualize the heat transfer and provide vital temperature data to help determine remaining tube life.  Certification training from the Infrared Training Center ( teaches you the techniques required to successfully implement this technology at your facility.

Thermography Certification Dates and Locations

To learn more about these certification classes, as well as upcoming training dates and locations, please visit the Infrared Training Center online at

Blower Door Inspection for Air Infiltration in a Remodeled Cottage

By Tom Coffey, Infrared Training Center 

ITC logo registeredA small cottage (700 sq. ft) outside of Knoxville, TN was completely remodeled from January to March 2010. It was an existing cinder block structure with no insulation except ½ inch of airspace between the nailers and the block wall as well as the empty block core. The R value of existing building walls was approximately 2.97. After the remodel an R-value was calculated and determined to be 12.6

2 x 4 studs were used to build the interior walls the insulated with 4” of backed fiberglass bat insulation. Old windows were removed and new double pane sash type windows installed during the remodel.

The house was depressurized to approximately 50 Pascal and allowed to equalize for 30 minutes. A thermographic scan was performed after the equalization period. Infiltration was found around the sash windows where the top and bottom pieces join in the corners of the windows.

Picture1 Picture2

There was some expected infiltration around the front door which was missing a sweep on the bottom of the door. Also infiltration was found at the attic access.

Picture3 Picture4

All of these small problems are easily correctable and will be done as time permits.

The installation of the blower door took approximately 30-45 minutes. Reaching the right depressurization took another 30 minutes and the IR scan took another 45 minutes. For a house this size, allowing for the small footprint I did not do an air exchange calculation. The purpose of this exercise was to determine if the house remodel and adding insulation was sufficient to keep the house at a comfortable level during East Tennessee summers and winters. It was determined during the remodel process that R-13 insulation in the walls and R-19 insulation in the ceilings would be sufficient for the weather conditions in this area of the country.