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Robot Busts Corrosion on Swiss Bridges

Thursday, August 28, 2014

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Hard-to-reach spots during bridge inspections are getting a little help from a wall- and ceiling-climbing robot that may soon bring its talents to a national stage.

A research team in Zürich developed the robot, called C2D2 (Climbing Corrosion Detecting Device), to be used as a corrosion detector by modifying a former project.

Now Switzerland's Federal Roads Office (FEDRO), which is funding the project, is considering using the robot for future bridge inspections.

C2D2
Photos: Peter Rüegg / ETH Zürich

"C2D2 can help to create a safe and sustainable infrastructure at a relatively low cost—that was the motivation behind the project," said Bernhard Elsener, professor at the Institute for Building Materials at ETH Zürich.

C2D2 recently won an award in the "Prolongation of Service Life" category at the first Concrete Innovation Conference, held June 11-13 in Oslo, Norway.

Old Meets New

C2D2 joined forces with technology to identify corrosion at an early stage that was developed 25 years ago by Bernhard Elsener, professor at the Institute for Building Materials at ETH Zürich, and a team of researchers.

Back then, they attached an electrode to a wheel and wheeled it across the surface of reinforced concrete. The sensor measured electric potential differences, which were then analyzed.

While the technology was used for a long time to inspect bridges, Elsener said one problem remained: "The wheel electrode is attached to a stick and has to be wheeled manually. This means that many areas, such as supporting pillars and the undersides of high bridges, lie out of reach."

So the Institute of Building Materials, the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems, and the Autonomous Systems Lab came together to develop a robot that could detect corrosion everywhere, even spots inacessible to people, and in the earliest stage possible.

"C2D2 can help to create a safe and sustainable infrastructure at a relatively low cost—that was the motivation behind the project," Elsener said.

A More Robust Robot

The team turned to a robot developed several years earlier that could move along the walls and ceiling. Steered with a remote control or computer, the robot used Vortex technology, which pushes it along with a propeller rotating fast enough for a suction cup to stick it to a surface.

ETH Zurich

The Federal Roads Office, which is funding the project, will test the robot to determine whether to start inspecting its bridges with C2D2.

The robot was originally named Paraswift and had a camera screwed on to it to film an area from all perspectives, explained Roland Siegwart, professor at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems and Vice President of Research and Corporate Relations at ETH Zürich.

"We made the casing and wheels more robust and incorporated the corrosion-identification technology," said Elsener.

The robot has an electrode on its underside to measure potential differences as it moves along a structure. The team also attached a pink ball to the top of C2D2 so it's easier to control and locate. The ball has an extra camera to record its surroundings and avoid obstacles.

By next year, the team hopes the robot will be able to avoid obstacles on its own. The researchers also plan to swap the manual steering with a navigation system and are working on software for autonomous data analysis.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Colleges and Universities; Corrosion; Research; Roads/Highways; Robotics

Comment from Andrew Smith, (8/29/2014, 2:37 AM)

I would like to see those guys at least wearing hard hats and preferably not standing under the gizmo at all...


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