Our paper has been published in the 2012 book ‘Shock and Vibration’ Pg. 175-186

Robotic Inspection Crawler for Small Diameter Complex Piping


Abstract This paper discusses a prototype pipe-crawling robot for inspection and maintenance. The robot is designed for small diameter complex piping systems with frequent intersections, turns, and obstructions. The modular design of the robot consists of propelling and inspection modules with an integrated steering mechanism. The basic propulsion system consists of four locomotion modules connected by compliant joints. Each module uses a hybrid gripping and extending motion where four feet extend outwards to ‘grip’ to interior walls of the pipe. Locomotion is then achieved by a system inspired by natural peristalsis. The innovation of the hybrid design allows more modules to contribute in gripping the pipe wall improving the pull force. Using a sensorless control strategy gripping range can is varied to conform to variable piping diameters. The steering mechanism consists of four shape-memory alloy springs that connect the first two modules. This allows the crawler to navigate itself through branches in a piping network. Both laboratory experiments and field testing of the robot demonstrated payload carrying capacity and adaptability with varying pipe diameter and obstructions. The design goals, requirements, and initial investigation into the system are discussed. The pull force experiment showed that the robot can afford up to 3 times payload versus its weight. When the payload is 3.65 kg, the robot maintained a speed of 35 cm/min.


Allen, Joseph, Skye Rutan-Bedard, and Hadi Fekrmandi. “Robotic Inspection Crawler for Small Diameter Complex Piping.” In USCToMM Symposium on Mechanical Systems and Robotics, pp. 298-309. Springer, Cham, 2020. DOI Link

Page Author: Samuel Irwin, BS student Mechanical Engineering, SDSMT

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