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Infrared Guided Power Tools Detecting Hazards below the Surface

Power tools with built-in infrared (IR) or thermal sensor technology that include a means to display an IR image of the working field, would relay safety hazards behind the work surface to the user. Infrared detection integration in retail and industrial power tools improves safety and increases efficiency by avoiding damage to hidden wires or pipes in walls, floors, and ceilings as well as in furniture or working materials. In another example, after using infrared technology to identify hazards below the surface, a power tool could then highlight an area on the work surface indicating a “safe zone” for drilling, nailing, cutting, etc..

Thomas Luebke’s US published application US20010053313 Hand drill attachment, combines a stud finder with a power drill, but is limited as it does not use infrared technology or warn the user of hazards.
Alistair Chan, et al’s US published application US20160167186 Power tools and methods for controlling the same, uses sensors within a power tool to adjust settings automatically based on the surface being worked on, but it does not indicate what is behind the surface or warn the user of hazards.

Problem Solved
No power tools on the market integrates Infrared imaging technology for subsurface detection of hazards. Standalone tools, like the FLIR VP52, find hidden wires or pipes in walls or align a user with the wooden structures or solid drilling materials behind walls, ceilings, or floors. Using two separate systems can be cumbersome.

Description of Solution
A power tool with the infrared guide will look into or behind the work surface. The power tool could have a display that provides information as to what is lies below the work surface like a stud, power cables, water lines, etc.

For example, when drilling a hole or cutting into solid materials, the user cannot see what is inside/behind (cables, insulation, structures, pipes, studs, etc.) that may destroy the target material or the structure within. In the case of power cables, it may even cause injury to the operator. Cutting and drilling into floors with sub-floor heating requires knowledge regarding the location of the heat loops within the floor to avoid damage and enormous costs. Using thermal detection, many potential threats can be seen and damage/injury avoided.
For users that want to increase the safety and efficiency of their existing power tools, add-ons can retrofit any toolkit.

Combining infrared subsurface viewing technology with power tools has many advantages. In the case of powered wire, the risk extends beyond damaging the lines to include the user’s safety should the power tool touch or cut the wires. Drilling into ceilings, installing a lamp, or driving a screw, requires knowledge of where the solid materials behind the ceiling are located. Infrared guided power tools find the right target quicker, saving time and avoiding injury.

By TinTin Razavian
Andreas Zinssmeister