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2010 1st International Conference on Applied Robotics for the Power Industry 1

Delta Centre-Ville
Montral, Canada, October 5-7, 2010

AARM: A Robot Arm for Internal Operations in


Nuclear Reactors
Andrew Goldenberg PhD, Fellow IEEE Matt Gryniewski Todd Campbell
President Engineering Services Inc. (ESI) Project Manager (ESI) Project Manager (AECL)

of motion of the robot in a reactor is limited because the base


Abstract -- The AARM is a robot tool for remote controlled visual of the arm is normally fixed. Also the robot must be provided
inspection and some operations inside a nuclear reactor. The with radiation shielding. Due to the dense network of pipes
user takes full advantage of the opportunity created during inside a typical reactor, henceforth limited access and poor
nuclear reactions retrofit operations. It allows inspection of visibility, there is a risk that the robot manipulator would:
components that have not been visible since the reactor was
initially commissioned, usually several decades earlier. (i) hit internal reactor elements and cause damage;
Specifically, during retrofit of a reactor this tool can be inserted (ii)get stuck inside the reactor between pipes; same if
through a lattice sleeve tube in the shielding wall of the reactor power is lost.
after the fueling and pressure tubes were removed, in order to
perform inspection and some cleaning operations. The AARM tool is constructed of radiation hardened material
and components. The tool has built-in shielding to mitigate
Index Termsnuclear reactor, internal inspection, robot arm,
and essentially eliminate the open beam that is inherent
remote control, collision avoidance, radiation shielding.
when accessing the internal portions of the reactor. The
AARM comes with a removable end-of-the-arm tool that can
I. INTRODUCTION
be used to pick up small debris that are located during the
This paper presents an application of robotic technology in inspection process.
nuclear reactors. It is well known that robotic arms are used to
replace human operations in hazardous environments. There II. SYSTEM OVERVIEW
are applications of remote controlled (human-in-the-loop) and
The system concept is presented in Fig. 1-3. The robot is a
autonomous robots in nuclear environments [1], law
system composed of several main subsystems. Fig. 1 shows a
enforcement [2], military [3], gas pipes [4], and other.
sketch of the AARM near the face of the reactor, with the end
Nonetheless, the technology must be reliable and economical
effector inserted into the cavity. Fig. 2 shows the arm
in order to be accepted and adopted by the users community.
operating inside the reactor cavity, and Fig. 3 is a close-up of
Research in the general area of robotics for hazardous the end effector arm in operation.
environments is driven by specific design requirements and
type of applications. There is limited generality in this
research, as each application is usually defined with very
specific requirements. Research in the more fundamental area
of robotics tends to address problems at a level of generality
that imposes significant changes in order to make the results
applicable. With our in-depth knowledge of robotics we
judged this specific application as suitable for a development
that is detached, at least partially, from the generic research.
We used our experience more than relying on published
results, and we note that this situation prevails more often than
not. Therefore, the references are listing work done by the
same author(s).
The AARM robotic system is used in nuclear reactors
(Callandria Vessels) to perform remote control operations. Fig. 1: Schematic view of the AARM inserted in the vessel
Robotic manipulators have been used in nuclear reactors for
various inspection and service operations. Typically the range In Fig. 4 the system is shown with the end effector arm
penetrating a mock-up vessel. This view is from the testing
The reported work was performed by Engineering Services Inc. (ESI) in facilities of Automation Tooling System (ATS) of Kitchener,
collaboration with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), and has been Ontario. In Fig. 5 the entire AARM (boom and controller) is
funded by AECL. shown also at ATS. Figures 6 and 7 show the Operator
A. A. Goldenberg is with Engineering Services Inc. (ESI), Toronto, Ontario
and the University of Toronto
Control Unit that includes a monitor and joysticks for all
M. Gryniewski is with Engineering Services Inc. arms joints.
T. Campbell was formerly with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. He is now
with Promation Ltd., Mississauga, Ontario

978-1-4244-6635-1/10/$26.00 2010 IEEE


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Fig. 2 Schematic of the arm inside the cavity Fig. 5 AARM view showing the boom and controller

Fig. 3 Schematic of the arm in close-up in the reactor Fig. 6 Operator Control Unit

