When I was a kid I was obsessed with a toy that was straight out of the 80’s. It was called 'Armatron' and it was the coolest and most fun thing to play with! The product was very simple and was nothing more than a robotic arm with a grabber jaw that would fully rotate and move up, down and side to side. It was controlled by a set of small joysticks very similar to robotic controls found today. Ever since then I have been interested in robotics and their capabilities in our modern age.
Being involved in the water and also wastewater rehabilitation industry, it is clear that much of the work done in pipes is done with robotics throughout the process. These robots are used for all kinds of purposes, and come in all sizes and shapes. Some can propel themselves into and out of the pipe and some still require a winch system to pull them along into place. These robots can cut, grind, inspect, clean, position various tools and equipment and even more. Robots can work in pipe sizes ranging from DN70/3” to DN600/24” and possibly larger with additional set-up.
The future of robotics in our industry is already here and it is growing rapidly with the introduction of new tools and technology. Joysticks are being replaced by wireless video game controllers, simple cameras are being replaced by HD quality optics, sonar is being used and laser profiling is becoming the norm. It seems there is no end to the uses for robotics in the pipe repair and rehabilitation market.
Picote has long been asked to become involved with development in this area of the industry, after a proven track record of success in small diameter pipes. Since introducing their tools to the world in 2012, Picote tools have been found mounted in crude ways onto many types of rotating tools used daily in our business. Some with decent success and some a complete failure. Since 2012 some have perfected the adaptation to high pressure jetter nozzles and other types of mechanical cleaners. However, adaptation to robotics has been a bit difficult and limited. The main reason for this is the high rate of speed that most air and/or electric motors spin. The rpm can be as high as 15,000rpm which is far too high for most Picote tools whose range is best under 4000 rpm.
In my years spent working in the CIPP market I have met several amazing people who specialize in robotics for pipeline rehab. One of those is Kenny Cochrane, VP at Schwalm Robotics USA, located in Greenville, South Carolina, USA. Kenny has been involved at ground level with pipeline robotics at Schwalm for nearly 20 years, and has a very strong understanding of the business as a whole. Kenny was one of the first people from the USA to meet the Picote crew at the International No Dig Show in San Paulo, Brazil, where Picote picked up the ISTT Product of the Year Award for the Smart Cutter™. He has maintained his relationship with Picote ever since. Today Kenny is still working closely with Picote, and helping to develop a range of tools and equipment that can be adapted to robotic systems. Picote is excited to launch these custom tools at the upcoming IFAT show in Munich, Germany.
We have developed several unique adapters to add a variety of our existing tools to robotic cutters with lower rpm motors. Picote’s durable cleaning chains, grinding panels and one of a kind Smart Spider tools are all going to be available for use on robotic cutters in a range of sizes from 6”/DN150 to 12”/DN300. Grinding chains and Smart Spiders can be used to clean and prepare pipe for rehabilitation in both sewer and water mains. This selection of tools will allow for aggressive cleaning of hard deposits, tree roots and concrete in the pipe. Chains are great for the harder and more difficult cleaning, and the Smart Spider offers a more gentle approach, which would be great for water mains with brass taps and connections that may become damaged by the more aggressive grinding chains. The Smart Cutter™ offers the ability to grind away at resin slugs, wrinkles, lifts and just for general brushing of connections as needed. It is also a great way to abrade and prepare various substrates for the installation of point repairs, end seals or connection seals. The Smart Cutter™ is one of the most versatile tools offered and has a wide variety of uses. In addition to the great range of cutting and grinding tools, the ever popular Picote Grabber tools are now able to be mounted directly to the Schwalm Robotics line up. This is a HUGE advancement by the fact that it turns the robot into a direct extension of the operator with the ability to grab hold of objects with great precision and power. The Picote Grabber has a proven track record of success and will become even more efficient when added to the robots!
Robots will now be able to take Picote tools further and into bigger pipes that would otherwise not be accessible by standard methods. The future is here, the future is Picote!