PROGRAMMABLE TANK CLEANING NOZZLE
1. A hydraulically controlled, programmable tank cleaning nozzle system, comprising:
- a tank cleaning nozzle having one or more degrees of freedom that operates as an independent, standalone unit with a multiple axes motion controller; and
a mount for mounting the tank cleaning nozzle to a structure selected from one of any existing;
a pipe, a boom, a robotic arm, a gantry system, a rigid beam, a manway, and another rigid structure.
Manual, automated, or semi-automated programmable tank cleaning nozzle systems, devices and methods for providing safe and efficient methods for breaking up oil, tar, chemical, radioactive, hazardous, or any other liquid, solid, or sludge waste inside storage tanks, ballast tanks, floating roof tanks, void tanks, rail tank cars and the like with nozzles which utilize fluid jets to break up, liquefy, and motivate tank material. The programmable tank cleaning nozzle incorporates two degrees of freedom and can be mounted to existing booms, robotic arms, gantry systems, rigid beams, manways, or any other rigid structure. The programmable tank cleaning nozzle can be a standalone, independent unit or integrated into new designs and/or existing systems. Simplified programming and user interface allowing an operator to remotely operate the system without the need for a camera system. The system is hydraulically controlled and can work in the presence of flammable vapors and dust.
- 1. A hydraulically controlled, programmable tank cleaning nozzle system, comprising:
a tank cleaning nozzle having one or more degrees of freedom that operates as an independent, standalone unit with a multiple axes motion controller; and a mount for mounting the tank cleaning nozzle to a structure selected from one of any existing;
a pipe, a boom, a robotic arm, a gantry system, a rigid beam, a manway, and another rigid structure.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
This application claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 62/784,512 filed Dec. 23, 2018, and this application is a Continuation-In-Part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 16/437,796 filed Jun. 11, 2019, which claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/784,512 filed Dec. 23, 2018 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/683,215 filed Jun. 11, 2018. The entire disclosure of each of the applications listed in this paragraph are incorporated herein by specific reference thereto.
This invention relates to breaking up oil and tar, or any other chemical, radioactive, or hazardous liquid, solid, or sludge waste from inside oil field tanks, ballast tanks, void tanks, floating roof tanks, rail tank cars and the like, and more specifically, this invention relates to manual, automated, or semi-automated, tank cleaning systems, devices, and methods for breaking up oil and tar, or any other chemical, radioactive or hazardous liquid, solid, or sludge waste from inside storage oil field tanks, ballast tanks, void tanks, floating roof tanks, rail tank cars and the like with nozzles which utilize fluid jets to break up, liquefy, and motivate tank material. The invention can work with tanks having high temperature or low temperature conditions and tanks having hazardous vapors, dusts, or the like.
Tanks used for waste storage can be cleaned using handheld water nozzles. This is slow, tedious, and inefficient with potential danger. Personnel working in these environments would be exposed to hazardous and potentially flammable fluids, dusts and vapors in addition to strenuous conditions due to the requirement for the use of protective gear. Also, this work mostly performed in confined spaces that require scaffolding or lifts, make it cumbersome to use the requisite handheld blast equipment. Handheld blast nozzles produce high velocities and high thrust forces that an operator must counteract. This leads to fatigue and injury.
More sophisticated, robotically control systems have been employed but are limited due to visibility. Since the area is dangerous and inaccessible by humans, remotely operated cameras are required. This is also slow, tedious, and inefficient as this only provides a limited viewing area in a dark tank, with limited light, making it difficult for cameras to capture images with adequate detail and contrast. Additionally, mist and airborne particles common in waste storage tanks can obstruct the camera view and render it useless. More challenging is how an operator is required to visually survey the area to determine the appropriate cleaning pattern given the limited visibility of the camera.
“Dumb” systems with rotating, oscillating, or self-propelled nozzles have been employed; however, this method cleans everything in its path, 360 degrees, in all directions, whether it needs to be or not. This is extremely inefficient especially in typical situations where waste only resides in the bottom of a tank. This all or nothing method wastes resources, e.g., water, electricity, etc., and induces extensive cycle times. Also, these systems are a set and go method; so if not set properly, isolated areas requiring more extensive cleaning are left with waste still intact. An operator then has to visually survey the area, reset the parameters, and perform the cleaning operation again.
