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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
MAGNETIC COUPLING MOBILE ROBOT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/047666
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
A robot including a frame (10) with wheels (12, 14) able to move over a highly magnetically permeable support surface and at least one permanent magnet (30) able to interact magnetically with, and couple the robot to, the surface. The permanent magnet (30) is positioned so that one pole grazes the surface and is free to oscillate so that the pole always faces the surface and is a minimum distance from it.

Inventors:
LAMA, Arturo (Via Donatori di Sangue, 1 Nigoline Di Corte Franca, Brescia, I-25040, IT)
Application Number:
IB2008/053960
Publication Date:
April 16, 2009
Filing Date:
September 29, 2008
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
TECNOMAC S.r.l. (Via Pablo Neruda, 69/71 Flero, Brescia, I-25020, IT)
LAMA, Arturo (Via Donatori di Sangue, 1 Nigoline Di Corte Franca, Brescia, I-25040, IT)
International Classes:
B62D57/024
Foreign References:
US3922991A1975-12-02
US5536199A1996-07-16
JP2001151170A2001-06-05
DE20210484U12002-09-12
JPS61200070A1986-09-04
FR2145115A51973-02-16
JPH09286360A1997-11-04
FR2689479A11993-10-08
JPS6234865A1987-02-14
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CHIMINI, Francesco et al. (Piazza della Vittoria 11, Brescia, I-25122, IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:

Claims

1. Robot comprising a frame (10; 100) fitted with wheels

(12, 14, 107) for movement over a highly permeable magnetic resting surface, and with at least one permanent magnet (30; 106; 152) able to magnetically interact with said surface for coupling the robot to the surface, characterized in that said permanent magnet (30; 106;

152) is arranged in such a way as to graze the resting surface . 2. Robot according to claim 1 , wherein said at least one permanent magnet (30; 106; 152), is located and held at a pre.-set distance from the resting surface.

3. Robot according to claim 2 , wherein said at least one magnet (30; 106; 152) is housed in a support (32; 114; 150) able to oscillate freely so that the pole of the magnet is always oriented in the position of minimum distance from the resting surface.

4. Robot according to any of the claims above, wherein at least one permanent magnet (30; 106; 152) is located near each wheel (12, 14, 107) .

5. Robot according to claim 4 , in which near each wheel a support is fitted to house a plurality of permanent magnets (30) .

6. Robot according to claim 5 , in which said permanent magnets are in the form of discs or tablets with flat

surfaces parallel to the resting surface.

7. Robot according to claim 4, in which close to every wheel a support (114; 154) is fitted for housing a parallelepiped or bar-shaped magnet arranged horizontally.

8. Robot according to any of the claims from 3 to 7, in which every support (32; 114; 154) is fitted so as to oscillate on the rotation shaft of the wheels.

9. Robot according to claim 8, in which the frame (10; 100) is fitted with two couples of wheels fitted to respective parallel shafts, close to each wheel an oscillating support (32; 114) being mounted on the shaft.

10. Robot according to any of the claims from 3 to 9, in which each support (114; 150) is in contact with the support surface to be inspected via at least one roller.

11. Robot according to any of the previous claims, wherein the frame (100) comprises a longitudinal axle

(101) connecting two transverse axles (102) enabling the robot to move over the surface to be inspected, said longitudinal axle (101) being fitted with an articulated joint (104) enabling the independent rotation of the two transverse axles (102) in relation to the longitudinal axle.

12. Robot according to any of the claims from 8 to 11, in which each rotation shaft is free to tilt in relation to

the wheels and the oscillating supports for the magnet. 13. Robot according to claim 12, in which each oscillating support (114) of a pair of oscillating supports on the same transverse axle is fitted with a ball bearing (112) supported by a flange (110) extending from a respective wheel, said flange having an axial hole (120) through it for the rotating shaft, said hole being conical in shape so as to allow the shaft to oscillate in relation to the axis of the flange. 14. Robot according to claim 13, in which the oscillating support (114) has a slot-shaped aperture (122) for the oscillation of the rotating shaft in relation to the support .

15. Robot according to claim 13 or 14 , in which each wheel has an axial hole into which one end (108') of the rotating shaft is inserted, said end having a rounded outer surface so as to oscillate inside the wheel hole.

