A quantum leap in industrial services
The video shows it as well: Just a tap on the remote control button. Controlled by computer, the propulsion unit with two flexible lances drives to within a few millimetres in front of the next heat exchanger tubes. This is done quickly, with tremendous precision and optimum safety for the operator. With a whirring noise, the nozzle-equipped flex lances are inserted into the pipes. These will now be cleaned with water pressurized at about 2,500 bar. In the next few hours, this programmed process is repeated about 1,500 times. In the end, the 3,000 pipes of the industrial heat exchanger will have been cleaned without interruption. The developers are satisfied. “This is a quantum leap for industrial service.” Manual work: Zero.
It took about a year for the “Robotized Lance Frame” (RLF) to reach practical maturity. Lobbe Industrial Services is providing a technical solution for the fully automated cleaning of heat exchangers (upright or horizontal; with or without crown) – a first on the European market. The process is faster and safer than conventional methods, while still ensuring a higher quality of the cleaning result. Lobbe had already created a stir among insiders at IFAT 2014 with a brief video describing the functionality. In the meantime, deployments of RLF in the industry have been completed successfully.
The advantages of the new automated process at a glance:
- Optimal working safety (“Target Zero”)
- Visual contact during cleaning not absolutely necessary
- Precise computer controlled processes
- Freely configurable and reproducible process
- Increased reliability
- Any influence due to physical impairments of the operator is excluded
Until now, the cleaning of heat exchangers is carried out either manually or by means of semi-automatic machines, and before any cleaning step, the positioning of the propulsion unit requires visual contact. These processes in their entirety will now be precisely controlled by computer, according to previously defined parameters. A clear line of sight to the heat exchanger and the cleaning unit is no longer an absolute requirement. This opens up whole new possibilities of working without interruption in areas with extreme environmental conditions (narrow, aerosols, cold, heat, rain, etc.). Moreover, since the operator is outside of the danger zone at all times, and no longer performs physical work in the traditional sense, optimal working safety is ensured. However, in principle the operator remains in control of the process, as the respective next step in cleaning must always be triggered using a remote control (radio control or wired).
With the development of the RLF Lobbe continues what was begun with the Remote Lance Worker (RLW): the automation of operations involving a significant hazard potential.