When analyzing or debugging your electronics project one of the easiest places to start is with the finger test. Simply touch your finger to each of the components on your board to which component is misbehaving and heating up.
When you need quantitative answers, a thermal camera, like the $1000 Flir E4, is a great tool. At $350 the Flir One is bringing down the price of this technology, but it is still out of reach for most home labs. You can use the T400 thermocouple datalogger to achieve adequate results without the need for expensive hardware.
Let’s use the T400 temperature datalogger board as an example. In this setup a thermocouple is connected to the ATmega32U4 using thermally conductive silicone potting compound. This is the same compound used to pot thermocouples into stainless steel tubes.
We can use the Flir E4 to view our board and compare results to the T400. In this image you can see the ATmega32U4 is the warmest component followed by the MCP5219-3.3V regulator. The Flir E4 and T400 give the same readings of approximately 35 C. This does not indicate the E4 and T400 will always give the same temperature or that either temperature is accurate to the true temperature in this case. The E4 has an accuracy of +/-2 C while the T400 has a yet undetermined accuracy.
With four thermocouple channels the T400 can monitor four parts of your board while recording that data for later graphing. I hope this gives you a few ideas of how you can use the T400 in your own lab. Please sign up below to be notified when the Pax Instruments T400 Kickstarter campaign launches in September.