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IFSJ Exclusive: Inside Bullard’s TXS Thermal Imager

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IFSJ takes a look at Bullard’s new, lightweight thermal imaging camera the TXS Thermal Imager

Small in both shape and weight, the new TXS Thermal Imager from protection equipment manufacturer Bullard joins its range of firefighting thermal imaging cameras. The new model was created as an affordable option in order to offer all firefighting teams the ability to be fully equipped during an emergency.

The lightweight TXS offers a clear image that will help firefighters better understand the situation in front of them using the device’s high-resolution infrared sensor and proprietary image enhancement technology.

Bullard thermal imaging cameras were first introduced to the fire service market in 1998 with its first high-resolution thermal imager, the Bullard TI. The latest model follows the same formula that has made its predecessors a success: robust design, high quality and ergonomic form factor.

The new device also aims to prove that Bullard’s footprint is more international than ever. Developed in the Swiss-based Bullard Technology Center and in close cooperation with European fire departments, the Bullard TXS is manufactured in the Unites States and distributed in the US and Europe via Bullard’s close[1]-knit, proven dealer network of firefighting professionals.

“Like all our developments for the fire safety products market, the new Bullard TXS delivers on what we call the Bullard Tough promise”, says Martijn Bosch, Bullard Thermal Imaging Product Manager at the Swiss Bullard Technology Center, noting that the camera is built for the most demanding of situations and comes with 5 years warranty.

Bosch says the device is purposely built for the fire service and was designed with the input of end users from across the world. The result is a lightweight thermal imager the features a compact but highly durable design.

Lightweight design

Bullard TXS is robust, easy-to-handle and lightweight. Clocking in at just 750g including battery, the compact, ergonomically designed camera is shaped to fit comfortably in the gloved hand and is to be stowed easily via lanyard. At the touch of a button, the TXS is immediately ready for action capable of functioning for 6 hours of continuous use due to its Li-Ion battery and intuitive charging options.

The yellow-orange-red coloring is standard, as is the numerical and graphic temperature display. Thanks to the resolution of 320 x 240 pixels and a 3.5” screen with 30Hz frame rate, the thermal imager delivers a clear image that provides attack squads with all important information which Bosch says is presented: “At a price that makes the Bullard TXS Thermal Imager the TI solution of choice when budget, quality, and performance are essential. TXS gives you all the vital information you need, without ever weighing you down – all that at an incredible value.”

The purpose of the TXS, says Bosch, is to support as many firefighters as possible to have access to this time and life-saving technology with a clear image quality that allows users to see more earlier and make decisions faster, making it beneficial for any firefighter task.

Bosch points out that earlier this year the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, classifies the occupational carcinogenic exposure experienced by a firefighter in the highest category. The rating changed on June 15th, 2022, from IARC category 2b (potentially carcinogenic risk) to IARC category 1a (known carcinogenic risk).

“The longer you are exposed the higher is the risk of being exposed,” says Bosch. “Using a thermal imager correctly can potentially help fulfilling tasks quicker. The thermal imager not only allows the user to see differences in temperatures but also to make heat radiation and its movement visible. You can also see physicochemical reactions.”

A device in every department

Twenty years ago, says Bosch, a fire department might have had one thermal imager. It would be a piece of kit that would cost a fortune would more than likely be locked away and only taken it out on the most critical missions. “I’m exaggerating a bit of course, but the use has changed enormously since,” he says. “Now departments want their firefighters to bring thermal imagers on all missions as more eyes and thermal images on the fire increases the safety and effectiveness of all.

“Bullard wanted to support this trend and talked to many firefighters and chiefs on specific needs to enable them to equip more firefighters with imagers. We established that a compact and lightweight design was key, to reduce the combined weight of all the gear, while maintaining a great image quality at an incredible durability, safe for structural firefighting. Of course, also the price is critical and we have managed to make the TXS our most affordable imager by a great leap.”

In order to ensure the TXS does what it is supposed to, the device underwent multiple stages of testing throughout the development process. Bosch says that a lot of the functional testing Bullard carries out is done together with fire stations in order to fine-tune the design to their feedback. Following that, there is a large batch of lab tests, loosely based on the NFPA1801 standard, to ensure the durability and safety of the device. The testing process is finished off with the compliance tests necessary for market admission, such as the CE standard.

High-definition imaging

The key things to note about the TXS is that it is a compact, lightweight and genuinely robust thermal imager. In addition to its structural soundness, some of the key innovations are to be found in the image quality. “You’ll notice a very low lag – the image follows without stuttering if you look around or change from a low to high temperature scene,” Bosch tells. “We have achieved by carefully designing the image pipeline (lens – sensor – computing – software – display) to be blazingly fast at every stage.”

Bosch adds that in his experience, there are many imagers in the lower priced segments that he believes make sacrifices on the image quality, which is why Bullard worked to ensure that the TXS captures a clear image at a lower price point: “Try to get your hands on one, take it into a burn and I guarantee that you won’t go back to your bulky old imager.”

Better after fire

Earlier this year at the INTERSCHUTZ trade show in Hannover, Germany, the Lohmar Volunteer Fire Department presented its concept for operational hygiene. At its heart was the hygiene unit: three tents which were divided into black and white areas where its members ensure that comrades could get rid of contaminated fire protection clothing and helmets as quickly as possible. The emphasis was to show the effectiveness and benefits of removing contaminated gear at the scene of the incident rather than back at the station.

Two hygiene specialists were on hand in the rapid change of clothing, showing that this would involve their coming into contact with contaminated equipment. To prevent negative health effects of being exposed to contaminated gear, the Lohmar Volunteer Fire Department relied on the new EVA powered air-purifying respirator from Bullard.

The advantages of the reusable system, which is available with different hoods and filters, are obvious, says Sub-Fire Chief André Neff: “The lightweight respiratory protection always sits where it belongs; even for beard and glasses wearers. Even when bending down and handling contaminated equipment, nothing slips. This allows our hygiene unit to concentrate fully on its task.”

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