Canrig Robotics has developed robots with the goal of achieving a fully-automated drill floor operation of oil rigs. The company is based in Stavanger, Norway, a central city in the European oil drilling industry. Canrig Robotics’ primary piece of equipment is a heavy-duty, seven-axis robot with a load capacity of 1,500 kilograms, which is handled by a three-meter robotic arm and newly-developed gripper.
The fully-electric drill floor robot automates all pipe and tool operations to reduce the need for manual labor on a rig’s drill floor. Compared to conventional equipment, drilling tasks can be handled more precisely. Those tasks include tripping, assembly, handling of casing, tubing, liners and screens, handling of completion components and pick up and lay down of drill pipe.
The unit has seven axes of motion and features rapid tool exchange, spinning capability, and high speed and accuracy. The fully-automated pipe handler takes out the segments from a storage system or from a conveyor on deck and supplies them to the robot. Another Canrig Robotics’ system, “the electric roughneck,” and a pipe handling robot support the heavy-duty robot in handling and comprise the robot “stand.”
More and more processes in the oil drilling industry are becoming automated to achieve higher clock speeds, relieve people from demanding physical work and save money. Oil platform drilling is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, as workers must contend with extraordinarily high waves, storms with high winds, oil, mud, and rain. Drill pipes are driven from the uphole, unscrewed and then reassembled under heavy pressure. Canrig claims the system operates 40 percent faster than conventional chains, and saves the company between $10-$20 million annually.
The robotic systems must stand up against salt water, corrosion, mechanical stress and, frequently, extreme temperatures. Designers solved the issue of durability with maintenance-free engineered plastic components manufactured by igus, a German company that manages its North American operations out of Providence R.I.
For the linear movement of the seventh axis of the robot, engineers used lightweight energy chains. The more difficult challenge was supplying the rotational axis of the robot base with energy and signal supply. A rotary module designed by igus’ Project Engineering division is a side-mounted energy chain that operates with a reverse bending radius. That allows chain links to move in both directions.
The module is integrated into the robot housing, which also includes Chainflex cables from igus. The cables are developed for moving applications and offer long service life, even under extreme conditions.
“It is important for us to purchase components for the robot from one source and get them ready for installation,’’ said Jimmy Bostrom, Chief Operating Officer at Canrig. “The systems should also be as maintenance-free as possible. This is ensured by igus.”
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