World-first technology being developed in the UK

Published:  10 January, 2020

WORLD-FIRST pipeline technology which will reportedly revolutionise performance and safety in industries around the world will feature at a robotics conference this month.

The development of the  FSWBot, Friction Stir Welding Robotic Crawler for internal repair and refurbishment of pipelines, is designed to transform the way industries deal with pipeline issues.

Led by Forth Engineering in Cumbria, the FSWBot project has been attracting attention from around the world after being showcased in Aberdeen in November.

The pioneering technology will feature in a presentation at a Transformative Robotics for Industries day at the 4th Annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) UK and Ireland Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) Chapter Conference held at the University of Manchester on January 22.

An FSWBot presentation will also take place at an Offshore Pipeline Technology Conference in Amsterdam in February, and it will also be presented at Friction Stir Welding International Symposium in Kyoto, Japan in May.

Peter Routledge, Forth Engineering project manager, said: “We are getting a lot of interest and inquiries about the FSWBot from across the globe. Interest is really building, including from Saudi Arabia, America, Canada, France and Spain.”

The project, sponsored by Innovate UK, seeks to integrate several state-of-the-art technologies including friction stir welding, milling, patch deployment and ultrasonic NDT, onto a robotic system which can be deployed to conduct repairs on pipelines without the need for the pipeline to be closed down for the duration of the repair.

If successful, it is envisaged that the system could be further developed to carry out a range of repair and fabrication tasks.

The FSWBot received funding from UK Innovate in 2018 for a consortium led by Forth Engineering to develop a ‘proof of concept’ system.

Forth Engineering is working with consortium members TWI, J4IC, Innvotek and LSBU on the project which will have a major positive impact on safety within the industry.

Friction stir welding is a solid state welding process which generates enough frictional heat to soften or plasticise the metal without melting it, allowing metal components to be forged together at the joint line

This system will demonstrate that a patch weld can be made in steel pipe under oil, and that a representative FSW system can be made small enough to operate in a 36-inch diameter export pipe.

The consortium wants to hear from companies which might have an interest in such a system, in order to consider their potential needs and applications, helping to ensure its benefits can be brought to as many industry sectors as possible while the technology is being developed.

Mark Telford, managing director of Forth, said: “As a company we have developed a worldwide reputation for developing a range of robotic solutions for use in harsh environments.

“The tools we have developed over the years have been for, and used by, Sellafield, to successfully solve challenges in the nuclear industry. So our technology is tried and tested in harsh environments.

“There’s a fantastic opportunity for other businesses and organisations in the UK and across the world, whether that’s other nuclear operations, or oil and gas, renewables, and perhaps areas we haven’t even thought of, to make use of that technology, and to share their challenges so we can develop the FSWBot in ways to help them.”

The development of the FSWBot is ongoing with the project due to be completed by end of January, 2021.

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