By hand or unmanned? This question continues to surface in an age where robotic solutions are increasingly demonstrating their value for performing tasks that people can’t or really shouldn’t do. Eddyfi Technologies robotic crawlers can be found enabling non-destructive testing in confined spaces, hazardous environments, even deep underwater. Beyond inspection, these multi-mission modular crawlers are the foundation for custom robotic solutions that have solved many remote industrial application challenges... and often for the first time! This article takes a look at just one example of where the never-been-done was completed thanks to OnSpec Robotics.

when fdffdAmerica’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, Fermilab, needed a solution for removing grout blocking their neutrino-muon beamline, they turned to Eddyfi Technologies’ Center of Excellence for Robotics. Neutrinos represent some of the least understood particles in the universe, and scientists worldwide use Fermilab’s particle accelerator complex to research these little mysteries. With several neutrino detectors that range from a few hundred pounds to more than 14,000 tons, the sophisticated technology investigates neutrino beams at distances from a few hundred meters to 800 kilometers (500 miles). It’s believed that neutrinos may provide the key to answering some of the most fundamental questions about the nature of our universe. We couldn’t let grout get in the way of that!

When work was performed to fill concavities in the lower half of the beam pipe, the grout that was intended to prevent potentially leaking water collection ended up in some places it shouldn’t have. It needed to be removed, but how? First of all, the grout used had triple the compressive strength of your everyday sidewalk concrete. Next, the grout in question was located 85 meters (280 feet) down, filling half the diameter of the pipe. This was a job for a robust robotic crawler that could access and reliably operate within a confined space.

OnSpec Robotics for Grout Removal

While Eddyfi Technologies’ standard VersaTrax™ crawler can travel distances up to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) from a single entry point as small as 350 millimeters (14 inches), the robotic solution for this job needed to deploy and control a 20,000 PSI water jet far inside the narrow 380-millimeter (15-inch) passage. On top of transporting the heavy hose assembly filled with high pressure water, it needed to do so with the water jet producing a 45-kilogram (100-pound) reverse thrust!

OnSpec Robotics for Grout Removal

To say this OnSpec Robotic custom solution for remote cleaning proved its resilience would be an understatement:

  • It was accidentally flipped over in the pipe and dragged 85 meters (280 feet) upside down and continued working later,

  • it accidentally fell 1 meter (3 feet) off a table landing upside down on the floor – a whopping 36-kilogram (80-pound) force to the device – and it still kept working,

  • it was submersed in 100 millimeters (4 inches) of hot water without electrical malfunction, and of course,

  • it was not only able to hold its position but also advance forward with the water jet engaged!

OnSpec Robotics for Grout Removal

The staff at Fermilab affectionately call this powerful workhorse IGoRR, short for Inuktun Grout Removal Robot. According to this article, the team remotely operated IGoRR, directing it to aim and control the water jet with extreme precision. It was only a matter of time before the hill of grout was a heap of rubble.

“That’s not too shabby for something no one had ever done before and in that amount of time”

– Michael Geelhoed, Accelerator Division Engineering Physicist, Fermilab

According to Ryan Schultz, Accelerator Division Project Engineer, robots are a key component in ensuring safe work in otherwise hazardous environments. With future increased beam intensities, radiation levels and exposure also increase. Cue OnSpec Robotics to perform tasks limiting exposure. “I believe robots have a future at Fermilab.”

While remote work has been a hot topic for businesses around the world who have been forced to rapidly adapt to a new normal, Eddyfi Technologies robotics are seasoned veterans in performing remote controlled operations over long distances. Whether removing over 400 pounds (50 gallons) of rock-hard grout from inside a neutrino-muon beamline or filling decommissioned pipelines, OnSpec Robotics continue to get the job done.

Ready to reap the benefits of going remote? Contact our team of dedicated robotic experts today!

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