Fig. 4 End-robot arm being inserted in mock-up vessel Fig. 7 Close-up of Operator Control Unit Panel
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The CVI (Calandria Vessel Inspection) AARM robot system


is composed of the following main parts:
a) Boom carriage
b) Boom
c) End-robot arm
d) Controller
e) Operator Control Unit
The boom carriage mounts onto the supplied frame, and
provides linear translation of the boom as well as rotation
about a horizontal axis (roll). Using the boom, the end-robot
arm connected at the end of it, can be positioned at a large
range of depths inside the reactor, as well as rotated to
different angles to facilitate inspection and service procedures.
The boom is composed of: (i) an aluminum pipe; and (ii) Fig. 9 Working Configuration
internal radiation shielding structure with passage for wires
and conduits as necessary for operating the end-robot arm
attached at the end of the boom. The spacing and material of Collision detection
the shields have been designed to safely block the radiation In order to prevent damage to the reactor and robot, a collision
escaping through the boom at any position inside the reactor. detection sensor has been implemented. The collision sensor
operates on the principle of grounding the CVI structure via a
The end-robot arm has two joints (a rotary elbow joint and a
contact with the reactor structure. The robot structure is given
linear extension joint), two links, a camera, a gripper, and a
permanently a 24V potential by the control system, and when
vacuum hose. It has been designed primarily for inspection
the structure touches any conductor within the reactor, it
purposes (camera), with the added capability of picking up
becomes grounded, thus collision/contact can be signaled. The
(gripper and vacuum) any debris or foreign objects that may
advantage with this arrangement is that the entire body of the
be found. To facilitate insertion/retrieval into/from the reactor,
CVI can be sensitive to contact.
the end-robot arm is designed to fold up into a compact
configuration. Inside the reactor the arm can be unfolded and In the event of collision detection, the actuators are freezing,
controlled remotely to perform operations. and this allows the operator to decide what action to be taken
to prevent any damage to the reactor.
The robot system has 4 degrees-of-freedom: linear boom,
boom roll, shoulder pitch, elbow pitch; and a gripper. The
main contributions of the work reported are in the features Actuator compliance for contact force limitation
provided to the various joints; those are required to Each of the actuators of the robot arm is designed to limit the
accomplish the tasks safely and reliably. The research was force it can supply. The rotary elbow joint has a release
performed by bringing design ideas to a visual stage (using mechanism in the gearbox. This mechanism allows the
Solid Works), and also by simulation, to allow the designers to gearbox to disengage completely during a collision to limit the
analyse the synthesized solutions. This process was performed impact force. The linear extension joint is pneumatically
iteratively until acceptable solutions were converged to. The driven. The pressure on each side of the extension cylinder is
solutions are discussed in the next section. continuously monitored in closed-loop, and is adjusted by the
control system to maintain a constant pressure difference
III. SUBSYSTEM FEATURES across the cylinder piston. This controlled pressure differential
Compact folding configuration limits the force that the extension joint can apply by providing
compliance in the arm such that in a collision situation, the
Since most openings in the reactor are small, the robot arm has impact force is significantly reduced. The gripper is
been designed to fold into a compact configuration (Fig. 8). pneumatically actuated and operates on the same principle of
Once inside the reactor, the arm extends to a working controlled pressure differential of the piston.
configuration (Fig. 9).
Management of power loss and safe removal
In the situation where power of the CVI robot is lost it can be
manually removed from the reactor. The elbows release
mechanism is triggered manually. This leaves the arm free to
swing for fail-safe so that the arm can straighten out when it
is pulled out of the reactor from any configuration (Fig. 10).
The extensions cylinder can be also manually vented,
allowing it to move freely. In this way, the arm can be
Fig. 8 Compact Configuration straightened out when it is pulled out of the reactor, fitting
through the opening through which it was inserted. The robot
arm also has guides on it to allow the arm to slide through the
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opening without catching on anything during the manual locking mechanism is shown to be connected to link 1 (input),
removal procedure. and the output drives link 2. In view C by releasing the fixed
part of the gearbox that is attached to link 1, the motor will not
Actuator disengagement (clutch) activate link 2. When the lock is released there will be no
torque applied between link 1 and link 2. As an emergency
The elbow joints release mechanism is a specially designed
retrieval operation, this limp or free-floating link 2 allows the
lock system (Fig. 11). The lock engages the joint that rotates
joint to be forced straight and allow removal.
the forearm of the robot. If the lock is not engaged the arm
rotates freely, and does not move the joint. The locking action
is provided by an air cylinder that engages a lever with a
notch. The geometry of this notch has been designed such that
equal force (torque on gearbox) in either direction will release
the lock (Fig. 12).
Link 1
The release force (torque) of the lock mechanism can be
controlled by the pressure supplied to the air cylinder. If a
Gearbox is
collision or other overload occurs, the lock will release Joint locked to
automatically before excessive force is applied by the robot (Gearbox) link 1
arm.

