February 13, 2017

Game-Changing Pipe Inspection Robot Nears Completion

New Technology Brings Wireless Capability to Pipe Cleaning, Analysis

How much thought do you give to the act of turning on a faucet and having water immediately available? What about pressing the handle at the gas pump and instantly fueling your vehicle? Few people consider the complex pipe architecture that makes our world possible — and the inherent obstacles that architecture creates. One current Houston Mechatronics project aims to tackle such roadblocks head-on.

In 2016 our crew began working alongside a valued client to improve pipe inspection and cleaning processes for large industrial plants. Pipes in these particular applications require periodic cleaning as well as pipe integrity testing. Current practices require either manual inspections at a few external points, or robotic tools to carry out their work inside pipes while remaining tethered to an outside unit. After navigating a few pipe bends, tether cords begin to build up drag and large forces prohibit further progress. Our team’s goal was to, quite literally, cut the cord on those setbacks.

We set out to create a wireless pipe inspection solution that could navigate every twist and turn. The finished product would ideally gauge not only whether the structure had been properly cleaned, but could measure pipe wall thickness along the way, while locating any defects or fractures.

With a team of roboticists working at breakneck pace, our company unveiled the first prototype just a few short weeks after launching the project, and has continued rocking and rolling in the months that followed. The current iteration boasts a camera that can stream visual data live, allowing personnel to identify issues as the bot traverses the pipe. A fine-tuned sensor also provides real-time thickness measurements from inside the pipe — a massive improvement from current practices which require companies to measure from outside the pipe.

Our first production-level pipe inspection robot is under development now, and we expect it to reach completion this spring. Still, it is a process. As we continue our prototype endeavor, the robot’s iterations are changing less and less, and we are converging on a solution we are confident will change the way companies tackle such pipe processes.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to ways we can incorporate such technology into oil and gas, municipal pipes and other specialties. As it turns out, there is a lot of piping infrastructure in our modern world. It is gratifying to see such groundbreaking innovation come together, and to know our team spearheaded the change.


Latest News & Updates

August 14, 2018

New website!

Business has been pretty crazy over the last few months!  We have just about doubled our headcount since April and have made considerable strides in all of our technical developments around the company.  4 years ago, when HMI was first formed, the company’s mission was simple:  Use our engineering talent to solve complex problems for […]

April 27, 2018

IEEE Interview with Nic Radford

Ahead of our Aquanaut announcement yesterday,  IEEE interviewed our CTO, Nic Radford, to learn more about what Aquanaut is and why we decided to make it. 

October 9, 2017

Our Take on the Future of the Robotics Industry

What comes to mind when you think of robots? Mechanical arms along assembly lines? Voice-activated, internet-capable technologies? Humanoid creations able to interact with those around them? Modern perceptions vary greatly from the technology’s portrayal in 1960s-era sci-fi — and with good reason. As our capabilities continue to advance, robots are increasingly becoming part of people’s […]