16. Robot according to any of the above claims, comprising a plurality of supplementary permanent magnets (40) fitted into at least one coaxial wheel couple.

17. Robot according to claim 16, in which around each wheel having supplementary magnets (40) , a fascia (45) made of anti-slip material guaranteeing adherence to the support surface (2) is mounted. 18. Robot according to claim 17, in which said fascia

(45) is fitted between and held in place by two lateral discs (44) in ferromagnetic material attracted by the supplementary magnets (40) .

19. Robot according to claim 17 or 18, in which said supplementary magnets comprise small cylinders mounted so that their axes are parallel to the wheel axes.

20. Robot according to claim 19, in which, in every wheel, these supplementary magnets (40) are fitted into their cylindrical housings in crown form in the wheel casing (42) around a hole for the rotating shaft.

21. Robot according to any of the above claims, in which the wheels fitted with supplementary magnets are the driving wheels (12) .

22. Robot according to any of the above claims, including at least one couple of driving wheels (12) driven by a motor reduction gear (16) powered by a continuous voltage electric battery (18) fitted to the frame (10) .

23. Robot according to any of the above claims, including a steering device (20) connected to at least one wheel. 24. Robot according to any of the above claims, in which the movements of the robot are remote controlled from a handset via a CPU (22) fitted to the frame (10) . 25. Robot according to any of the above claims, in which at least one wheel couple has a casing (50) with a multi- faceted rolling surface, i.e. a polygonal form, to

prevent slippage.

26. Robot according to any of the above claims, including a probe to check weld lines for metal sheeting.

27. Robot according to claim 26, in which the data picked up by the probe is transmitted to a data collection system by wireless.

Description:

DESCRIPTION "Magnetic Coupling Mobile Robot"

[0001] The present invention relates to a mobile robot with magnetic coupling. [0002] In some applications in the art, surfaces to be processed or treated in various ways, for example, to be welded together, may be inspected by a robot provided with wheels allowing the robot to move along the surface. The robot is fitted with probes able to inspect the surface by detecting, for example, the quality of the process carried out .

[0003] When the material of which the surface is made allows it, i.e. when it is ferromagnetic, the robot is coupled magnetically to the surface by means of permanent magnets. Thanks to this anchoring system, the robot can also climb vertically or even rotate through 360°. Therefore not only flat surfaces can be inspected, but also curved - for example cylindrical - surfaces. [0004] Thus far, robots with magnetic coupling have been fitted with wheels which are made, at least externally, in contact with the surface, of permanent magnets or electromagnets .

[0005] Prior art solutions exhibit one notable disadvantage. Whilst being able to function, they require enormous power to drive the wheels in order to overcome

the magnetic field which tends to immobilize the wheels.

It is therefore difficult to achieve free-sliding movement along the surface being inspected.

[0006] Moving the robot requires a powerful electric motor and therefore the need of electrical wiring to a remote power source, making the robot heavy and cumbersome.

[0007] The Aim of this invention is to propose a mobile robot with magnetic coupling which is able to overcome, at least partially, the disadvantages described above of the prior art robots.

[0008] This aim is achieved by a robot in accordance with claim 1.

[0009] Further features and the advantages of the robot according to the present invention will appear more clearly from the following description of preferred non- limiting embodiments thereof, with reference to the attached drawings, in which:

[0010] - figure 1 shows a perspective view of a robot according to the invention; [0011] - figure 2 shows a perspective view of the robot from below;

[0012] - figure 3 shows an end view of the robot;

[0013] - figure 4 shows an exploded view of a support with permanent magnets; [0014] - figure 5 shows an exploded view of a robot wheel

with auxiliary magnets;

[0015] - figure 5a shows the assembled wheel;

[0016] - figure 6 shows an exploded view of another robot wheel ; [0017] - figure 7 shows a perspective view of the robot frame according to one different embodiment;

[0018] - figure 8 shows an enlarged perspective view of one of the two transverse axles supporting the frame shown in figure 7 and enabling it to slide over a surface to be inspected;

[0019] - figure 9 shows a partial cross-section of the transverse axle of figure 8;

[0020] - figure 9a shows a .side view of the transverse axle; [0021] - figure 10 shows a view of the transverse axle tilted to the horizontal;

[0022] - figure 11 shows an exploded view of a magnet support, according to a different embodiment; and

[0023] - figure 12 shows the support of figure 11 duly assembled.

