Case Study: Robotic Tech & UT Testing for Accuracy and Reduced Risk
Ultrasound wall thickness measurements are a mainstay of NDT. However, the assets that need to be tested often bring particular challenges, such as working at height and/or within a confined space. These problems have and continue to be overcome by high-risk practices. These include erecting scaffolding, rope entry, toxic environments and more.
But what if there were a different way: one that not only reduced or removed the risk factors but also increased the speed of testing and returned more accurate results?
The reality is that there already is a viable solution – one that’s proving extremely effective in a wide variety of locations.
The following multiple case studies are examples of how forward-thinking businesses are reaping the benefits of technology to cut costs, increase safety, and improve the vital tasks of asset maintenance and repair.
Assets and Challenges
For this case study, we look at four examples where the innovative company, Invert Robotics, was approached to find a testing solution.
- Case #1: Carbon Steel Slurry Tank: This less-than-pristine tank presented a crowded, toxic, enclosed space that needed wall thickness and UT spot measurements to be taken. The tank had an agitator and baffles running from top to bottom and the walls were coated in deposits. Historically, the asset was emptied and shut down before an inspector entered to carry out the inspection. This laborious process involved extended asset downtime and high risk to the inspector involved. There was also the issue of difficult access to enough areas of the tank along with the ever-present problem of human error when it comes to gathering accurate testing data.
- Case #2: A coated carbon-steel sulfuric acid storage tank: The greatest issue here is the toxicity. Testing has previously involved extended asset downtime and trained inspectors to carry out the work.
- Case #3: 2 x carbon-steel gas absorbers for a major energy and waste company: Both the assets had high levels of surface corrosion. This was caused by the practice of spraying chalk powder through the assets to reduce the acidity of the gas as it exits.
- Case #4: Non-ferrous tank requiring UT scans: The material meant that adhesion to the walls by a robotic crawler presented an additional challenge, as most rely on magnets to do so.
While the four examples presented varying different challenges, Invert Robotics was able to provide bespoke solutions based on their innovative robotic crawler platform. This unique robot has been fitted with integrated Olympus state-of-the-art UT equipment and uses various methods to adhere to the walls. Because of this, it can successfully scale both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Encoder wheels at the front allow the robot to gather spot measurements and B scans at the same time, completely removing the need for human access to the assets.
The robotic platform comes in a variety of models, each designed to overcome specific challenges.
In the case of case #1, the carbon steel slurry tank, Invert Robotics deployed their H2200 hybrid robot.. Highly manoeuvrable, the operator was able to navigate the crowded interior and return 60 spot measurements of comparable or better quality than previous human inspections.
Case #2 required a wall thickness inspection. Again, the hybrid crawler effectively climbed the walls thanks to its unique adhesion methods that combine a vacuum with magnets. This meant it was easy for remote operation to drive the robot smoothly over the external walls to gain all the necessary UT measurements.
The greatest challenge for case #3 was the surface corrosion. Once again, the combination of magnets and vacuum meant a solution was available that could successfully carry out the required B scans on both assets.
Case #4, with its non-ferrous walls, needed a bespoke approach. Invert Robotics has just such a crawler designed for this challenge, the vacuum V1800 with UT setup. No magnets required; this strong robotic crawler was able to carry out the needed measurement in all 4 wind directions.
The advantages of UT testing using a robotic crawler are many:
- Speed: Testing can be carried out in a fraction of the time thanks to no lengthy preparation, such as erection and dismantling of scaffolding or emptying of an asset.
- Safety: Removing the need for confined space access or working at height massively reduces the safety risk.
- Increased accuracy: Robots are not affected by issues, such as human error or difficult access, that can cause inaccurate testing results.
- Reduced costs: This comes from multiple areas. Faster testing means less asset downtime. Better accuracy equals a more effective maintenance programme, with the ability to be proactive with repairs, rather than reactive when an unexpected fault occurs. Insurance costs will also be lower, thanks to the lowered risk to human inspectors.
- Improved worker and customer satisfaction: Taking positive steps to improve worker safety makes a company more attractive to work for, invest in and buy from.
Carry on reading How Robots Are Shaking up NDT Inspections to find out more.