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The Anatomy of a Borescope

Last Updated: 06.12.21


You might have heard about borescopes before, and while you may be aware of some of its uses, you want to know more. If that is the case, this article is for you, as it focuses most and foremost, on the way a borescope is designed and how can it be used for various purposes.

What is a borescope, exactly?

In a nutshell, a borescope is an optical device designed for visual examination of areas that cannot be reached with the naked eye or without difficulty. A borescope looks like a long tube that has a lens for capturing images at one end.

That distal end serves as an insertion probe, and it is usually equipped with an illumination system, as many places that are difficult to reach don’t have enough light to allow proper inspection.

Going deeper in the way such devices are designed, here is what you must know. The cable you see that practically connects the insertion probe with a connection that can usually be hooked up with a mobile device has a very peculiar design on the inside.

Some models use a complex system of prisms and mirrors, just like other optical devices, employed in such a manner that the image captured by the eyepiece can be transmitted to the other end. Others use fiber optics. The more complex systems have a camera at the distal end, and the quality models we found tend to fall in this category.

What you need to remember from this introductory part is that a borescope can ‘see’ where you cannot. That is the main reason for which so many industries use such devices, and even DIY enthusiasts consider, more and more, that a borescope is an indispensable tool for their work.


A few differences between various models

If you look around and compare multiple models on the market, you will discover that there are rigid borescopes and flexible borescopes. The rigid models are made with metal tubes, while the flexible models have a rubber exterior that allows them to bend to reach to places where a rigid metal tube cannot.

To delve deeper into the anatomy of a borescope, let’s talk about how those that use fiber optics look on the inside. The structure of the so-called cable for these ones involves practically some small glass tubes encased in a cable-like architecture. You can see the difference between borescopes that use fiber optics and others by the wiring pattern that appears on the image.

But, to get to more complex models of borescopes, the most popular are those that use video cameras to capture pictures and videos. These are appointed with microchips that have the role to capture the image and process it via pictures and videos that you can store on other devices and share with others.

In medicine, endoscopes are very similar to borescopes, but they are usually built to be more delicate and offer better image accuracy, seeing the field of activity that uses them.

Where and how can borescopes be used?

A borescope can quickly become a way to save money for many industries and even DIY-ers. Any cramped and dark place can be reached with the help of such a device. You only need to insert the probe through a small entrance or hole and examine engines, walls, roofs, pipes, electrical wires, and so on.

Seeing how disassembling an entire engine, or driving holes in walls and roofs to get to the root of the problem, can be costly and disruptive, it is easy to see why a borescope can be quite a significant investment. Workers can surely avoid generating catastrophic damage by using a borescope since some models can slip through holes that are incredibly narrow.

If that is the case for your work, you need to focus on finding a model that also comes with some magnification and reliable illumination. The whole purpose of using a borescope is to reach areas that are hard to access and examine them thoroughly.


A bit of history

In case you are wondering how the first devices of this kind came to be used on a large scale, here are some details that you might find interesting. The first borescopes to be used in the US were introduced on the market in 1920, and their first applications were in medicine.

However, people quickly discovered that borescopes could be used with tremendous results by various industries confronted with repairs and maintenance tasks that required non-destructive work. The scientists that noticed that the eyepiece of this kind of device was very much similar to a gun’s scope thought to give it the name we know today.

As you might well suspect, the first borescopes were far from being the sophisticated items they are today. They consisted of an eyepiece attached to an objective lens through a metal tube. Due to a complex system of prisms and mirrors, those who used them could see at an angle and reach some areas that were otherwise difficult to reach.

The next advancement that revolutionized the structure of a borescope was the introduction of fiber optics. Unlike the rigid borescopes that had limited applications, those made with fiber optics could bend and reach even more difficult areas.

Lastly, equipping a borescope with a mini video camera that could capture pictures and videos and transmit them to USB-enabled devices, was the technical novelty that made these devices what they are today.


Borescopes have walked a long way from their humble beginnings. In the past, and today, they are used in various applications, and they offer users the ability to inspect challenging-to-reach places.

For multiple industries, that is an effective way to save money on maintenance and repairs, while for passionate DIY-ers, it is a way to perform various tasks around the home, without the usual disruptive and damaging interventions involved by the necessity to discover the source of a problem.



Ioana Moldovan

Ioana’s professional experience in the optics field has helped her understand the value of passing her knowledge forward. Her curious personality helps her gather useful information for her readers and her goal is to make technical information fun and accessible to everyone.

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