Thus, the need exists for solutions to the above problems with the prior art.
This application seeks to provide a semi-automated or automated solution that solves the above challenges and reduces overall cycle times.
A primary objective of the present invention is to provide manual, automated, or semi-automated devices, systems and methods incorporating nozzles which utilize fluid jets to break up and liquefy tank material such as oil and tar, or any other chemical, radioactive, or hazardous liquid, solid, or sludge waste material in oil field tanks, ballast tanks, void tanks, floating roof tanks, and rail tank cars.
A secondary objective of the present invention is to provide manual, automated, or semi-automated devices, systems and methods incorporating nozzles which utilize fluid jets to break up and liquefy tank material will operate in any tanks containing hazardous vapors, dusts, and the like.
An embodiment of the nozzle assembly can include a single low pressure, high flow fluid jet operating at pressures up to, but not limited to, approximately 5000 psig at a flow rate ranging from approximately 10 to approximately 500 GPM. In a further embodiment, a high pressure, low flow jet working up to, but not limited to, a pressure range from approximately 5,000 psig to approximately 50,000 psig, at a flow rate range from 0 to approximately 50 GPM can be integrated. In another embodiment, a plurality of high flow, low pressure and high pressure, low flow fluid jets can be incorporated in various combinations and orientations.
The fluid jet(s) can be twisted and rotated to direct the liquid stream as needed with two degrees of freedom, pan and tilt. The first degree of freedom, known as pan, can be described by approximately 360 degrees of rotation about a longitudinal, vertical axis. The second degree of freedom, known as tilt, can be described by approximately 360 degrees of rotation of the fluid jet(s) about a plane parallel the longitudinal, vertical axis. To further enhance the degrees of freedom, the versatile mounting features of the nozzle assembly allow it to be attached to the distal end of any boom, robotic arm, beam, or gantry system.
Each degree of motion can be rotated by a hydraulic actuator. A hydraulic power unit (HPU) provides pressurized fluid to electronically controlled valves which in turn modulates fluid flow to the actuators. The valves can be, but not limited to, servo valves or servo-proportional valves and are mounted on a manifold. The HPU can include, but not limited to, the requisite hydraulic pump driven by an electric motor to supply the system with flow and pressure of hydraulic fluid from an integrated storage reservoir. Supply and return hoses connect between the hydraulic power unit and the hydraulic manifold.
The hydraulic manifold can be, but not limited to, a block of steel or stainless steel machined with varying passageways to distribute hydraulic fluid to a plurality of valves mounted along the surfaces of the block. Mounted on the manifold frame, a control panel enclosure houses a motion controller that sends and receives inputs and outputs (I/O) in order to control the above valves.
In a preferred embodiment, the hydraulic valve manifold and control station will reside as near the tank but out of any classified hazardous or explosive area. In one embodiment, the hydraulic valve manifold and control station can be equipped with explosion proof or intrinsically safe components allowing operation in a classified hazardous zone where flammable gases or dust may exist. In an additional embodiment, the invention can be operated from a remote console station up to approximately 1000 feet away. In an alternate embodiment, control components can reside in a purged and pressurized enclosure rated for the hazardous environment.
The control station can include, but not limited to, a human machine interface (HMI) housed in an enclosure rated for outdoor operation. The HMI can include, but is not limited to, software, display screen, keyboard, pushbuttons, switches, and joysticks used to control and interact with the nozzle assembly. The HMI will allow an operator to monitor and manipulate the process real-time.
Also, as the Programmable Tank Cleaning Nozzle is processing one section, an operator can sit at the HMI and develop the toolpath for the next process. Manual manipulation can be done remotely at the human machine interface (HMI) in conjunction with cameras and pointers. In a further embodiment, the nozzle assembly can be manipulated by an operator through controls on a handheld remote control.
In a preferred embodiment, the device can use hydraulic power to manipulate nozzle assembly providing safe operation in environments with flammable vapors or dusts. Another embodiment of the device can use explosion proof linear actuator and/or electric motors to manipulate the nozzle assembly. The motors and actuators would be connected to power and signal cables coming from the device within the tank section being cleaned to an electrical motion controller and power supply residing in the control station located outside the classified hazardous area.