[0024] With reference to the above figures, numeral reference 1 globally indicates a mobile robot with magnetic coupling according to the invention.

[0025] Robot 1 includes a frame 10 with wheels 12, 14 enabling the robot to slide over a resting surface 2

which is highly magnetically permeable, for example a ferromagnetic material . The robot 1 is in the form of a mobile carriage able to move over a surface, for example a piece of sheeting to be inspected. [0026] In accordance with a preferred embodiment, the robot 1 is fitted with at least one driving wheel 12 enabling independent movement over the surface to which it is coupled magnetically. This does not exclude the possibility of the robot described below being moved manually along the resting surface.

[0027] In accordance with a preferred embodiment, at least one driving wheel 12 is powered by a motor reduction gear

16.

[0028] Advantageously, the motor reduction gear 16 is powered electrically with continuous voltage of, for example, 12 V, supplied by a battery 18 fitted to the frame 10 of the robot 1. Therefore, the robot does not need to be connected up to a power supply by electrical cable . [0029] At least one wheel , for example a guided wheel 14 , is connected to a steering device 20.

[0030] The robot 1 is therefore able to move forwards, backwards, to the right and left. [0031] According to an advantageous embodiment, these movements are controlled by a remote control handset via

a CPU 22 fitted to the robot frame.

[0032] In one possible embodiment, the robot is fitted with at least one permanent magnet 30 capable of magnetic interaction with the resting surface 2, so as to couple the robot to said surface.

[0033] The permanent magnet 30 is fitted so as to graze the resting surface 2. In other words, the magnet 30 is detached from the ferromagnetic surface 2, but is kept at a pre-set distance, able to generate a magnetic force of attraction such as to enable the robot 1 to remain sturdily anchored to the resting surface 2, whatever its direction or motion.

[0034] In order to maximize the density of the magnetic field acting on the resting surface 2 and therefore the force of attraction, the magnet 30 is fitted with one of its poles facing the resting surface 2. In other words, the axis of the two poles of the magnet 30 is perpendicular to the surface 2. [0035] Clearly, the factors which determine the intensity of the magnetic field between the at least one magnet 30 and the resting surface 2, i.e. the distance between the magnet and the surface, the type, shape and size of the magnet, will be chosen on the basis of the application, the travel of the magnet, the weight of the robot (plus any load such as a probe) .

[0036] In a particularly advantageous embodiment, at least one magnet 30 is fitted onto a support 32 which is allowed to oscillate freely so that the magnet is always oriented in the position of minimum distance from the resting surface, that is in the position of maximum field density.

[0037] Preferably, magnets 30 are fitted close to the points of contact between the robot 1 and the resting surface, i.e. close to the wheels 12, 14. [0038] In the illustrated embodiment, the robot is fitted with a couple of driving wheels 12 and a couple of guided wheels 14.

[0039] In accordance with a preferred embodiment, the robot 1 is fitted with four ( supports 32, for example comprising essentially parallelepiped blocks, each carrying several magnets 30. Each magnet is, for example, disc or tablet shaped, and has surfaces parallel to the resting surface of the robot. The blocks 32 are advantageously fitted to the rotating shafts 13, 15 of the wheels 12, 14. Each block 32 is fitted with ball bearings 34 to enable free rotation around the shaft to which it is fitted. The ball bearings 34 are fitted to the support 32, for example by seeger 35. [0040] In one embodiment, each magnet 30 is fixed or glued to a pillar 36, cylindrical in form for example, seated

in a housing 36 inside the support 32 and held into place by a pin 37, for example.

[0041] In one embodiment, the magnets 30 are parallel to each other, for example aligned parallel to the shaft 13. [0042] In one embodiment, the permanent magnets 30 are in neodymium.

[0043] According to an advantageous embodiment , further permanent magnets 40, henceforth called supplementary magnets, are fitted into the casing 42 of at least one couple of coaxial wheels, preferably the driving wheels 12.

