As a health and safety requirement, routine internal pressure vessel inspections must be carried out at plants across the world but the process of closing down production, depressurizing the vessel and transporting any fluids or liquids is extremely costly.
In addition, these inspections in hazardous environments are currently carried out by humans and there is a high level of risk involved.
To combat these problems, a remotely controlled robot, Chimera, has been developed by a collaboration of companies across the UK for use across all industries, including oil and gas, nuclear and water.
Chimera is a machine which can withstand hazardous environments and is built in two components to allow a great deal of flexibility so it can climb internal vessel walls, and is attached to a tether to enable the machine to be controlled remotely by an operator from a safe distance.
The robot will have a camera attached to relay live images back to the operator and an ultrasonic phased array inspection system and LIDAR scanner will also be included to create a 3D map of the internal structure to paint an accurate picture of the state of the vessel and identify damage.
A slender ‘snake’ arm can also be attached to carry out any minor repairs needed in such a confined space.
Cumbrian engineering firm Forth has developed the robotic platform of the Chimera project and has successfully trialed the machine to prove that the concept model accurately carries out its functions.
The Chimera innovation will come equipped with four heavy duty magnets each with a pull of 116kg worth of weight so it can climb interior walls and ceilings.
The machine features a four-track drive and the operator will be able to steer each track individually to ensure it can be easily controlled.
The purpose of it being constructed in two separate parts is twofold: to allow for a greater deal of flexibility and to enable the machine to be dragged back should power be lost in the machine’s motors.
To reduce the risks of losing power, a water cooling system has been included on the machine to keep the electrics cool during use.
The team at Forth has proven the concept of Chimera with partners, and has successfully trialed a working model.
They are now looking to gain financial backers to progress the process of the innovation to the next stage, allowing the machine to be modified and adapted into a commercial piece of equipment.
The Innovate UK-backed program has also been supported by The Welding Institute, Headlight AI, Sound Mathematics, the University of Nottingham, Rolls Royce, Metallisation and Race.
Forth has bases at Maryport, Cleator Moor and Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. Forth is dedicated to engineering excellence and works closely with industry leaders in a wide range of sectors to help them deliver innovative and ground-breaking solutions to complex problems.
Among the services it provides are: manufacturing; decommissioning; mixed reality services; installation and site services; design and substantiation; innovation; deep recovery; and a trade counter.
To contact Forth, visit www.forth.uk.com.