What’s a borescope?

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Borescopes are tubes with a viewing lens and an ocular lens that reflect light and send images back to the eyepiece. They can be equipped with cameras and are used by mechanics to diagnose problems in hard-to-see areas of vehicles and aircraft. They are also used in search and rescue operations to obtain information about survivors and potential dangers. Size and pixelation are important considerations when choosing a borescope, and lenses are classified by type. Borescopes are vital in saving lives and improving the quality of our lives.

Borescopes are rigid or flexible tubes that give visual access to hard-to-see areas. A borescope has a viewing lens at the top of the tube and an ocular lens, which reflects light and instantly sends images back to the eyepiece. Borescopes can be equipped with cameras to capture visual data for review.
Automotive and aircraft mechanics often use endoscopes to look at small parts of automobiles or aircraft that aren’t otherwise visible without taking them apart. Since taking apart one part of an aircraft or car can create more problems, using the borescope eliminates this step and diagnoses problems or determines the soundness of a particular part. The use of endoscopes is especially important to aircraft mechanics, because there are many rules and requirements for safety and soundness that must be met before an aircraft can leave the ground.

Borescopes equipped with cameras are used in search and rescue operations. Without having to enter a hazardous area, such as a caved-in mine shaft or shaft of unknown depth, rescuers can use an endoscope to obtain information about survivors, as well as data that determines how a rescue operation should precede. The oscilloscope provides precise measurements and can define any potential dangers of entering an area to retrieve someone or something.

In an unfamiliar environment, the hoses of a borescope are useful for negotiating any curve or change of direction. The flexibility of the tubes can sometimes reduce the quality of the images obtained. In known areas, such as the inside of an engine, mechanics prefer hard tubes because the images are better, making diagnostics easier.

When choosing a borescope, both size and pixelation are important considerations. Anything under 10,000 pixels shouldn’t be considered. The standard for flexible borescopes is 15,000 to 24,000 pixels.
Size is of particular consideration when selecting rigid borescopes. Lenses are classified by type. There are three types: achromatic doublets, Hopkins rods, and gradient index lenses. If an endoscope is to have a particularly small circumference, lenses with a gradient index are the best choice. Hopkins rods work well for medium spaces and achromatic lenses are generally chosen for larger spaces.

Small, medium and large are relative terms. A large blank, for example, would measure over 18 inches (4 mm) in diameter, so it’s easy to see that borescopes are indeed quite small. Flexible search and rescue borescopes can be approximately 1″ (2.54 cm) in diameter.

Borescopes in their various applications can provide us with information that is mundane or of supreme importance. When borescopes detect a problem with an automobile or aircraft, they are vital in saving lives. Used in search and rescue operations, borescopes can significantly improve the chances of helping trapped and possibly injured people. This tiny invention, then, exponentially increases the quality of our life.

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