In this MIT Zuid R&D project, Sorama and Avular have worked together in 2021/2022 to develop autonomous robot systems to perform acoustic inspections for predictive maintenance purposes in a wide variety of industries. A robot platform can autonomously explore industrial areas, whilst accurately detecting sound disturbances with an acoustic camera. These sound disturbances are indicative of imminent technical component or system failures, due to for example leakages, partial discharge or early mechanical failure behavior. Any potential disruptions will be reported to maintenance staff for follow up.
Up to today most technical installations are still being inspected manually by a human operator, possibly supported by various measuring tools and sensors on the installation. Inclusion of human operators in inspection routines does come with certain limitations. Observations are prone to bias and depend highly on skill and expertise of the operator. Given that skilled operators are scarce in the tight labor market, the risk of overlooking a minor clue due to inexperience or time pressure is ever looming. Moreover, many installations are difficult to access or approach or inherently unsafe to approach during operation, meaning that they need to be shut down during inspection. The resulting downtime, either for inspection or due to technical failure and subsequent repair, is a major source of costs. An autonomous inspection robot is not prone to these challenges and is a great supplement in the overall inspection routine toolbox and acoustic based inspections are seen as very promising by (industrial) customers.
Solution & Innovation
Avular and Sorama have developed an autonomous inspection robot by combining and integrating Avular’s Ranger platform and Sorama’s acoustic camera. This makes it possible for inspection robot to support the operator by carrying out the routine inspection rounds and marking potential disruptions as Points of Interest in a digital map of the facility (comparable to a digital twin). The advanced autonomy features of the Ranger will enable it to freely roam the industrial site by detecting and avoiding obstacles. The solutions have been successfully tested on a substation of main grid operator TenneT (NL) who was associated partner in the project.
Results & Added Value
The outcomes of the project are received as very innovative technologies in the market, as they address many critical factors relating to inspection and maintenance, ranging from cost and downtime reduction, supporting scarce staff, whilst improving safety. Besides mounted on robots, fixed acoustic sensors for permanent monitoring of critical equipment is getting more attention, including technicians using handheld equipment for detailed diagnosis where needed at location.
Sorama and partners are grateful for the support of MIT Zuid, powered by Stimulus (Eindhoven). About Stimulus Program management.