|Publication number||USRE38999 E1|
|Application number||US 09/783,447|
|Publication date||Mar 7, 2006|
|Filing date||Feb 14, 2001|
|Priority date||Apr 23, 1998|
|Also published as||US5992247|
|Publication number||09783447, 783447, US RE38999 E1, US RE38999E1, US-E1-RE38999, USRE38999 E1, USRE38999E1|
|Original Assignee||Aries Industries, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (27), Classifications (8), Legal Events (3)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The invention relates generally to sewer interior video inspection devices and more particularly to devices for inspecting lateral sewer pipes.
A prior art lateral inspection device is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,651,558. The lateral inspection device disclosed in that patent includes a cylindrical body housing a lateral camera, and a sled having a main camera mounted thereon. The device is towed through a sewer main with a tow cables attached to winches at the upstream and downstream manholes. An above-ground operator views the relative positions, of the lateral camera and an opening to a lateral sewer pipe at an extended distance through the main camera. When the lateral camera is close to the lateral sewer pipe opening, the cylindrical body is rotated to properly align the lateral camera with the opening to the lateral sewer pipe, and the lateral camera is pushed into the lateral sewer pipe with a hollow flexible push rod. All the necessary electrical transmission wiring and video and light power wiring for the lateral inspection camera is housed within the hollow center of the push rod.
Several problems with prior art lateral inspection devices, and particularly the one disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,651,558, have been discovered.
First, the prior art lateral inspection device is moved through the main sewer pipe by winches located at an upstream manhole and a downstream manhole. It is very difficult and time consuming to accurately position a lateral inspection device with such a two-winch system because of the long tow lines, the sewage flow in the main pipe, the extended tangential view of the lateral opening provided by the main camera, and the difficulty in coordinating two remotely positioned winches.
Second, the prior art main camera is mounted on a sled that is separate from the cylindrical body, and that is towed upstream of the cylindrical body. The main camera therefore faces backward with respect to the forward, upstream motion of the device through the main pipe. The prior art main camera does not transmit images of the lateral pipe opening until the main camera has already moved past the lateral pipe opening. Depending on the speed at which the device is towed through the main pipe, this may result in a short reaction time between the moment the lateral pipe opening is first seen, and the moment that a side camera opening in the cylindrical body aligns with the lateral pipe opening. Should the side camera opening of the device move past the lateral pipe opening, the device must be stopped and pulled backward downstream. As mentioned above, such fine adjustment is difficult with the prior art two-winch system.
A third drawback of the prior art device is that the device's cylindrical body substantially fills a typical main pipe through which the device is being towed. This partially obstructs the main camera's view of the relative positions of the lateral pipe opening and the side camera opening. Additionally, because the main camera is towed in front of the cylindrical body at an extended distance, the view of the lateral pipe opening is either non-existent or oblique. The prior art positioning of the main camera therefore creates a highly distorted view, making verification of actual insertion difficult or impossible. It is difficult to accurately align the side camera opening and the lateral sewer pipe opening under those conditions, and such alignment may involve some guesswork. In most cases, numerous attempts must be made before the prior art lateral camera is successfully inserted into the lateral sewer pipe opening.
The configuration of the prior art device makes viewing the insertion of the lateral cable into the lateral sewer pipe difficult or impossible. Therefore, the prior art device does not enable an operator to monitor the push cable's progress as the cable is inserted into the lateral sewer pipe. Lateral cameras are frequently submerged in sludge within the lateral sewer pipe, in which case the lateral camera view is temporarily interrupted. In the prior art device, the extended distance between the main camera and the lateral sewer pipe opening, and the oblique angle at which the main camera views the lateral sewer pipe opening, prevent the main camera from monitoring the lateral camera's progress in such a situation.
Another drawback discovered in the prior art device is that the side opening of the cylindrical body is essentially a curved chute that has a fixed orientation with respect to the cylindrical body. Consequently, the prior art device deploys the lateral camera through the side opening at a fixed, pre-set angle with respect to the cylindrical body. In some instances, the pre-set angle may not be the ideal angle for deploying the lateral camera into the lateral sewer pipe, or the prior art lateral camera may not be insertable at all at the pre-set angle.
Therefore, a need exists for a lateral inspection apparatus that is easily propelled along and controlled within the inside of a main sewer pipe, that accurately views the relative positions of a lateral pipe opening and a lateral inspection camera, and that allows accurate alignment of the lateral inspection camera and the lateral pipe opening.
The present invention provides an apparatus for inspecting lateral sewer pipes from a main sewer pipe. The main sewer pipe conducts a flow of sewage therethrough in a downstream direction, with an upstream direction being generally opposite the downstream direction.
