Member profile details

Membership level
2013-2014 Team
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Team Name
Project Title
Design Challenge
The objective of this project is to design an in-pipe robot that can sense and articulate to enter the proper branch of a splitting borehole in an oil well. This entails the design and development of an in-pipe robotic system with a motor and follower mechanisms that allow traction, steering and negotiation of difficult topologies such as sharp U, T, and Y. Students will generate concepts for a device that senses the presence of a lateral and articulates to enter the predetermined path, and build a laboratory prototype with off the-shelf components to demonstrate concept. Prototype demonstration will be performed in Plexiglass pipe sections of 4 to 6-inch inner diameter.
Design Summary
Team TYUBE will design the PIPEBOT - an autonomous, self-contained in-pipe robot capable of detecting critical damage that can:

• Systematically detect different pipe configurations, including U, T, and Y topologies
• Navigate these pipe sections according to a pre-determined set of instructions
• Carry its own power source and microprocessor

Pipelines provide a problematic environment that calls for a design that is robust for a variety of different scenarios. Consequently, the PIPEBOT must also eventually adhere to additional constraints dictated by the nature of its design/purpose, which include:

• The ability to handle varying pipe diameters and different process fluids
• The ability to accommodate varying pipe conditions (corrosion/fouling on the interior diameter)
• The ability to work in critical system temperatures/pressures

After careful assessment of the intended use of the device, several design objectives critical to the success of the project were identified and are listed below:

• Compactness to allow for easy transport through relatively small working environments
• Precision to enable accurate sensing of various pipe topologies
• Responsiveness so that the robot can react in a timely manner to input stimuli from the sensors
• Reliability to ensure that failures during operation within pipelines are a rarity
• Intelligence to ensure that the robot is autonomous and able to effectively navigate through a pipe system using an on-board microprocessor

Currently, Team TYUBE has done basic testing with ultrasonic transducers to identify limiting physical characteristics of the sensors (i.e. minimum and maximum detection range, critical angle of reflection, etc.). As well, the team has begun developing a preliminary sensing algorithm utilizing a rotating sensor array on the leading face of the robot. The algorithm in development looks for characteristic patterns in the two individual sensors to determine changes in pipe topology (typically from a straight section to a U, T, or Y turn). A MATLAB code has been created to visually display the behavior of these sensors within varying topologies in 3-D space and to compare theoretical results. Initial analyses have shown that it is also possible to discern geometries using the distinct behaviors of the derivative of the sensor values with respect to distance from a given incoming topology. These two methods – distance measurements and the time rate of change in distance measurements – have the potential to identify topologies as the robot approaches a junction. Construction of a second acrylic sensor mount to test this method has been completed, and testing within pipe sections over the next two weeks will be used to further support/disprove the proposed sensing method against a fixed sensor model.

Last Updated: 02/12/2014
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Dr. Fathi Ghorbel
Faculty Advisor 1 - Department
  • MECH
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
Dr. James Dabney
Faculty Advisor 2 - Department
  • MECH
Award(s) and Recognition
Jenessa Shapiro Student Choice Award at the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium

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