Flexible solutions to protect tomorrow's infrastructure
Our project aims to develop a robotic system for internal inspection of industrial piping systems. Current inspection methods face limitations because they rely on either friction with pipe walls or thrust from propellors to traverse piping systems. When confronted with vertical sections, changing diameters, unconstrained environments, or a combination of the three, current inspection methods are rendered ineffective. To address these drawbacks, our team developed a novel version of a soft, continuum robot known as a vine robot. Vine robots are constructed from a tube of flexible material inverted into itself, creating an outer body and a length of internal material. The outer body can be pressurized by a pump outside of the system to generate large propulsion forces, and the robot's pressurized body acts as a structural element, allowing it to be self-supported in free space. With these unique advantages, we hope to open the door for inspection of piping systems which would otherwise be impossible to inspect.