Inspecting flooded pipes of power plants requires skilled, high-precision handling. Any robotic vehicle traversing underwater pipelines needs to be optimized accordingly.
The seawater manipulator in the picture above is able to maneuver through underwater pipes performing inspections. RE Motors by maxon motor are responsible for the dynamic drive of the robot.
What are Manipulators?
Manipulators are devices that allow for physical interaction with their surroundings. As such, the robotic vehicles have tools, such as gripper systems or measuring devices. The seawater manipulator’s main differentiator is its high-performance camera systems used to inspect the underwater pipes. A company in Germany called Ibass develops, manufactures, and distributes manipulators for a number of in-pipe applications:
These manipulators are made up of a driving unit, work module, and a camera. Additionally, they are operated electrically and pneumatically, dragging long lines behind them. These manipulators were made with operators of power plants and refineries, manufacturers and assembly fitters of pipeline systems in mind.
What are the Applications for Manipulators?
There are a number of different possible applications for manipulators, but the main focus is the inspection of power plant coolant pipes that cannot be emptied. This type of manipulator can also be used to apply coatings to the interior of pipes, as sealed wheel units are required for this application. The seawater manipulator that Ibass has developed can maneuver and inspect pipelines with inner diameters between 550 to 780 mm. They are able to do this as a result of the axial stroke of the pneumatic cylinder.
The scissor drive works with twelve wheels, two for each scissor side and drive motor, which allows the vehicle to obtain a firm hold in coated pipes due to a variable contact force. For the drive, there are six RE motors used in combination with planetary gearheads. The DC motors have an efficiency of more than 90%, yielding low energy consumption coupled with very high torque; an important prerequisite for this application. The motors are also equipped with ironless windings and neodymium magnets, allowing maximum performance coupled with compact size. Ibass ultimately chose the maxon motors due to their robustness and long service life.
Having a motor with high robustness is crucial in the manipulator withstanding on-site conditions. This manipulator, for example, can handle a pressure of up to 2 bar, this means that it can dive up to 20 m deep. It provides a tractive force of approximately 250 kg (2.5 kN) and the robot can drive a distance of up to 200 m into the pipe. The manipulators are equipped with lights at the front and rear of the vehicle. Also on-board is a high-quality camera with a pan-tilt head and 10x zoom; the rear, on the other hand, has a single-head camera. The seawater manipulator can be fitted with all Ibass work modules and can navigate up to five pipe bends.
maxon motors and gearheads are not only used to drive the seawater manipulator. The work modules are also equipped with RE motors. Underwater pipe inspection vehicles are vital tools for today’s industries and can ensure more safety and reliability.
For more information you can view the PDF here.