[0044] In one embodiment, these supplementary magnets 40 comprise small cylinders which, when fitted into a wheel, turn the relevant axis parallel to the wheels axis. In a possible embodiment, the wheels 12 include a central cylindrical casing 42, for example in aluminium, where, around a hole for the rotating shaft 13, a crown-shaped series of cylindrical housings 43 is created which are fitted with cylindrical magnets 40. [0045] The central casing 42 is fitted between a couple of side disks 44 made of ferromagnetic material with a milled outer surface 44 for contact with the surface 2. Advantageously, the disks 44 are fixed to the central casing 42 by means of the magnetic field generated by the supplementary magnets 40.

[0046] Around the rotating surface 42' of the central casing 42 of the wheel 12 an anti-slip fascia 45, made of rubber or similar type of material, is fitted. [0047] The function of the supplementary magnets 40 is to generate a magnetic field interacting with the resting surface 2 of ferromagnetic material, in order to ensure that the fascia 45 always adheres to resting surface 2, preferably by exerting optimum pressure on it . In this way the wheels do not slip on the support surface, in particular the driving wheels, even when the surface 2 is damp, for example to facilitate ultra-sound measurements. [0048] Advantageously, the fascia 45 is kept in position by two side discs 44, clamping from opposite sides of the wheel . [0049] Clearly, given its position on the wheels, the crown of supplementary magnets 40 acts on the resting surface 2 one magnet at a time, the one closest to the surface as the wheel rotates. This advantageously produces the desired effect of increasing the adherence of the robot to the surface, by preventing the slippage of the wheels, without preventing their proper rotation once they have made contact with the ferromagnetic surface. [0050] In terms of the structure of the wheels, the central casing 42 of the driving wheels 12 and/or the casing 50 of the guide wheels 14 has a multi-faceted rolling

surface, i.e. a polygonal shape able to improve the anti- slip effect still further.

[0051] On the casing 50 of the guide wheels 14, for example, a tooled tyre 51 can be fitted. [0052] In accordance with the embodiment illustrated in figures 7-10 and with the invention, the robot has a frame 100 with longitudinal axle 101 connecting two transverse axles 102 for the purposes of sliding along the ferromagnetic surface to be inspected. The longitudinal axle 101 has an articulated joint 104 enabling the two transverse axles 102 to rotate independently of the longitudinal axle. This enables the robot to move along uneven or rough surfaces, for example along weld lines to be checked, without losing adherence, as shown in figure 10.

[0053] In accordance with a preferred embodiment, near each wheel 107 of the robot, each axle 102 is fitted with a permanent magnet 106. The wheel 107 may advantageously include supplementary magnets and/or may be fitted with a tyre and/or multi-faceted rolling surface, as described above in relation to figures 5 and 6.

[0054] Every wheel 107 is fitted to the end of a rotating shaft 108, for example by means of a clamping pin 109. A support flange 110 for at least a ball bearing 112 extends axially and inwardly from the wheel 107. On the

bearing 112 an oscillating support 114 is fitted for at least one permanent magnet 106 coupling the robot to the resting surface. [0055] This support 114 has a cavity underneath where the permanent magnet 106 is fitted, for example, by pressure, with one of the two opposing poles facing the ferromagnetic surface. In accordance with one embodiment, this magnet 106 is rectangular, longer and wider than thick, and with the largest surfaces parallel to the ferromagnetic surface. The face of the permanent magnet facing the sliding surface is kept at such a height that it grazes said surface without being in actual contact. [0056] In accordance with a particularly advantageous embodiment, the support 114 for the magnet 106 is in contact with the sliding surface via a roller 116, or preferable two rollers, for example made with ball bearings. Clearly, through this double support given by wheellO7 and rollers 116, the magnet is enabled to be as close to the ferromagnetic surface as possible, without the risk of making contact.

[0057] In other words, the rollers 116 act, together with the wheel, as spacers guaranteeing a slight distance between the magnet and the ferromagnetic surface. [0058] For the transverse axles 102 to rotate about the longitudinal axle of the frame whilst at the same

guaranteeing that the wheels and rollers adhere to the sliding surface, the shaft 108 must be capable of tilting in relation to the wheels 107 and the oscillating support 114 of the magnet. [0059] For this purpose, in accordance with a particularly advantageous embodiment, the axial housing 120 for the rotating shaft 108 which crosses the flange 110 of the bearing support has a conical shape, widening towards the inside, allowing the shaft 108 to tilt in relation to the flange axis .

