Inspection camera, viewing system, optical device, or optical instrument — people turn to a variety of different descriptive terms to explain what a borescope is. At its core, and in plain English, though, a borescope is a camera-connected electrical appliance that allows people to see inside small and tricky spaces.
Borescopes designed for use in the medical field, called endoscopes, have made the rise in innovative keyhole surgeries that allow patients to recover much more quickly possible. Outside of cutting-edge medicine, borescopes also have countless (and often equally important) applications. Different types of borescopes enable professionals across industries to see precisely what they need to, without having to disassemble large structures, potentially risking their safety or the structural integrity of the space in which they are working.
Why and when were borescopes first invented, how are they used, and what types of borescopes are currently found on the market? Read on to learn more about these fascinating and incredibly useful tools.
A Brief History of Borescopes
Early versions of the modern borescope were in use as early as World War II, when they could be used to examine the inside bores of guns. This is where the name “borescope” comes from. A borescope similar to those found on the market today was invented in the 1960s, by physicist Narinder Kapany and optical physicist Brian O’Brien, both from the United States.
This borescope used a rigid tube and an optical visual inspection system, just like some modern borescopes do — but borescopes have come a long way since the 1960s.
Which Industries Use Borescopes?
Borescopes are used in a huge number of different fields, as any industry in which people sometimes benefit from seeing into tiny spaces that are tricky or impossible to examine without a borescope finds uses for these instruments.
Among the professionals who may rely on borescopes on a daily basis, or at least occasionally, are:
What do all these professionals have in common? They all need to get a good look at spaces that are impossible to visually access without the use of a borescope, unless they were to disassemble or break the structures they are working with. With the use of a borescope, it becomes possible to access small spaces hidden from view easily, without the need to take anything apart. This makes borescopes perfect for inspections as well as troubleshooting.
Not every borescope is appropriate for every use, though, and thankfully, an amazing variety of borescopes now graces the market. This makes borescopes accessible and useful to almost everyone — from aerospace engineers who are diagnosing complex problems with priceless aircraft to curious children who simply want to know what the inside of the bathroom sink looks like. (Yes, really, because basic borescopes can cost as little as $30.)
Types of Borescopes: An Overview
Buying a new borescope can be overwhelming, because there are so many different choices. It’s helpful to know that borescopes can broadly be categorized into one of three types:
Some borescopes, called USB digital borescopes, have WiFi access and USB ports that enable users to attach them to their smartphones or laptops. These USB borescopes have the advantage of being more portable, while also making it possible to easily download the images captured. Some borescopes have LCD screens, while others can even be wireless.
So-called articulating borescopes have probe tips that can point in all directions to make it possible to inspect all areas surrounding the probe. In cases where this is not possible, dual-camera borescopes, which feature two separate lenses, can be helpful.
What Features Can Modern Borescopes Have?
People who are thinking of buying a borescope should keep in mind that not every borescope has the same features. Before you go shopping, it is important to consider what you need:
While high-resolution industrial borescopes created to be used in manufacturing or aerospace can absolutely cost thousands of dollars, many professionals can now get a borescope that perfectly meets their everyday needs for less than $300 — and if you only need a basic borescope, this handy tool can be yours for less than $100!