Pipe inspector

OC Robotics has been awarded a contract by Ontario Power Generation to design and build a snake-arm robot capable of inspecting pipework within nuclear reactors.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has awarded a contract to OC Robotics to design and build a snake-arm robot that will be used to inspect pipework and structures inside OPG’s nuclear reactors.

The snake-arm, mounted on a mobile vehicle, will be 2m in length and will have a rectangular cross-section measuring 25mm in width and 50mm in height. The snake-arm will initially be equipped with tip cameras for pipe inspection.

The contract is OC Robotics’ first as prime contractor to a nuclear utilities company.

According to Bristol-based OC Robotics, a snake-arm robot is comprised of a number of vertebrae. It is tendon-driven with wires terminating at various points along the length of the arm allowing the joints to be controlled independently. A motor is used to control the length of each wire independently.

The control software calculates the necessary lengths of all the wires to produce the desired shape. While the operator uses a joystick to drive the tip, the computer does the necessary calculations to make the arm follow. This tip-following capability enables a snake-arm robot to avoid obstacles in complex structures.