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High Resolution Thermal Imager Measures Temperature Difference in Horses’ Legs

A unique system has been developed that uses thermal imaging to detect damage to muscles and ligaments in a horse’s leg. The system relies on thermal imaging cameras supplied by Micro-Epsilon, which were selected due to their high resolution, compactness, reliability and programming features that allow simple integration with other systems and software.         

UK-based company Byerley Technologies Ltd creates and sells monitoring products for the horse racing industry, which provide trainers with the required information to prevent lower leg injuries and to help horses recover from injury.

In 2015, with support from Welsh Government innovation funding backed by EU funds, Byerley Technologies launched the Tendon Manager system.

Before and after the horse has been exercised, the handler walks the horse into the machine, which waits for the horse to settle before automatically scanning the fore legs. The machine then prompts the handler to move the horse into the hind leg position before scanning the hind legs. The horse leaves the machine after the leg scan and weight are recorded.

Steve Hudd, Managing Director of Byerley Technologies

 

Tendon Manager measures the cool-down rate of the horse’s muscles. If the legs take a long time to cool down after a training session, this may indicate strain or damage to muscles or ligaments.

The machine is essentially an early warning system for trainers. If a potential problem with a horse arises, the training regime for that horse can be modified accordingly.

As race horses can be valued up to tens of millions of pounds and Tendon Manager reduces the risk of injury to a horse, there has been much interest in the machine from countries such as Germany, Australia and Dubai, while machines are already in use in Wales, Ireland and at Newmarket racecourse.

The very best horse trainers can normally detect a minor difference in leg temperatures of around 3 to 5 degrees Centigrade. Tendon Manager is much more precise than this. The thermoIMAGER TIM160 infrared camera, which is integrated into our Tendon Manager system, has a high sensitivity and is able to detect temperature differences of 0.2 degrees Centigrade. The TIM160 also provides us with the high resolution we require – 19,000 pixels at 100 frames per second.

Steve Hudd, Managing Director of Byerley Technologies

 

Powered and operated via a USB 2.0 interface, the thermoIMAGER TIM160 is an inline radiometric thermal imaging camera that provides temperature images and profiles of a target area.

This plug-and-play unit is supplied with a full software package, TIM Connect, that enables the user to configure all device parameters, as well as enabling the real time capture (at 120Hz full frame rate) and storage of images or video of an event for slow motion play back or snapshots at a later date.


As well as being robust, compact and easy to use, we were particularly impressed with the TIM Connect software provided with the camera. For Tendon Manager, we provide 48 different variables that we can change to suit the customer’s environment. For example, we can set up the machine to detect unwanted movement by a horse that might obscure the reading. We can also take other factors into account such as a high ambient temperature when the horse is being scanned and measured.

When we were looking for a suitable camera, having the ability to program the camera easily to suit our system was critical. The Software Developer’s Kit provided with the TIM160 camera has enabled us to capture and process the raw data stream from the camera and make this information available to Tendon Manager for users to visualise on-screen.

We can use TIM Connect to set and change alarm thresholds. If an alarm limit is reached, this can trigger an email being sent to the trainer or vetinerary surgeon along with temperature profile images that show where the hotspots are located. However, a single temperature profile image on its own can be misleading, so we also provide a full history of recorded temperature profile data for the horse. We maintain a huge database that looks at the temperature profile over time, allowing the user to make a fully informed decision about a potential injury to a horse.

Steve Hudd, Managing Director of Byerley Technologies

 

Tendon Manager took six years to develop. During this time, Byerley Technologies has purchased five TIM160 cameras from Micro-Epsilon. As Hudd concludes: “These five cameras have been used in the field on almost a daily basis since 2011 and we’ve not had a single reliability issue. Furthermore, when we’ve needed technical support, this has been excellent too.”

The thermoIMAGER TIM series of thermal imagers was developed primarily for industrial customers. As Chris Jones, Managing Director at Micro-Epsilon (UK) Ltd states: “The range of options available for the thermoIMAGER TIM, as well as the features that we’ve added, enable users to mount the device in almost any industrial or process manufacturing environment or R&D application. We have a wide variety of accessories including protective enclosures that allow the device to be installed in washdown or high temperature environments. Our water cooling jacket option, for example, enables the device to be used in temperatures up to 200 degrees Centigrade.”

 

For more information on the thermoIMAGER TIM series, please call the Micro-Epsilon sales department on 0151 355 6070 or email [email protected]  

For more information on Tendon Manager, please call Steve Hudd, Managing Director of Byerley Technologies on 07979 566 694 or email [email protected]

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