AUTOMATION & ROBOTICS
Smart Mechanical RC Pipe Installation System
How might we simplify and automate the RC pipe installation process to reduce the time and manpower required?
Challenge Statement Owner
Background and Current Practice
The conventional method of installing large Reinforced Concrete (RC) pipes with diameters up to 3m and weigh up to 16 metric tonnes involves a crane, lifting equipment, and a team of more than 8 workers with the relevant expertise to execute the work over 6 to 8 hours. The work is manual and poses safety risks, such as lifting equipment failures and pinch points. These RC pipes are installed in open trenches about 6m deep and will become part of the sewer and water infrastructure.
To improve productivity, a new mechanical system that uses hydraulics to pull the RC pipes along the sleepers (see picture below) has been developed and has shown successful results of increasing the number of pipes laid per day from 1 to 4. The operating procedure for the mechanical system can be found in the Resources section.
Opportunities and Key Challenges
The mechanical system could become smarter by incorporating sensors and/or IoT systems. One of the challenges faced is that the system needs to be accurately operated as the pipe reaches its final position to connect with another pipe. If force is overexerted, one or both pipes could be damaged, and would need to be reworked or replaced. The operator currently relies on the banksman to provide accurate information and instructions to act on.
We seek a sensor and/or IoT system that can improve the mechanical system or the pipe installation process in at least one of the following ways:
Provide real-time and precise information or alerts on the position of the pipe to the operator;
Simplify or automate the operation of the mechanical system to manoeuvre the pipe into its final position; and/or
Track the performance of the mechanical system and its operation, and analyse the data to improve the entire pipe installation process.
The solution works in tandem with the mechanical system to assist with the RC pipe installation process. The system reduces the total time taken to install an RC pipe by 20% (or one additional pipe installed per day) and decreases the manpower required in the process by at least one person.