Do the robot

ABB robotic crawler, with control system and screen

ABB robotic crawler, with control system and screen

Examining ABB’s remote crawler, designed for motor inspection, that inspects air gaps

Now here’s the type of thing you wish you invented when you were a kid. Ever remember wishing you had some kind of buddy to clean up your room and do your chores?

A recently developed device includes small robotics, joysticks, LED lights, magnets, and a control panel with multiple screens – all to help you clean something more efficiently. It’s an air gap robotic “crawler” designed for motor inspection.

An important note: the thing is useful only for motors or generators with an air gap of at least 10 mm. That’s almost 0.4 inch. Only the very largest machines out there – primarily turbine generators in power plants – approach that size. For example, a 2000 hp 450 rpm synchronous motor, 10 feet in diameter, has an air gap little more than half that figure.

But when it comes to those large motors — The “crawler” is remote controlled, connected to a control panel with video feeds, and incorporates five cameras and a magnetic roller system. Almost like you combined all the extra pieces of an Erector Set, some Legos, and an Atari stick, then somehow hooked it up to your television and threw in a Gyrowheel for good measure. A budding engineer’s paradise.

Conceived by ABB’s maintenance branch, the new InSight device is said to provide two main benefits. First, efficiency – it cuts the time of motor inspection in half in most cases. Second, convenience – it allows you to inspect an entire motor or generator without having to separate stator and rotor.

This device differs from conventional inspection devices in that size is no longer as much of a hindrance. The new device can be used on any motor or generator with an air-gap of 10mm or more. According to an ABB press release, the device can inspect a machine in just three days, compared to the eight days that would typically be needed if the rotor has to be removed.

Here’s how it works:

The crawler is remotely connected to a control cabinet with five monitors, and carries on-board LEDs to illuminate the air-gap. It moves on a magnetic roller mechanism and is guided by an operator using a joystick and speed controller, which can also be used to adjust four of the five cameras. Video feed is provided of the stator and rotor core, windings, wedges, stator teeth, air ducts, rotor support blocks and parts of the end-windings.

It can be used to spot problems such as broken laminations, burned cores, blocked vent ducts, spark erosion and bulging, or signs of movement at slot exit or in vent ducts. A modular track system can be configured to allow visual inspections of a variety of motors and generators. As well as videos, the device captures still images and has a voice-over function that records the inspector’s comments for later reference.

The crawler extends ABB’s Leap service, which assesses the condition of stator winding insulation and estimates its remaining lifetime. During scheduled minor maintenance (when the end covers, but not the rotor, are removed) the crawler can gather data on the stator which can be used to plan future maintenance.


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