Article Article
Development of an Innovative Inspection Tool for Superheater Tubes in Fossil Fuel Power Plants

Fossil fuel power plants are complex systems containing multiple components that require periodic health monitoring. Failures in these systems can lead to increased downtime for the plant, reduction of power, and significant cost for repairs. Inspections of the plant’s superheater tubes are typically manual, laborious, and extremely time-consuming. This is due to their small diameter size (between 1.3 and 7.6 cm) and the coiled structure of the tubing. In addition, the tubes are often stacked close to each other, limiting access for external inspection. This paper presents the development and testing of an electrically powered pipe crawler that can navigate inside 5 cm diameter tubes and provide an assessment of their health. The crawler utilizes peristaltic motion within the tubes via interconnected modules for gripping and extending. The modular nature of the system allows it to traverse through straight sections and multiple 90° and 180° bends. Additional modules in the system include an ultrasonic sensor for tube thickness measurements, as well as environmental sensors, a light detecting and ranging (LiDAR) sensor, and camera. These modules utilize a gear system that allows for 360° rotation and provides a means to inspect the entire internal circumference of the tubes.



Abraham, G.J., V. Kain, and N. Kumar, 2018, “Cracking of Superheater Tube in a Captive Power Plant,” Corrosion Engineering, Science and Technology, Vol. 53, pp. 98–104, /1478422X.2017.1386018

ASTM, 2014, ASTM D1894: Standard Test Method for Static and Kinetic Coefficients of Friction of Plastic Film and Sheeting, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA,

Balaguer, C., A. Giménez, J.M. Pastor, V.M. Padrón, and M. Abderrahim, 2000, “Climbing Autonomous Robot for Inspection Applications in 3D Complex Environments,” Robotica, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 287–297,

Boxerbaum, A.S., K.M. Shaw, H.J. Chiel, and R.D. Quinn, 2012, “Continuous Wave Peristaltic Motion in a Robot,” The International Journal of Robotics Research, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 302–318,

Debenest, P., M. Guarnieri, and S. Hirose, 2014, “PipeTron Series – Robots for Pipe Inspection,” Proceedings of the 2014 3rd International Conference on Applied Robotics for the Power Industry, pp. 1–6, 2014.7030052

Dehnavi, F., A. Eslami, and F. Ashrafizadeh, 2017, “A Case Study on Failure of Superheater Tubes in an Industrial Power Plant,” Engineering Failure Analysis, Vol. 80, pp. 368–377, /j.engfailanal.2017.07.007

Gargade, A.A., and S.S. Ohol, 2016, “Development of In-pipe Inspection Robot,” IOSR Journal of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 64–72,

Hadi, A., A. Hassani, K. Alipour, R. Askari Moghadam, and P. Pourakbarian Niaz, 2020, “Developing an Adaptable Pipe Inspection Robot Using Shape Memory Alloy Actuators,” Journal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 632–647, /1045389X19898255

Ito, F., T. Kawaguchi, Y. Yamada, and T. Nakamura, 2019, “Development of a Peristaltic-Movement Duct-Cleaning Robot for Application to Actual Environment – Examination of Brush Type and Installation Method to Improve Cleaning Efficiency,” Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics, Vol. 31, No. 6, pp. 781–793,

Kapayeva, S.D., M.J. Bergander, A. Vakhguelt, and S.I. Khairaliyev, 2017, “Remaining Life Assessment for Boiler Tubes Affected by Combined Effect of Wall Thinning and Overheating,” Journal of Vibroengineering, Vol. 19, No. 8, pp. 5892–5907,

Kishi, T., M. Ikeuchi, and T. Nakamura, 2015, “Development of a Peristaltic Crawling Inspection Robot for Half-Inch Pipes Using Pneumatic Artificial Muscles,” SICE Journal of Control, Measurement, and System Integration, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 256–264,

La Rosa, G., M. Messina, G. Muscato, and R. Sinatra, 2002, “A Low-Cost Lightweight Climbing Robot for the Inspection of Vertical Surfaces,” Mechatronics, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 71–96, /S0957-4158(00)00046-5

Longo, D., and G. Muscato, 2004, “A Modular Approach for the Design of the Alicia3 Climbing Robot for Industrial Inspection,” Industrial Robot, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 148–158, /01439910410522838

Nagase, J.-Y., F. Fukunaga, and Y. Shigemoto, 2016, “Cylindrical Elastic Crawler Mechanism for Pipe Inspection,” Advances in Cooperative Robotics, pp. 304–311,

Nagase, J., K. Suzumori, and N. Saga, 2013, “Development of Worm-Rack Driven Cylindrical Crawler Unit,” Journal of Advanced Mechanical Design, Systems, and Manufacturing, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 422–431,

Nayak, A., and S.K. Pradhan, 2014, “Design of a New In-Pipe Inspection Robot,” Procedia Engineering, Vol. 97, pp. 2081–2091,

Omori, H., T. Nakamura, and T. Yada, 2009, “An Underground Explorer Robot based on Peristaltic Crawling of Earthworms,” Industrial Robot, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 358–364, /01439910910957129

Park, S., H.D. Jeong, and Z.S. Lim, 2002, “Development of Mobile Robot Systems for Automatic Diagnosis of Boiler Tubes in Fossil Power Plants and Large Size Pipelines,” IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Vol. 2, pp. 1880–1885,

Qiao, J., J. Shang, and A. Goldenberg, 2013, “Development of Inchworm In-Pipe Robot based on Self-Locking Mechanism,” IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 799–806, /TMECH.2012.2184294

Shang, J., B. Bridge, T. Sattar, S. Mondal, and A. Brenner, 2008, “Development of a Climbing Robot for Inspection of Long Weld Lines,” Industrial Robot, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 217–223,

Tavakoli, M., C. Viegas, L. Marques, J.N. Pires, and A.T. de Almeida, 2013, “OmniClimbers: Omni-Directional Magnetic Wheeled Climbing Robots for Inspection of Ferromagnetic Structures,” Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Vol. 61, No. 9, pp. 997–1007,

Tesen, S., N. Saga, T. Satoh, and J. Nagase, 2013, “Peristaltic Crawling Robot for Use on the Ground and in Plumbing Pipes,” eds. V. Padois, P. Bidaud, O. Khatib, Romansy 19 – Robot Design, Dynamics and Control, CISM International Centre for Mechanical Sciences, Vol. 544, pp. 267–274,

Yeo, H.-J., 2012, “Development of a Robot System for Repairing an Underground Pipe,” Journal of the Korea Academia-Industrial Cooperation Society, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 1270–1274 [in Korean], .2012.13.3.1270

Usage Shares
Total Views
204 Page Views
Total Shares
0 Tweets
0 PDF Downloads
0 Facebook Shares
Total Usage