A newly developed new robot, tentatively titled “Search Bot”, has passed its first functionality test. The task of the robot is to inspect the integrity of concrete structures.
Maria Guimarães, Senior Project Manager (EPRI Institute, USA), says that the demonstration of the robot outside the laboratory was successful. Testing was carried out at a dam near Niagara, New York. The robot, passing along the concrete walls of the facility, successfully examined the integrity of the structure and the structure as a whole.
According to the developers, there are many dangerous facilities in the USA, like nuclear reactors, that reach the age of design service. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, many dams have already reached the end of their design life. Structural integrity and damage level testing is key to maintaining safety in these structures. The Search Bot is designed to take on some of the manual labor in checking such structures and automate such processes.
The Search Bot is a special version of a commercial robot developed by International Climbing Machines. The robot is equipped with a 110-volt device to hold the robot on a vertical surface. It is powerful enough to carry 40 pounds of weight with it and even climb over nuts and bolts as well as damaged concrete. María Guimarães says she tried to manually unhook the working robot from the wall and couldn’t because it holds itself so tightly.
The robot is equipped with special touch sensors that detect damage. In the Niagara test, sensors were used to check for delamination. In future tests, the team plans to equip the robot with other sensors to check the integrity of the rebar and the level of moisture in the wall. Once the desired sensor is selected, the bot follows a pre-programmed path, recording information about areas where problems are found in the structure.
The project team hopes that the commercial version of the robot will be ready by 2016.