Robot Revolution in Infrastructure Maintenance

Schwalm USA robots give sewer technicians the ability to perform a variety of tasks with simple joystick operation.
Robot Revolution in Infrastructure Maintenance
The Talpa FSR robot is available in two models, the 2060 and 1330, to accommodate a wide range of pipe sizes.

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Sewer cleaning, inspection and rehabilitation technology is evolving at a rapid rate. While robots aren’t likely to take over the world as some sci-fi movies would have you believe, they are certainly taking on a greater role in our collections system infrastructure.

Schwalm USA is one of the companies leading the robot revolution. The company’s sewer robots have been tested and proven in Europe, and now, they’re adding to the capabilities of sewer technicians stateside.

The Schwalm USA Talpa FSR robot, available in two models to accommodate a wide range of pipe sizes, is the latest tool available for sewer rehabilitation work. Municipal Sewer & Water recently spoke with Schwalm USA President and General Manager Ken Cochrane about the robots and the capabilities they provide.

MSW: The Talpa FSR robot has been available in Europe for a while now. Why is it just now being introduced to the U.S. market?

Cochrane: The new structure of Schwalm USA allows us to operate strictly as a robot company that has robots in stock, a service center, and field training. We have more than 100 already operating inside of North and South America.

MSW: What types of tasks and functions are this system designed to handle?

Cochrane: The system has been designed to make it not just a CIPP cutter, but also a robot used for repairing lateral, chiseling concrete, high-pressure waterjetting, and using a plug system to close off laterals that are no longer in service or to temporarily close off laterals for repair and rehabilitation.

MSW: What range of pipe sizes is the system designed to serve?

Cochrane: There are actually two different Talpa robots: the 2060 and the 1330. The 2060 is used in pipes 8 to 24 inches in diameter. With attachments, it can also be used in larger pipes. In fact, it’s versatile enough to use in egg-shaped and teardrop pipes when utilized with a specially designed carriage and stabilizer system.

The 1330 model is pretty straight forward and is used in 6- to 12-inch pipe.

MSW: How does the operator control the system during operation?

Cochrane: The robots are controlled by a joystick system linked to the main control unit. The operator trained on the joystick learns the process quickly because of the unit’s intuitive handling. Essentially, every single robot movement is initiated using the joystick. Speed, acceleration and movements are in the same direction as the corresponding joystick position, giving the operator a natural feeling for handling the robot.

MSW: What type of operator training is required to use this system?

Cochrane: Most of the operators who are being trained on the system have already been in the industry for some period of time and have experience in either cutting or TV work. It then becomes just a matter of them getting used to the controls. We try to spend at least three days with them after the install of the equipment to give them training on operations of the system and also basic maintenance.

MSW: What features does the camera offer?

Cochrane: We have two different types of cameras available with the system: the MiNa Focus Camera, which is mainly used during the cutting process, and the MiMoZo Zoom Camera, which is used during the actual rehab work.

MSW: How is video footage recorded and stored?

Cochrane: The standard Schwalm USA system has a video out on the control unit, which is relayed to a computer and recorded. It also has the ability to connect with several different types of inspection software. You can connect a Schwalm USA Talpa to another system, such as CUES or Aries Industries, and the video will go directly into that system’s inspection software.

MSW: What equipment is included with the system?

Cochrane: It all depends on what the customer is looking for. There are stand-alone systems that come with robots, control units, cable reel, air/water hose reel and accessories. Or, it can be adapted to a lot of CCTV systems that have existing reels in place. This enables the customer to get into a robot system at a much better price because there is no need to have two reel systems in their vehicle.

MSW: What additional tools and accessories are available?

Cochrane: There are several different tools available for the robots. We offer a plug system for closing off laterals, either permanently or temporarily. We’ve got angle grinders for the removal of metal rods or liners. We sell a high-pressure waterjetting system for the removal of slurry, concrete or roots. We even have an air chisel for breaking up concrete and calcium deposits.

MSW: How easy is it for the operator to switch out the tooling or attachments? What is needed to do this?

Cochrane: It’s really quite simple and pretty fast. The design of the robot’s tool holder allows an operator to change out tools in a matter of minutes. All that is typically needed is an Allen wrench.

MSW: What is the difference between the 2060 and 1330 models?

Cochrane: From a performance and durability standpoint, they are the same. The only real difference is the range of pipe sizes they can operate in.

MSW: On the 2060 model, what are the differences in the two camera options?

Cochrane: The MiNa Camera is a focus camera that is typically used while doing cutter work. And the MiMoZo is a zoom camera that will typically be used for the actual rehab process.

MSW: What differentiates this system from its competitors?

Cochrane: The biggest advantage is that Schwalm USA designed most of the components to work on both Talpa models. For instance, a camera that is used on the 2060 can also be changed over to the 1330 in a matter of minutes. The same goes for the air motors and the digital box that basically controls the communication from the control unit in the vehicle to the robots.

MSW: What maintenance is required, and what about warranties and service?

Cochrane: There is basic maintenance that the operator performs on a daily or weekly basis. This can vary from the basic cleaning, oiling or greasing, and visual inspection to just the tightening of screws. We also strongly recommend to the owners that they have their robots fully inspected, and even serviced, once a year … just like one would with their car. Since Schwalm USA is also a service center, owners do not have to ship their units overseas.



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