[0060] In accordance with one embodiment, the support 114 of the magnet has an axial portion 114' extending towards the inside, beyond the bearing, so as to house a magnet 106 which is longer than the bearing width. A slot-shaped aperture 122 provided in said axial portion 114' receives the rotating shaft 108 allowing the shaft to oscillate in relation to the support .

[0061] In accordance with one embodiment, the end 108' of the rotating shaft to which the wheel 107 is fitted has a rounded outer surface, for example ogival, so it can oscillate inside the axial hole of the wheel 107.' [0062] Advantageously, the wheel 107, flange 110 and support 114 of the magnet are clamped together along the axis by an outer washer 124, attached to the wheel 107 and screwed tight to the end of the rotating shaft 108

and an inner washer 125, around the rotating shaft and pressed against the magnet support, for example by a spring 126. [0063] Therefore, the wheel, flange with bearing and magnet support are pack-assembled in order to make a single wheel unit with the magnet in position hovering over the sliding surface.

[0064] Figures 11 and 12 show another embodiment of an oscillating support 150 for at least one magnet 152. This embodiment is particularly suitable for applications with small diameter pipes, for example diameters of less than 1 meter, where the robot must be compact. A single oscillating support 150, in this embodiment, is fitted centrally to at least one of the two rotating shafts of the wheels.

[0065] The support 150 includes a prism-shaped casing 154, with a face turned to the sliding surface in which there is a housing 156 for at least one permanent magnet 152, arranged, as described before, with one pole turned to the ferromagnetic surface to be inspected. Preferably, the magnet 152 is rectangular or bar-shaped and fitted horizontally, for example, pressed into the housing 156. [0066] Contact between the support 150 and sliding surface is by means of lateral rollers 158, for example two for each end of the support, preferably fixed to the

appendices outlining the housing 156 of the magnet. These rollers 158 act as spacers similarly to the description above for the support element 114.

[0067] To provide oscillation, the support 150 is fitted to the rotating shaft by means of a couple of bearings 160, seated in respective housings 162 clamped to the support casing, for example, by a seeger 163.

[0068] In accordance with an advantageous embodiment, the bearings 160 are of the oscillating type, in order to allow the rotating shaft, in this case too, to oscillate, albeit less than in the previous example with the dual oscillating support for each transverse axle. [0069] The robot according to the invention is particularly suitable for carrying a probe for the purposes of carrying out the non-destructive testing of weld lines and the seal of metal plating, for example carbon steel. In particular, the robot 1 is designed for applications involving cylindrical sheeting (for example tanks of great length or large diameter) made by calendaring and welding flat sheeting. It should be noted that, for ultra-sound probes to work to best effect, these metal sheets need to be damp.

[0070] The robot is hooked up to the sheeting to be inspected via a permanent magnetic field generated by magnets at some distance from the sheeting and hence

without impeding the rotation of the wheels, as occurs in prior art robots. Therefore a powerful motor is not required. A small motor reduction gear is sufficient, powered by a 12 V battery. [0071] The disposition of the magnets 30, 40, 106, 152 allows the robot to climb vertically with its load, and to rotate through 180° without losing adherence, even on a damp and slippery surface. [0072] Since the robot, according to this invention, does not require power cables for its movement, data from the probes can advantageously be transmitted in wireless mode. Therefore, the robot 1 is completely free-standing, compact and easy to handle. [0073] According to this invention, largely due to the reduced weight of the motor, the robot has an overall weight (including the power battery) of less than 15 Kg, well below the regulatory maximum for weights to be lifted by operators (30 kg for men, 20 kg for women) . [0074] The proposed robot is therefore very simple and easy to use and transport.

[0075] A person skilled in the art may, according to specific needs, modify, adapt or replace some elements with others of similar or identical function, without departing from the scope of the claims below. Each of the features described for a particular embodiment can be

incorporated irrespective of the other forms of embodiment described .