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Hitachi launches new robot to inspect building foundations

Human workers need no longer crawl under buildings to perform inspections. Hitachi Advanced Digital announced today that they are now accepting orders for a new crawling robot with an attached camera that can squeeze underneath buildings and inspect foundations, pipes and floor supports remotely.

Although Hitachi is best known for their factory assembly and maintenance robots, in 2007 they received a lot of media attention for a cute roller skating companion and support robot called EMIEW 2.

The new robot announced today may not be as huggable but it is arguably more useful, and engineers overcame formidable design challenges in making it. In the past workers would have had to crawl under buildings, entering tight spaces with poor air quality, in order to check the foundations for weakness or damage. Hitachi's new robot can enter those spaces and take photos and video, allowing technicians to judge the soundness of the building from a comfortable distance.

It may sound like a no brainer but engineers like Eiji Koyanagi, deputy director of the Future Robotics Technology Center at the Chiba Institute of Technology, couldn't just stick a camera on any remote controlled vehicle. They ran into trouble making sharp turns; and the plastic sheet, which protects the building from excess moisture, would often get caught in the wheels.

These challenges have been overcome and the robot can now smoothly crawl over plastic sheet, make turns, ascend and descend stairs, and go over objects up to 15 cm high.

Hitachi have stated that they expect to find more uses for the robot and develop it to handle a wider range of tasks. In addition to home builders they are also actively marketing the robot to construction companies for use under buildings and around piping.

Source: mynavi (JP)

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