Automatic manipulation can be achieved through predetermined motion profiles that are calculated through software using kinematic algorithms. These profiles are interpolated around selected features, surface profiles or areas in the tank. Using cameras, pointers, distance sensors, and a remote controller, the nozzle assembly can be positioned at specific points relative to the work. By establishing multiple points around a feature or set of features, a list of coordinates can be generated. This gives the invention intelligence by storing these features as recipes and patterns that allow for efficient removal and cleaning of the tanks and removal of debris.
The remote controller can include but is not limited to, a handheld box containing the appropriate buttons, switches, and joysticks to control the nozzle from any location. The camera can be integrated into the nozzle assembly and can include, but not limited to, industrial grade monochromatic camera with lighting capable of transmitting a high resolution, live image to a remote screen. In further embodiments, the camera and/or lighting cab be intrinsically safe or explosion proof. Features of the camera can include pan, tilt, and zoom. The laser pointer can be, but not limited to, a device mounted to nozzle assembly capable of projecting a visible dot on a surface of a tank indicating the line of sight of the end effector.
The distance sensor can include, but is limited to, ultrasound, radiofrequency or laser such as a time-of-flight laser sensor that transmits light at a surface. The sensor can then determine the amount of time it takes (time-of-flight) to receive the light reflected off said surface. Using the known speed of light, the sensor can calculate the relative distance.
Dedicated software can draw lines or curves from point to point in such a way to form basic geometries such as squares, rectangles, circles, and so forth. These lines provide a map to be used as path, i.e. toolpaths that the nozzle assembly can follow as programmed. A controller takes this data and outputs the command signals to corresponding servo valves or servo-proportional valves; therefore, synchronizing the multiple axes and effectively moving the nozzle assembly along the desired path. The controller will also sequence events as needed.
Servo valves can be, but not limited to, a valve that uses analog electrical signals ranging from, but not limited to, 0 to approximately 100 milliamps to modulate a spool to precisely control hydraulic fluid flow to a hydraulic cylinder or motor. A servo-proportional valve can be, but not limited to, a valve that operates on the same principal as a servo valve but is constructed with looser tolerances and operates with less precision. Servo-proportional valves can also operate on analog electrical signals ranging from, but not limited to, 0 to approximately 100 milliamps as well as voltage signals ranging from, but not limited to, +/−approximately 40 VDC.
Further objects and advantages of this invention will be apparent from the following detailed description of the presently preferred embodiments which are illustrated schematically in the accompanying drawings.
The drawing figures depict one or more implementations in accord with the present concepts, by way of example only, not by way of limitations. In the figures, like reference numerals refer to the same or similar elements.
Before explaining the disclosed embodiments of the present invention in detail it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its applications to the details of the particular arrangements shown since the invention is capable of other embodiments. Also, the terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and not of limitation.
In the Summary above and in the Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments and in the accompanying drawings, reference is made to particular features (including method steps) of the invention. It is to be understood that the disclosure of the invention in this specification does not include all possible combinations of such particular features. For example, where a particular feature is disclosed in the context of a particular aspect or embodiment of the invention, that feature can also be used, to the extent possible, in combination with and/or in the context of other particular aspects and embodiments of the invention, and in the invention generally.
In this section, some embodiments of the invention will be described more fully with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which preferred embodiments of the invention are shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout, and prime notation is used to indicate similar elements in alternative embodiments.
A list of components is listed below.
