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How to Use a Borescope in Plumbing? | Optics and Lab Equipment

How to Use a Borescope in Plumbing?

Last Updated: 21.10.19


If you search the market, you can surely find a good borescope for iOS that will fit your needs. There are a lot of places a person can check without being able to access otherwise or objects that can be inspected without dismantling, so a borescope is definitely the next best thing.



What is a borescope?

A borescope is an optical device which allows the user to visually inspect areas that are hard or even impossible for the human eye to see directly. The unit includes an eyepiece at one end, a tube that can be rigid or flexible, and an objective lens or a camera at the other end. 

The length of the tube, the diameter, and the functionality of borescopes depend on the industry and the applications they are intended for. To name some of the applications such a device can be used for we should mention aviation, sanitation, automotive, aerospace, weaponry, electronics, refining, law enforcement, and even power generation. 

Of course, these are only a few, as the uses of such a device are many. 


Types of borescopes


Rigid borescopes

Since the applications are so many, so are the needs. Therefore, this tool needs to comply with certain conditions and environments.  Rigid borescopes have been used since World War II in order to examine the interior bores of large guns. 

This type is still used for gun barrels or borehole inspections. Rigid borescopes are ideal for straight-line access in order to inspect a specific target. To get a better idea, these borescopes are uncomplicated tubes looking like long and thin telescopes. They use a lens system to send images to a relay lens from the object that is viewed in real-time. 

This is possible thanks to the eyepiece near the other end as well as an angled mirror that is pointed in the direction of the opening in the tube on the far end. Rigid scopes usually offer outstanding image quality, but they are limited to accessing only internal parts which can be examined in a direct, straight line. 

Apart from gun barrels, these devices can also be used for small bores, small parts inspection, or straight pipes. However, they cannot be used for inspecting objects with irregular internal cavities. 



Semi-rigid borescopes 

Semi-rigid borescopes represent a step up from the rigid models because they are bendable and can be used in confined spaces which do not offer any room for articulation. 

For this reason, they are also more forgiving as well as more durable than the rigid ones. Still, they are known to have poorer image quality which might discourage users who require high-resolution image viewing. A few of these semi-rigid scopes are also classified as fiberscopes that come in semi-rigid and articulating forms. 



Fiberscopes arrived on the market with the development of fiber optics which are very thin strands of glass. Fiberscopes bundle together between 3.000 and 30.000 fiber strands; sometimes even more. Fiberscopes use these fibers to transmit the image from the lens closest to the targeted object through the bundle to a relay lens. 

The captured image can be observed through the eyepiece or through a camera which displays the image on a monitor. These models are preferred over the rigid version because they are flexible and can reach places where straight-line access is not possible. Some fiberscopes are classified as semi-rigid, but there are also models with articulation. 

The articulation in a borescope signifies that the distal two inches of the scope’s insertion tube can be pointed in any chosen direction using control knobs that are located at the proximal end. Articulation fiberscopes come closest to video borescopes when it comes to aptitude and quality. There are also some downsides to fiberscopes. 

Many low-cost models use plastic fibers instead of glass. Also, the image quality varies a lot depending on the number of fibers. Another weakness of the fiberscopes is the fact that the image can suffer from pixelation in case any of the fiber strands breaks from overuse or rough articulation. 

The worst thing is that once a strand starts to break, there is no repairing possible, so the entire unit needs to be replaced.



Videoscopes represent one of the most recent developments in inspection camera technology. They are very similar to fiberscopes in the sense that they are both non-articulating and articulating videoscopes. 

There is a huge mechanical difference between fiberscopes and videoscopes due to the fact that the latter is equipped with a micro video camera and lights which are located at the far end of the insertion tube. The camera captures images and electronically transfers the video signal through the insertion tube to a video processor and a display. 

Therefore, the resolution image quality is much higher, and there is no threat of pixelation, as it can happen in the case of fiberscopes. Due to the high-quality images and videos they deliver, videoscopes have become valuable tools in many commercial and industrial applications. They have become a must for repair and maintenance inspections. 

Videoscopes are used in the visual examination of power plant equipment, boiler systems, structures, turbines, engines, industrial equipment, and even in law enforcement situations. Since the uses and domains are so diverse, so are the videoscopes. 

They may vary in terms of articulation, portability, weight, image quality, visual display clarity, required power source, tube length, image and video capture capabilities, and even illumination. Common remote visual inspection applications require a portable and lightweight borescope which does not need a plug-in power source. 

Other features users look for in a borescope are crystal clear images and videos, one-hand operation, as well as an ability to steer the camera. The costs for high-end video borescopes can vary from $8,000 to $50,000 depending on the manufacturer, specifications, and configuration options. 

While these numbers may seem outrageous to some, the costs are not even close to the ones connected with equipment downtime due to the lack of preventive maintenance inspections.


Borescopes and plumbing

As we have mentioned earlier, there are a lot of applications borescopes are used for. If we are to talk about plumbing, you can imagine that there is no way to see within a pipe if you do not take it out creating a lot of mess and even destruction and cutting it into small pieces. 



Naturally, that is not how plumbers fix clogged pipes or other issues. Instead, they use borescopes in order to remotely see what the problem is and how to fix it. Since pipes are not always in a straight line, and they are also joined at various points, a flexible borescope is the best choice. 

In recent years, more and more plumbers started using videoscopes because it is more convenient. Also, we are talking about very dark spaces, so screen and light quality is paramount. Leaks in pipeworks can be a real nuisance, and they can create a lot of problems so it is very important to be able to determine and fix the issue as soon as possible. 

The procedure is quite simple. The plumber inserts the tube with the camera in the drainage or pipe that goes all the way inside until the problem is discovered. Based on the nature of the issue, they can either use various tools to clean from the inside, or replace the pipe or the pipe segment, depending on the situation.


The importance of using a borescope

Regardless of the application it is used for, it is also very important to select the right type of borescope. These tools allow preventive visual inspections of objects and places that are otherwise impossible to access. 

These examinations are extremely important because the money, labor, time, and resources needed to treat an issue are much higher than prevention. In many situations, routine maintenance examinations prevent horrible accidents from happening. An engine, for example, can be disassembled and investigated for possible issues.

However, it is much cheaper and far less time-consuming to leave it whole and use a borescope to check the inside and fix only the part that has problems. When it comes to humans, on the other hand, a doctor cannot cut inside a person to find out what his or her health problems are. 

Instead, they use another type of borescope, known as an endoscope, to check the internal organs. Since we discussed about plumbing, you may very well imagine that a plumber cannot cut through the walls of a house to remove the whole plumbing system and investigate where the issue comes from. 

Instead, a professional uses a borescope and remotely checks the system. When the issue is found, it can also be fixed with the minimum amount of destruction, not to mention mess.



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