For those in the hot-mix asphalt (HMA) business, checking silos for wear can be a dangerous venture. There is no such thing as a routine inspection when entering the confined space of an asphalt storage silo. Although precautions are taken, there are serious risks involved.
Dr. J. Don Brock knew there had to be a better way to check silos and keep people safe. At his request (roughly four years ago), Astec engineers began the research and development of alternative ways to inspect silos. Several ideas were tested and one became reality—the Silobot™ inspection device.
ROBOT WITH A VIEW
Referred to as a magnetic-wheeled inspection vehicle by Astec engineers, the Silobot device is more than just a metal box with wheels. The proprietary, patent-pending system uses magnetic wheels that have more than 400 lbs (181 kg) of holding force, allowing it to move without interference. The Silobot moves around the inside of the silo using a digital wireless technology to send control and telemetry signals to and from the ground station. These signals are processed by state-of-the-art controllers inside the Silobot device to drive the wheels and sensor suite. Data is collected from the Silobot sensors to create a report detailing the silo’s health.
The Silobot eye is a dome protecting a high-definition video camera system. The remote-control operator can wear a set of first-person view goggles for a virtual display and feel like he is in the driver’s seat of the Silobot device. There is a goggle-mounted head tracker that tracks the position of your head and relays that information to the pan and tilt system on the driving camera, thus making the Silobot cockpit view truly immersive.
INTRODUCED AT CONEXPO
For those that attended ConExpo this year and visited the Astec Industries booth, you got a first-hand look at the Silobot inspection device. This dynamic, game-changing device generated a lot of buzz and was well received.
The inspection service is requested through the Astec Parts Department. Once the service is complete, the data collected is put into a report that is mailed to the plant owner/operator. This report may take up to two weeks to complete and will contain a metal thickness map, video, and photos of the inside of each silo, plus engineering evaluations and recommendations.