- 1 nozzle assembly
- 2 hydraulic power unit (HPU)
- 3 hydraulic manifold
- 4 control station
- 5 remote control station
- 13 mounting plate
- 14 stationary upper housing assembly
- 15 a rotatable lower housing assembly
- 16 rotatable fluid jet nozzle assembly
- 17 groove coupling
- 18 quick disconnect couplings
- 19 hydraulic hoses
- 20 Bulkhead connector
- 21 housing
- 22 fluid flow tube
- 23, Pan motor assembly
- 24 Tilt motor assembly
- 25 O-ring
- 26 pin
- 27 seal
- 28 spring
- 29 threaded housing
- 30 drive gear
- 31 hydraulic motor
- 32 intermediate gearsets
- 33 parallel shaft
- 34 internal tooth ring gear
- 35 corresponding shaft
- 36 final gear
- 37 gear
- 38 rigid hydraulic conduit
- 40 drive gear
- 41 hydraulic motor
- 42 intermediate gearsets
- 43 parallel shaft
- 44 internal tooth ring gear
- 45, 46 bevel gearset
- 47 corresponding shaft
- 48 final gear
- 49 gear
- 50 Fiber optic encoder
- 51 encoder gear
- 52 homing sensor
- 53 target
- 55 pan gear shear pin
- 56 tilt gear shear pin
- 60 cylindrical housing
- 61 upper support bushing
- 62 bushings
- 63 rotary seals
- 64 wear sleeves
- 65 bottom cap
- 66 fluid conduit
- 67 rotary seals
- 68 wear sleeves
- 69 bolt on cap
- 70 low pressure/high flow fluid jets
- 71 O ring
- 72 Cylindrical hub
- 73 Bushings
- 75 manifold block
- 76 precision servo valves
- 77 hydraulic circuit components
- 78 electrical panel
- 79 common frame structure
- 80 user screen
- 81 keyboard
- 82 mouse
- 83 pushbuttons
- 84 joystick controllers
- 85 portable control station
- 86 multi screens
- 87 portable stand
- 88 central processing unit (CPU)
- 89 Switches
- 90 touchscreen
- 91 pushbuttons
- 92 joystick controllers
- 93 handheld case
- 94 electrical cable
- 95 one or more switches
- 100 O-ring boss fitting
- 101 O-ring
- 102 hydraulic fitting
- 104 O-ring
- 106 intermediate plate
The present invention can be connected to the hydraulic power unit 2 that is comprised of, but is not limited to, the requisite hydraulic pump driven by an electric motor to supply the system with flow and pressure of hydraulic fluid from an integrated storage reservoir. Supply and return hoses connect between the hydraulic power unit and the hydraulic manifold. Flexible cables can provide electrical and control signals between the control station 4, HPU 2, and hydraulic manifold 3.
In a further embodiment, interconnect wiring can allow communication and/or discreet I/O between the Programmable Tank Cleaning Nozzle and any fluid supply system. Communication could include, but not limited to, Ethernet, Profibus, DeviceNet, or any other network protocol or fieldbus communication protocol. In the preferred embodiments, fiber optic cables/wires are used for use in hazardous explosive environments.
In a further embodiment, the controls can output to one or more nozzle assemblies with one or more degrees of freedom. The HPU 2 provides a constant supply of hydraulic oil to valves on a manifold that in turn modulates the flow to corresponding hydraulic motors and/or actuators based on encoder feedback and toolpaths developed by software at the control station. Encoder feedback can be, but not limited to, absolute or incremental positional data sent to the motion controller through a serial interface for closed loop control of the hydraulic actuators.
For operation in classified hazardous areas, the preferred embodiment incorporates fiber optic encoders. In an alternative embodiment, the encoders can be wired to isolation barriers for intrinsically safe operation. In environments not considered hazardous, the encoders can be any non-rated absolute or incremental encoder that is wired per methods according to the application and applicable codes. In further embodiments, resolvers could be used in lieu of encoders.
The third-party interface referenced in
In alternative embodiments, the mounting plate 13 can be comprised of any pipe flange, tapered pipe thread, or any other customized flange, coupling or plate. To further enhance the degrees of freedom, the nozzle assembly can be attached to manways, holes, booms, robotic arms, rigid beams, gantry systems or any other features or devices with adequate structural stability.
In a preferred embodiment, hydraulic fluid passages are incorporated into the plate where on the bottom side, there is direct interface with an O-ring boss 100 extending from the hydraulic motor ports, and on the opposing side are connection ports for quick disconnect couplings 18.
The ports can be tapered or straight pipe fittings and could include an O-ring face. In a further embodiment, hydraulic hoses 19 can used to extend the quick couplings away from any encumbrances. In an additional embodiment, cross drilled passages can be used to locate the ports in any orientation on the plate. Bulkhead connectors 20 for any electrical or fiber optic signal cables are also mounted to the plate. The mounting plate 13 mounts to the top housing assembly 14 and seals with an O-ring 101.
Each motor assembly 23, 24 can be coupled to a precision gear train where one rotates the lower housing assembly 15 and the other rotates the fluid jet nozzle assembly 16; thus, providing two degrees of freedom known as pan and tilt. Pan, can be described by approximately 360 degrees of rotation of the lower housing assembly about the longitudinal, vertical axis. Tilt can be described by approximately 360 degrees of rotation of the fluid jet(s) about a horizontal axis perpendicular to the longitudinal, vertical axis. The upper housing assembly mates with the lower housing assembly and is sealed with an O-ring 25.
