Robotics for In-situ Repair
Robotic systems for in-situ repair is one of the research areas for UTC team. We focuses on developing fundamentally novel, miniaturised robotic systems, e.g. walking hexapod and continuum robot, for inspection, maintenance and repair operations in challenging environments (e.g. aero-engines, nuclear).
Different with the hyper-redundant cable driven robots, the continuum robots developed in UTC are constructed with multiple continuous sections capable of large bending angle (± 90° in arbitrary direction), enabling it access into extremely confined space, e.g. aero engine. Based on the novel compliant-joint structure, the arm of the continuum robot have the state-of-the-art diameter/length ratio in the world (i.e. 0.023) and it can deliver various end effectors (e.g. camera and machining tools) for conducting the aforementioned operations, which enables to significantly reduce the down-time of the facilities.
Walking hexapod developed in UTC is derived from Stewart platform. Unlike the conventional Stewart platform, its feet can be controlled to anchor to/release from the ‘base’ and all the legs can be articulated for propelling itself to the remote area. Once the feet are anchored, the robot can perform 6-Degree-of-Freedom high precision machining operation (10 um). Hence, the hexapod can self-propel to deliver different end effectors for inspection and repair on the targets in extreme environments (e.g. nuclear), shortening the shut-down time of the facility and removing human from the hazards.
For any information regarding these projects please contact the following members of our team:
Professor Dragos Axinte (Dragos.Axinte@nottingham.ac.uk)
Dr Xin Dong (Xin.Dong@nottingham.ac.uk)
Mr David Alatorre Troncoso (David.Alatorre@nottingham.ac.uk)
Dr Andres Gameros (Andres.Gameros@nottingham.ac.uk)
Dr Mingfeng Wang (Mingfeng.Wang@nottingham.ac.uk)
Dr Abdelkhalick Mohammad (Abd.Mohammad1@nottingham.ac.uk)
Mr Jorge Barrientos (Jorge.BarrientosDíez@nottingham.ac.uk)
Mr Josue Camacho (Josue.CamachoArreguin@nottingham.ac.uk)
Mr Weiming Ba (Weiming.Ba@nottingham.ac.uk)
Mr Erhui Sun (Erhui.Sun@nottingham.ac.uk)
Miss Yihua Fang (Yihua.Fang@nottingham.ac.uk)
Research and Development List:
Miniaturised Robotic systems for holistic in-situ Repair and maintenance works in restrained and hazardous environments (MiRoR) aims to develop a fundamentally novel concept of a Miniaturised Robotic Machine (Mini-RoboMach) system, that equipped with intelligence-driven and autonomous abilities, will be demonstrated for holistic in-situ repair and maintenance of large and/or intricate installations.
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ATI-approved project Flame Spray Adder for in-situ Patch Repair of Aero-Engine Combustors (FLARE), led by Rolls-Royce is a collaborative R&D project utilising continuum robot capability developed by the University of Nottingham, incorporating miniaturised flame spray equipment from Metallisation. There is significant market desire to create a device that can perform in-situ / on-wing patch repair of thermal barrier coatings without dismantling high value infrastructure, such as aircraft jet engines.
It is costly and time consuming for maintenance and overhaul activities to be completed whilst the engine is removed, it is more attractive to Rolls-Royce, airline customers and the aerospace sector’s supply chain to be able to perform more services with the engine still intact and attached to the aircraft.
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Free-leg Hexapod (FreeHex) aims to develop a miniature low force machining system, that offers features of light, compact, versatile and easily portable and can be temporarily attached to its workpiece for in-situ maintenance of large components and mechanical systems in restricted and hard to access environments.
Aeroengine compressor blades are sometimes damaged by ingested debris. Damaged blades can currently be repaired by highly-skilled Rolls-Royce engineers that travel to the location of the engine to remove the defect using slender grinding tools, an operation known as boreblending. Remote Inspection and Engine Repair is a project that aims to develop a portable, remotely controllable boreblending robot. Led by Rolls-Royce and funded by the ATI, the project aims to reduce the downtime associated with boreblending by allowing engineers to perform the task remotely over the internet.
The remote boreblending robot was demonstrated on a Trent XWB engine in Rolls-Royce, Derby, in January 2018.
The nuclear industry has some of the most extreme environments in the world, with radiation levels and extremely harsh conditions restraining human access to many facilities.
Yet to date, robotic systems have had very little impact on the industry, even though it is clear that they offer major opportunities for improving productivity and significantly reducing risks to human health.
The RAIN initiative has been created to address these issues by developing the advanced robotics and artificial intelligence that will be essential for future nuclear operations. Their adoption will have the potential to completely transform the nuclear industry globally.
At the same time it is envisaged that the reliable, functional robotic systems that are the programme’s goal will also have important applications in other sectors. These will extend beyond extreme environments such as space exploration, in-orbit satellite design, offshore operations and mining to include less challenging areas where RAIN research will be highly relevant, such as healthcare and autonomous vehicles.
The programme’s overall objectives are to lower costs within the nuclear industry, reduce timescales, reduce risk, improve safety, promote remote inspection and reduce the chances of human exposure to radiation and other hazards. Once developed, the technologies that will help to realise these objectives are to form the foundation of a world-leading robotic and AI research and innovation ecosystem.
INSPECT (In-situ optical inspection of engine components)
With the civil aviation sector continuing to grow year-on-year, an ever increasing number of routine in-situ gas turbine inspections are undertaken by both gas turbine providers and their customers. Whilst these are critical for ensuring a high-level of aeroengine safety, they are time intensive, vary between inspectors, and offer limited data capture and assessment possibilities. Through the INSPECT consortium, an optical inspection system will be developed that can be permanently and retrofittably embedded into the gas turbine borescope ports. Upon engine shutdown, probes are automatically inserted into the engine gas path, providing an fast, frequent, and standardised compressor inspection after every operation.
INSPECT is a state-of-the-art inspection technology, enabling future Big Data Analytics, data mining, and trending. This will ultimately make RollsRoyce and its customers data rich and able to optimise flight paths, maintenance schedules, and possibly even OEM design.