24 Aug 2012

Robot could put an end to abseiling up powder driers

10:30 am on 24 August 2012

A wall-climbing robot has given dairy companies a safe solution for inspecting high-rise milk storage silos and powder driers.

Christchurch company Invert Robotics has spent several years developing the robot from research done at Canterbury University.

Its designers say the suction-cup technology it uses is unique because of its ability to grip and move over vertical stainless-steel surfaces.

Chief executive James Robertson says the robot has shown it can check large milk silos and powder driers for cracking or other damage without putting human inspectors at risk.

Mr Robertson says historically the driers have been inspected by abseilers but the environment is quite dangerous because they are working at height and in a confined space and sometimes the equipment can fill up with harmful gases.

Now, he says, a single operator with a video feed can "reach inside one of these pieces of equipment, stick the robot to the wall and that's the only involvement that's required".

Mr Robertson says the briefcase-sized robot has been successfully used by Westland Milk and demonstrated to other dairy companies. He says it also has potential for use in other areas, such as petrochemical storage sites.