The gears can be staged such that rotation of the first gearset causes rotation of the second meshed gearset on the adjacent shaft which in turn drives the third gearset on the previously mentioned shaft and so forth and so on until the final gear 36 in the stack is reached. This gear is fixed to its corresponding support shaft 35 that extends back through one stack of gears in order to drive a gear 37 mounted on the opposing end. This gear can be meshed with an internal tooth ring gear 34 affixed to the lower housing assembly. Each stage causes a speed reduction and the number and sizes of gears are such that a final gear reduction range of approximately 40:1 up to approximately 400:1 can be achieved.
The gears can be staged such that rotation of the first gearset causes rotation of the second meshed gearset on the adjacent shaft which in turn drives the third gearset on the previously mentioned shaft and so forth and so on until the final gear 48 in the stack is reached. This gear is fixed to its corresponding support shaft 47 that extends back through one stack of gears in order to drive a gear 49 mounted on the opposing end. This gear is meshed with an internal tooth ring gear 44 affixed a bevel gear 45. A corresponding bevel gear 46 is situated at 90 degrees and is affixed to the fluid jet nozzle assembly. Each stage causes a speed reduction with exception to the bevel gear stage which is a speed increase. The number and sizes of gears are such that a final gear reduction range of approximately 40:1 up to approximately 400:1 can be achieved.
In other embodiments, the anti-backlash gear can be any spring loaded, tapered, or precision machining method available that reduces or eliminates backlash. Alternately, an encoder can be directly integrated internally to the motor with a flexible shaft. In a further embodiment, the encoder can be directly coupled to the output shaft of the motor with rigid or flexible coupling.
All or any combination of gears in the above embodiments can be manufactured from stainless steel, carbon steel, alloy steel, aluminum, bronze alloy, or plastic. In the preferred embodiment, the gears are heat treated. In other embodiments, they could be in the annealed state or case hardened. The gears can be lubricated using any grease, oil, or dry lubricant suitable for open gearing.
Alternately, the target could be a small diameter hole. In other embodiment, the sensor can be a proximity, laser, ultrasonic, or any other noncontact sensor. In further embodiments, the sensor can be such that it is wired to isolation barriers for intrinsically safe operation.
Integral to the housing, is a fluid conduit 66 where the flow tube on the upper housing assembly 14 passes through the seals 63 and top and bottom bushings 62 to permit the passage of high pressure, low flow liquids and/or low pressure, high flow fluids while simultaneously allowing 360 degrees of rotation. The hardened wear sleeves 64 eliminate wear from the rotary seals 63 rubbing on the outside diameter of the lower housing 15 bore.
From here on out, in the descriptions of the preferred embodiments, low pressure/high flow water is defined as, but not limited to, a pressure of up to approximately 5000 psig at a flow rate ranging from approximately 10 to approximately 500 gpm.
In another embodiment, the fluid can be high pressure/low flow. From here on out, in the descriptions of the preferred embodiments, high pressure/low flow is defined as, but not limited to, a pressure range from approximately 5,000 psig to approximately 50,000 psig at a flow rate range from 0 to approximately 50 gpm.
Extending laterally approximately 90 degrees from the housing are features that allow mounting of the rotatable fluid jet nozzle assembly 16. The fluid jet nozzle assembly 16 of
In another embodiment, a plurality of high flow, low pressure and high pressure, low flow fluid jets 70 can be incorporated in various combinations and orientations. The fluid jet nozzle assembly 16 mounts on to the lateral tube of
In the preferred embodiment, there are two opposing fluid jets 70, at approximately 180 degrees, to balance the trust forces. In particular embodiments, a single fluid jet can be implemented. In even further embodiments, 3, 4 or more fluid jets can be implemented.
All or any combination of rotary seals in the above embodiments can be manufactured from any low friction plastic, rubber, or metal. In the preferred embodiment, the rotary seals have low drag torque, chemical resistance and seal against high flow, low pressure and high pressure, low flow fluid. These seals can be constructed from virgin PTFE or PTFE with additives for wear, pressure, lubricity, static dissipation, and/or temperature. In a further embodiment, the bushings can be made from Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS), with or without additives.
