Robotics

THESBOT pipe-inspecting robot goes where the sun don't shine

THESBOT pipe-inspecting robot ...
THESBOT moves through a clear acrylic pipe at IREX 2015
THESBOT moves through a clear acrylic pipe at IREX 2015
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THESBOT moves through a clear acrylic pipe at IREX 2015
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THESBOT moves through a clear acrylic pipe at IREX 2015
Because of its hinged, segmented design, THESBOT is easily able to make its way through elbow sections and T-joints
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Because of its hinged, segmented design, THESBOT is easily able to make its way through elbow sections and T-joints
THESBOT has an LED-equipped camera at its head end
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THESBOT has an LED-equipped camera at its head end
Depending on what's required, THESBOT takes on a sort of zig-zag shape, so that only certain dedicated wheels make contact with the pipe walls
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Depending on what's required, THESBOT takes on a sort of zig-zag shape, so that only certain dedicated wheels make contact with the pipe walls
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If you've got a 3-inch diameter pipe to inspect from inside, chances are you're not going to try crawling in there yourself. At the recent IREX 2015 show in Japan, however, we spied a robot designed to do just that. Made by Tokyo-based HiBot, THESBOT is a sinuous robot that snakes its way through narrow pipework, transmitting real-time video and gathering other data as it does so.

The modular THESBOT has an umbilical cable trailing from its rear end, which is hard-wired to the joystick control unit used by the operator. That person views live video from the robot's "head"-mounted LED-equipped video camera, remotely panning and tilting the camera as needed, along with controlling THESBOT's speed and direction.

The wheeled robot can also be equipped with sensor modules that use magnetic fields, ultrasound or eddy currents to check for losses in wall thickness, or for cracks.

Depending on what's required, THESBOT takes on a sort of zig-zag shape, so that only certain dedicated wheels make contact with the pipe walls
Depending on what's required, THESBOT takes on a sort of zig-zag shape, so that only certain dedicated wheels make contact with the pipe walls

Because of its hinged, segmented design, THESBOT is easily able to make its way through elbow sections and T-joints. It can also climb both vertically and horizontally, although it uses different wheels to do so. Depending on what's required, the robot takes on a sort of zig-zag shape, so that only certain dedicated wheels make contact with the pipe walls. At IREX, we saw it use this system to first make its way through a U-bend before climbing a 2-meter (6.6-ft) section of pipe.

THESBOT is intended mainly for use in 3, 4, 6 or 8-inch (76 to 203-mm)-diameter pipes in the oil, gas and water industries. The HiBot rep we spoke to told us that the 2nd-generation model from the show is almost ready to hit the market, but still requires a bit of tweaking before it does so.

The robot can be seen in action, in the following video.

Sources: HiBot, HiBot USA

View gallery - 4 images
3 comments
Bob Flint
Oil, & sewer pipe lines are usually very slippery, and with those smooth rubber type treads this will be a problem, good thing is has a cable on the tail end to retract when needed.
tigerprincess
This may work on new or very clean pipe but don't attempt this on a 3" cast iron sewer pipe. The pipe will be clogged with built up calcium deposits from hard water and other unwholesome debris and the whole thing will not pass the obstruction or partially pass and be caught up and you will end up cutting down to the pipe if it is underground or under a slab and cutting into the cast iron to retrieve your equipment. Then you will then need to repair the pipe.
Sooty
Really, why would anybody bother spending this much on an item like this when there are so many smaller units out there? It's really not a robot as such as it is controlled from the surface via an operator, so are all the others and the others can fit into much tighter spaces, and detectable from the surface enabling you to mark out the pipe location and depth as you go. This is self propelled, and that would be its only advantage but the cost would outweigh this quickly (it looks very expensive)