It reaches places out of sight. And it can also adapt to changing conditions. AGH UST is building a “pipeliner” – a mobile caterpillar robot designed for inspection works. The main feature of the pioneering construction worked on by Michał Ciszewski, a doctoral student at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics, is the versatility of use. Currently, industrial systems use different robots in horizontal pipelines, and different robots in vertical ones, although around the world there are very few robots that can be used in vertical pipelines. The prototype that is being constructed at AGH UST combines these different functions, as it can move both horizontally and vertically.
Localisation of defects
The main task of the robot designed by Michał Ciszewski is the visual inspection of pipelines, i.e. checking their technical condition. Due to a small dimension of pipelines, access to them is very limited, and that is a reason why robots used in this type of work need to be able to check the technical condition, repair a given section, as well as clean and remove congestion or pollution.
Aim: versatile use
“The robot is equipped with a video camera. The main aim of the project is to build a device that will be able to adapt to different types of pipelines and different types of working environment, enabling the inspection of circular and square pipelines of various dimensions, moving both on a flat surface, and to a limited extent on an irregular surface, as well an in vertical pipes,” says Michał Ciszewski.
Video robots are commonly used in industry, since the regulations require that a video check and the measurement of inclination are carried out in every pipeline. Currently, the market is dominated by wheeled robots (with changeable wheels), which are designed for a particular dimension of a pipeline, and can only move in horizontal pipes. It needs to be emphasized that although there are projects, or robots, that can be manually adjusted to a pipeline within a given range, there is no design that would enable automatic adjustment and, at the same time, a possibility to be used both on flat surfaces, as well as in horizontal and vertical pipelines. Robots used in vertical pipes move on the basis of the principle that they push aside their caterpillar tracks and press them against the walls of a pipeline (they can only be used in horizontal pipelines, but only ones of circular cross section). The drawback is that these robots have a constant angle between the caterpillar tracks or the wheels that press against the walls of the pipeline, which limits the scope of work.
Innovative system of positioning caterpillar tracks
“At the moment, we are constructing a tracked robot in which the caterpillar tracks can adapt to different types of surface – rough, or ones with various kinds of deposits or defects such as corrosion, and that is why we do not need to worry that the device will lose traction with the pipeline during operation. The device is in total based on eight drives. Two of them are caterpillar modules (the only part purchased directly from a Canadian producer of this type of modules), and all the other mechanical parts have been designed by the AGH UST team,” explains the doctoral student.
Mechanism with patent
It is worth adding that the mechanism of the pedipulator, which is used to set the position and orientation of the drive modules, and on which the whole system of the robot movement is based, has been patented.
In the near future
“Currently, we are perfecting the prototype, changing the control systems, refining the power supply and sensory systems, and thanks to these adjustments the robot will be better adapted to work in typical industrial conditions. We are also answering questions from the companies that express their interest, and looking for potential investors,” enumerates the constructor from AGH UST.
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