All or any combination of bushings in the above embodiments can be manufactured from any low friction plastic, rubber, or metal. In a preferred embodiment, the bushings have low drag torque and chemical resistance. These bushings can be constructed from virgin PTFE or PTFE with additives for wear, pressure, lubricity, static dissipation, and/or temperature.
The HPU of
In another embodiment, the electrical circuits can be connected to intrinsically safe barriers and the electronic components will be rated for use in classified hazardous areas.
Another embodiment of the device can use explosion proof electric motors to manipulate the nozzle assembly. The motors and actuators would be connected by power and signal cables coming from the device within the tank section being cleaned to an electrical motion controller and power supply residing in the control station located outside the classified hazardous area.
In another embodiment, the control station can be equipped with explosion proof or intrinsically safe components allowing operation in a classified hazardous zone where flammable gases or dust may exist.
In another embodiment, the electrical panel 78 can be positively purged and monitored with a safety pressure switch interlocked into the control system. If the enclosure does not see adequate pressure, then the enclosure cannot be energized. Housed in the electrical panel 78, can be a motion controller that sends signals to the servo valves 76 in order to manipulate all axes.
In another embodiment, the handheld remote control can be wireless in which a local router can be tethered to the handheld control station through a flexible electrical cable. In certain embodiments, the invention can be operated from a handheld remote control up to approximately 1000 feet away.
Creation of recipes for cleaning specific tanks and commodities can be performed through the control software using a visual interface showing tank interiors, features, patterns to be employed, and regions to be cleaned. At the HMI, an operator inputs diameter(s), lengths, widths, heights, waste depths, etc. to configure the tank to the application. Locations of features, pumps, manways, etc. can also be entered. The software also includes predefined tank profiles, features, and toolpaths. The nozzle assembly can then be positioned into this configuration. An operator then selects from predefined recipes based on the desired operation. User inputs, e.g., feed rate, pressure, flow, dwell times, etc., allow these recipes to be modified and saved as new recipes. Once a configuration is finalized, the kinematic algorithms determine the coordinates and angles of each axis to form a motion profile dictating the nozzle'"'"'s motions. From this data, the control programs compile output commands to the motion controller. In certain embodiments, these profiles can be evaluated and edited at the HMI. In further embodiments, the motion profiles are entered into a simulation model for evaluation.
Referring to the preferred embodiment, the HMI can display the cleaning progress real time based on feedback from the control system. Alternately, an inspection system comprising, a camera, housing, lighting, and protective glass could be integrated into the nozzle assembly. In a further embodiment, the camera includes pan, tilt, and zoom functions. In certain embodiments, the camera can transmit an image to a display over a fiber optic cable allowing operation in an area with hazardous and explosive vapors and dusts.
In certain embodiments, distance measuring can be accomplished through a laser sensor mounted on the nozzle assembly. In other embodiments, the distance sensor could include an IR (infrared radiation) sensor, LiDAR (light detection and ranging), or any other noncontact technique to obtain distance measurements. In certain embodiments, a laser pointer is utilized to pinpoint a location to be measured. A laser pointer can be mounted on the nozzle assembly coordinated with the nozzle'"'"'s line of sight. This allows tank imaging can be done prior to cleaning as coordinates can be recorded as an operator manipulates the nozzle and selects points with a laser sensor. Repeating as many times as needed. At the user screen, these points can be viewed, edited and linked together to configure the tank and waste contained within and then to establish nozzle paths and time needed based on the amount waste in the tank.
In a further embodiment, 3D mapping of the tank and waste surface(s) can be accomplished through one or more imaging sensors utilizing ToF (time of flight), stereo vision, structured light, or any imaging technology that can be used to develop 3D point clouds. The preferred embodiment can be equipped with the 3D imaging sensors integrated with nozzle assembly such that an operator can maneuver the 3D imaging sensor to an area in order to take a snapshot. This can be done manually using the remote control or HMI. In one embodiment, the sensors can be handheld.
In an alternate embodiment, the sensors can be mounted remotely with a portable mounting structure. In this embodiment, the sensor can be operated independently from the nozzle assembly allowing an operator to scan new areas while the nozzle is cleaning. This increases the efficiency by reducing the overall cycle time. In another embodiment, sensors can be employed in conjunction with remote sensors.
