Wolf received a Phase II SBIR award in June 2013 to continue development of an autonomous system that will align probes for eddy current inspections on steam condensers and heat exchangers. Eddy current inspections are required to ensure the integrity of condenser tube walls. Condenser tubes are inspected within the confined space of a hemispherical head cap under a wide range of temperature and work conditions. The current process demands the physical manipulation of the inspection probes and is labor intensive, costly and fatiguing, giving rise to extended maintenance time and potential for human error. An autonomous system was required to eliminate the need for a human to persistently occupy this dangerous work environment, and to decrease the data acquisition time and potential error rates associated with human manipulation of the eddy current probes.

Wolf is working closely with the Navy to develop a compact and portable multi-axis probe manipulator that will allow the human factor to be eliminated from the current process. The system will incorporate established technologies for precision motion control and sensing devices for auxiliary subsystems. The control system includes a comprehensible Graphical User Interface (GUI) that guides the operator through the setup procedure and provides system status updates. The system detects and warns the operator of detected obstructions, and changes the condenser tube list as necessary when unforeseen circumstances arise such as obstructions within a tube or detection of possible collision with the condenser head cap wall. During Phase I, Wolf fabricated and tested a small scale prototype to demonstrate mechanical and sensing concepts.