Input Outpu

Link 2 Gearbox is
disconnected
from link 1

A B C
Fig 10 Fail-Safe Removal (lock release)
Fig. 12 Views of locking mechanism

Radiation Shielding
When any type of tool is inserted into a nuclear reactor, it is
often a requirement that the tool provides shielding so that the
radiation levels escaping the reactor through the tool or
opening for the tool are within safe limits. This shielding is
usually a solid piece of metal with enough mass to absorb the
radiation. In order to function properly, the shield must be
positioned at the opening to the reactor as it relates to the tool.
This limits the use of any tool to fixed and predetermined
locations inside the nuclear reactor. If this shield were not at
Figure 11 Elbow Lock Mechanism the opening, radiation would flow around the shield. In
general the tools in use provide a 12"slug of steel at the wall
of the reaction chamber. This 12" slug is generally at a fixed
point along the axis of the tool. Hence the tool has only one
"operation position" that blocks the radiation
The CVI takes a different approach to shielding which allows
more flexibility in the positioning of the tool. In order to
increase the range of motion of the robot inside the reactor,
inside the boom drive carriage there is a series of 40mm
thickness radiation shields that are spaced evenly across the
length (Fig. 13). The cables and hoses for the robot are routed
in a helix around the shields such that there is no direct path
Fig. 12 Close-up of the notch geometry for the radiation to escape. This allows the tool to work at any
location inside the reactor.
In Fig. 12 the operation of the clutch is explained. View A
shows a schematic of a typical rotary joint. In view B the
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Dr. Goldenberg is a former Editor of the archival international journal IEEE


TRANSACTIONS ON ROBOTICS AND AUTOMATION. He also serves on the
editorial boards of Journal of Robotics, Robotica, and Robotics in Japan.
Dr. Goldenberg obtained his Ph.D. in 1976 from the University of Toronto.
His B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees were obtained from the Technion, Israel Institute
of Technology, in 1969 and 1972, respectively.

Fig 13 Radiation Shielding

IV. CONCLUSIONS
AARM is a robot arm with special features and very
advanced design features. It is in operation at CANDU 6
facilities around the world. The average life of the
CANDU 6 reactors is approaching 30 years. One of the
common methods used to extend the life of the reactors
is to replace the pressure and fuel tubes. When these
tubes are removed, access to the reactor core is possible
with the AARM tool. Currently the AARM tool is used
to inspect the internal control mechanisms that have
been unavailable for inspection since the reactors were
initially built and commissioned. These inspections
allow the power plant operators to maintain their
confidence in the integrity of the nuclear reactor and
confirm that the life-extending process of re-tubing can
and should continue.

V. BIOGRAPHIES

Andrew Goldenberg PhD PEng FIEEE


FASME FEIC FCAE
Dr. Andrew Goldenberg, Ph.D., is the founder and
President of Engineering Services Inc. (ESI) -
www.esit.com, established in 1982. ESI is a high-
technology company involved in the development
of technology for robotics-based automation. Dr.
Goldenberg is also the President of Anviv
Mechatronics Inc. (AMI), which he founded in
2006. Anviv is involved in the development of
mechatronics products. From 2000-2001 Dr. Goldenberg was also the
President of Virtek Engineering Science Inc. (VESI) a high-technology
company formed after the acquisition of part of ESI by Virtek Vision
International Ltd.
Since 1982 Dr. Goldenberg has been a Professor of Mechanical and Industrial
Engineering at the University of Toronto - www.mie.utoronto.ca/labs/ral. He
is cross-appointed in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, both of
University of Toronto. Dr. Goldenberg is also an Adjunct Professor at
Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, and a Guest Professor at Nanjing
University of Science and Technology in P.R. China.
From 1975 1981, Dr. Goldenberg was an employee of SPAR Aerospace
Ltd. in Toronto. There he worked on the first Space Shuttle Remote
Manipulator System - the Canadarm.