In certain embodiments, scanning can be done real-time as the camera travels through an area. The generated point cloud will show the geometry on the touchscreen or HMI. Multiple point clouds can be linked together without external, dedicated targets. This data is loaded into the control software to be analyzed by 3D CAD software. An operator can edit and finalize the CAD rendering to be used as a predefined profile for use as described above. In other embodiments, the software automatically recognizes standard features from the point cloud and populates that region with a 3D surface. The remaining data is rendered and meshed into the existing 3D surfaces. This routine can be repeated until ended.
Safety features can include devices that are electrically connected to the control system that when activated brings all motion to a safe and controlled stop. The safety devices can include, but not limited to, e-stop buttons, e-stop cables, safety mats, light curtains, or scanning lasers. These devices can be employed in plurality and in any combination thereof.
Certain embodiments can comprise further safety features that incorporate whisker style limit switches to detect interferences between the nozzle assembly and another object. Once a crash is detected, a signal is sent to the controller that brings any motion to a controlled stop. Whisker style limit switches can be, but not limited to, a limit switch actuated by a rod protruding parallel axially to the nozzle assembly body. A plurality of whisker style limit switches can be mounted radially around the nozzle assembly for 360 degrees of detection. Other embodiments can use ultrasonic, laser, infrared (IR), proximity, or 3D scanners.
The Programmable Tank Cleaning Nozzle can be used for, but not limited to, cleaning any oil rig platform ballast tanks, oil field tanks, ship ballast tanks, hazardous waste tanks, rail car tanks, void tanks, floating roof tanks, or any other large storage tanks of various shapes, e.g., cylindrical, rectangular, spherical, etc.
The Programmable Tank Cleaning Nozzle can operate as an independent, standalone unit. In further embodiments, the Programmable Tank Cleaning Nozzle can be integrated into existing control systems though hardwire signals, serial communication such as Ethernet, Profibus, DeviceNet, or any other network protocol or fieldbus communication protocol.
Two or more Programmable Tank Cleaning Nozzles can be deployed in a single tank. Each nozzle can work independently or in concert to clean large, hard to reach areas more efficiently. The nozzles can also be synchronized together to vector a resultant stream at a single point of impingement. Multiple nozzles can create a networks of troughs, or pathways, such that waste can be effectively directed towards and into retrieval pumps. This reduces the use and loss of liquefiers, water or any other fluid used to clean large tanks.
While the preferred embodiment depicts a 2-axes invention, a plurality of axes can be employed in a single nozzle assembly 1 using a combination of any and/or all methods described within previously described embodiments. The degrees of freedom could include pan, tilt, elevate, rotate, azimuth, raise, lower, telescope, pitch, roll, yaw, forward, backward, up, down, or any other freedom of movement in three-dimensional space.
Although specific advantages have been enumerated above, various embodiments may include some, none, or all of the enumerated advantages.
Other technical advantages may become readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art after review of the following figures and description.
It should be understood at the outset that, although exemplary embodiments are illustrated in the figures and described below, the principles of the present disclosure may be implemented using any number of techniques, whether currently known or not. The present disclosure should in no way be limited to the exemplary implementations and techniques illustrated in the drawings and described below.
Unless otherwise specifically noted, articles depicted in the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale.
Modifications, additions, or omissions may be made to the systems, apparatuses, and methods described herein without departing from the scope of the disclosure. For example, the components of the systems and apparatuses may be integrated or separated. Moreover, the operations of the systems and apparatuses disclosed herein may be performed by more, fewer, or other components and the methods described may include more, fewer, or other steps. Additionally, steps may be performed in any suitable order. As used in this document, “each” refers to each member of a set or each member of a subset of a set.
To aid the Patent Office and any readers of any patent issued on this application in interpreting the claims appended hereto, applicants wish to note that they do not intend any of the appended claims or claim elements to invoke 35 U.S.C. 112(f) unless the words “means for” or “step for” are explicitly used in the particular claim.
The term “approximately” is similar to the term “about” and can be +/−10% of the amount referenced. Additionally, preferred amounts and ranges can include the amounts and ranges referenced without the prefix of being approximately.
While the invention has been described, disclosed, illustrated and shown in various terms of certain embodiments or modifications which it has presumed in practice, the scope of the invention is not intended to be, nor should it be deemed to be, limited thereby and such other modifications or embodiments as may be suggested by the teachings herein are particularly reserved especially as they fall within the breadth and scope of the claims here appended.