The aging infrastructure of sewer pipes and water mains in cities across the globe make inspections and maintenance vital to the safety and health of the communities these systems serve. Traditional methods require invasive and destructive trench digging to access underground pipes. However, modern innovations in technology and specifically robotics, have changed the way we approach these projects.
Pipe crawlers are robotic tools to provide CCTV, sonar, and lidar feeds that give operators a clear picture of the condition of underground pipes in almost any environment. However, navigating these pipelines is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
There are many different types of sewer pipes that have been used over the decades, and pipe materials can play a big role in how functional a pipe crawler can be. That’s why it’s important to consider different crawler tires for pipe materials you are working with.
Rubber tires are the standard and most popular choice for general purpose use in pipe inspections, since they work great with many different pipe materials, including:
- Concrete pipes
- Iron ductile pipes
- Wooden Pipes
- Cast Iron Pipes
- Brick Pipes
- Corrugated Steel
Available in a variety of wheel and tread sizes, rubber tires are strong and reliable. Being made from a solid piece of hard rubber, you don’t have to worry about them being punctured, and they’re also resistant to temperature changes. This makes them an incredibly versatile option for some of the more common pipe materials, such as concrete.
However, in slippery pipe materials such as clay or PVC, in pipes made of corrugated steel, or pipes with larger obstacles in the way, more specialized options may be more effective.
Talk to us about which configurations are best for your pipe inspection projects!
Pneumatic tires are very similar to rubber tires, and can work well with a variety of pipe materials. The difference lies in the interior of the tire. Utilizing an inflatable innertube allows the tire to have customizable density to adapt for different sediment or sludge levels. Being larger and softer than the standard rubber tires gives them great traction in larger pipes and through tougher conditions.
While exceedingly rare, due to the interior innertube, pneumatic tires can technically be punctured, however, it would require unusual circumstances that most operators would never encounter. Pipe Trekker pneumatic wheels are designed to be puncture resistant, so it is unlikely that this would be an issue in most cases.
Carbide wheels are the perfect choice when you need extra grip and weight while working in softer, slippery pipe materials, such as clay, PVC, or HDPE, and are available in two different sizes with the Pipe Trekker crawlers.
These tires combine metal and carbon and are coated with sharp carbide flakes, or grit, that dig into the soft, smooth pipe materials, or greasy surfaces. This provides excellent traction where the more common rubber or pneumatic tires would spin out and struggle to grip.
What are some disadvantages of carbide wheels? They generally do not work as well as pneumatic wheels in mud or sludge, and because they add considerable weight to the pipe crawler and do not slide well, retrieval of the vehicle can be potentially more difficult.
However, Pipe Trekker crawlers come equipped with active freewheel mode and retrieval assist that helps tremendously by adding the ability to drive the vehicle in reverse, making it much easier to bring it back to the surface than having to manually pull it.
The optional powered reel also helps with retrieval, making it much easier than having to manually wind the tether back into the reel.
When you need the toughest of the tough, you’ll want to consider crawler tracks. This option essentially turns your crawler into a mini tank, capable of overcoming larger physical obstacles in its path.
If you’re working in rough, rugged pipes, crawler tracks are proven to work well in mud, sand, gravel, water, and silt, and are the ideal option for getting over and around obstacles, such as rocks and joints. They also work great in corrugated pipes, since they allow the crawlers to drive over the top of the ridged waves, whereas driving the vehicle with rubber wheels would result in unstable, bouncy video and photo captures.
One limitation of crawler tracks is that they are best suited for larger pipes, 24” in diameter and over, since they do add notable size to the pipe crawler.
With decades, or even centuries of aging pipelines still in use around the world, the need for specialized modular inspection methods is vital. As repairs occur on older pipes, materials vary, joints become tough to navigate, and having the right tool for the job is the only way to get eyes where you need them.
Pipe Trekker has built its crawlers with versatility in mind, offering modular options for virtually any environment and pipe material you may be working with. From rubber wheels, to carbide, and tracks, Pipe Trekker crawlers are purpose built to accommodate a broad range of needs.
To quickly recap the tire options available with Pipe Trekker crawlers:
- great general purpose tires that work with many pipe materials and environments
- similar to rubber tires, with the added benefit of extra grip for working in rougher conditions
- heavy and grippy, and work best on slippery surfaces such as PVC and clay
- When working in the roughest conditions with obstacles and joints to overcome, and you need a mini tank to push through
As always, the Pipe Trekker team of experts is here to help! If you have any questions, reach out to our team! Ready to take the leap and get your own vehicle? Get your customized quote.-