A Ferrovial Services maintenance team for industrial upkeep created a robot to make preventive maintenance on overhead cranes easier, while also reducing costs and minimizing workplace hazards. The robot was created to resolve the problem of rail beam accessibility.

This robot, named ICaRo (Inspector de Carrileras Robotizado, or the Robotic Rail Inspector for overhead cranes), uses an HD camera and can be operated remotely to inspect the rails on the overhead crane’s track.

The idea for this robot came from the need to get close to certain areas of the beams when performing preventive maintenance. Previously, the maintenance team would suspect the rail had broken soldering because the sound of the crane’s wheels rolling changed when they passed over that area, but they could not see the area. Thanks to the robot, they can now remotely visualize the problem area and determine how to repair it.

Manuel Hernández Rubio, technical construction manager at Ferrovial Services, was in charge of creating and manufacturing the robot.

“ICaRo is a robot created for a specific purpose on a certain task, but it is versatile enough to be adapted to other things. That is, it could be reprogrammed or rescaled to other accessories or improvements that will be studied over time as the device continues to be used.”

The robot’s main benefit is operational improvement in preventive maintenance work, as the robot allows operators to see the length of the track, which is sometimes difficult or impossible due to accessibility reasons. Another advantage is reduced costs by spending less time on inspections, minimizing workplace hazards, and lowering the impact on clients’ production processes.

A unique design

The most common height of rails and the width of beams were taken into consideration for the robot’s design. The size of the wheels, as well as the adjustable guides, make the robot strong enough to stay steady on the tracks where the work is being done at considerable heights. Likewise, the flexibility of the chassis lets it navigate dirt and obstacles it may come across during the inspection.

The device includes an HD camera that connects to a PC via Wi-Fi, so it can visualize and record the state of the rails to generate reports and analyze images. The robot is controlled from the same PC terminal via Bluetooth, using the keyboard to control movement, speed and distance traveled. By recording with the HD camera, the inspector can check:

  • The cleanliness of the track.
  • The status of the soldering between the rail and the support beam.
  • Any metallic residue to detect possible effects on the overhead crane’s wheels or track.
  • The condition of the guide outline and joints between different sections of the track.