Robot for Working in Small-Diameter Piping|
21 February, 1997
Internal inspection of pipes with a diameter of around an inch relies on disassembly, a time-intensive and often difficult task. Toshiba's new robot provides a reliable solution. Despite considerable research into small robots that can negotiate small-diameter pipes, it is the first equipped to carry out visual inspections and collect foreign bodies.
The robot is 110mm long and has an external diameter of 23mm at its widest point. It weighs 16g and can speed along at 6mm a second. The robot's vision is provided by a highly compact 1/4-inch, 410,000 pixel CCD camera mounted above its two-digit hand, a rubber flexible micro actuator (FMA). A synchronous motor provides the drive to a planetary wheel mechanism controlled by planetary reduction gears and worm gears. Maneuvering is enhanced by the robot's flexible link, a rubber tube between the front and back wheels that allows the robot to negotiate curves and bends.
The robot's movement and operation is remotely controlled by an operator. The movement of the CCD and FMA hand are coordinated by a wobble motor. A metal ring on the motor's drive shaft is covered with a wave generator, a rubber doughnut with six air chambers running along its length. Adjusting air pressure in these tubes changes the pressure exerted on the metal ring and the drive shaft, and so moves the CCD and FMA hand in concert. Once the CCD identifies a foreign object and moves to pick it up, the operator can precisely move and control the FMA. Adjusting air pressure in the three compartments of each digit provides left right and up down movement, and gives the FMA its grip.
The multiple wheels in the planetary wheel mechanism are driven by planetary reduction gears and worm gears which keep them pressed against the walls of the pipe. Use of the planetary wheel mechanism assures the drive force required for controlled ascents and descents of vertical pipes.
The new robot will be featured at Tomorrow 21, an exhibition of Toshiba's technologies at Tokyo International Forum, next to Yurakucho Station, from March 4 to 9.
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