The apparatus includes a propulsion motor for propelling the device along the inside of the main sewer pipe. The propulsion motor drives tractor treads or other friction members that interact with an inner surface of a main sewer pipe wall. The propulsion motor is operable in a forward gear setting in which the motor propels the apparatus in the upstream direction through forward rotation of the tractor treads. The propulsion motor is also operable in a reverse gear setting in which the motor propels the apparatus in the downstream direction through reverse rotation of the tractor treads. The propulsion motor also has a neutral setting in which the motor does not rotate the tractor treads, and allows the tractor treads to rotate in either the forward or reverse direction so that the apparatus can be dragged from the main sewer pipe if necessary. The apparatus is therefore self-propelled and removes the need for a two-winch system.
A main camera is interconnected with a launch chute assembly on a front end of the apparatus, allowing an operator in a remote control station to view upcoming lateral pipe openings. A lateral inspection camera is supported by a chute member of the launch chute assembly in a retracted position at the front of the apparatus. The operator is able to view the relative positions of the lateral inspection camera and the lateral pipe opening with the main camera. Because the main camera and the lateral camera are positioned adjacent to one another on the front end of the apparatus, the main camera's view of the lateral camera and the lateral pipe opening are unobstructed by the apparatus during insertion. Also, the main camera of the present invention views the opening to the lateral sewer pipe at a favorable angle for accurate positioning and insertion of the lateral camera.
When the apparatus has advance the proper distance along the main pipe to position the lateral camera near the lateral pipe opening, the propulsion motor is turned off and left in forward gear. When left in forward gear, the motor will resist reverse rotation of the tractor trends. A rotate motor rotates the launch chute assembly about a longitudinal axis of the apparatus, rotating the main camera with the launch chute assembly. A tilt motor tilts the chute member and the lateral inspection camera about a transverse axis that is substantially normal to the longitudinal axis.
This tilting and rotating motion allows precise alignment of the lateral camera and the lateral pipe opening. The rotate and tilt motors together allow fractional inch movement of the launch chute assembly and the lateral camera in forward, reverse, and angular directions.
Because the main camera and the lateral camera are both supported on the launch chute assembly, and the main camera is rotated about the longitudinal axis with the launch chute assembly, the lateral camera remains positioned in from of the main camera while the lateral camera is in the fully retracted position. The apparatus of the present invention therefore better facilitates alignment of the lateral pipe opening and the lateral camera than prior art lateral inspection devices.
The lateral inspection camera is connected to a push rod cable comprising a flexible fiberglass rod core with all necessary transmission wiring for the lateral camera disposed along an outer surface of the fiberglass rod. A resilient shell encases the transmission wiring and the fiberglass rod, and defines a resilient outer surface of the push rod cable.
A drive system for inserting and retracting the push rod cable with respect to the lateral sewer pipe comprises a drive motor operably interconnected to at least one drive gear having drive gear teeth. At least one pressure roller presses the push rod cable against the at least one drive gear causing the drive gear teeth to impinge on the resilient casing. The drive motor is capable of rotating the at least one drive gear in either an insertion direction or a retraction direction which causes respective insertion and retraction of the push rod cable with respect to the lateral sewer pipe. The drive motor is a gear motor that locks the at least one drive gear when the drive motor is turned off.
Routinely the lateral inspection camera encounters an obstruction in the lateral sewer pipe, and the drive motor is unable to push the lateral camera past the obstruction. In this case, the drive motor may be turned off, thereby locking the at least one drive gear. Then the propulsion motor may be engaged to move the apparatus in the forward direction and reverse direction in rapid succession, thereby ramming the lateral inspection camera against the obstruction. The propulsion motor is more powerful that the drive motor, and therefore is able to overcome many obstacles that cannot be overcome by the drive motor.
The lateral camera is further assisted and caused to roll or twist by rotating and tilting the launch chute assembly. Therefore, the rotate and tilt motors are also used to overcome obstacles encountered within the lateral sewer pipe.
Prior art devices using a two-winch system are unable to properly coordinate this rapid forward and reverse motion because of the difficulty of coordinating the winches and closely controlling the amount of forward and reverse motion.
The lateral inspection apparatus 10, which in the preferred embodiment is a tractor, is inserted into the main pipe 12 through a manhole or sewer access conduit 20 downstream of the lateral sewer pipe 14 to be inspected. A supply cable 22 interconnects the remote control station 18 with the tractor 10. As described below, the supply cable 22 includes all the power and video wiring for the various motors, cameras, and lights of the tractor 10.
As seen in
The friction members 58 may be any means for propelling the apparatus 10 along the inside of the main pipe 12. For example, the friction members 58 may be suction caps, wheels, legs, rollers, claws, belts, or any other movable member that frictionally interacts with an inner surface 62 of a main pipe wall 64 (see FIGS. 1 and 9).
The propulsion motor 36 is also operable in a reverse gear setting in which the motor 36 rotates the drive shaft 50 and tractor treads 58 in the reverse direction 54. Reverse rotation of the tractor treads 58 propels the tractor 10 in a reverse direction that is generally the same as the downstream direction 16. In this regard, the tractor 10 is a self-propelled tractor capable of forward and reverse movement under power. Because the tractor 10 is self-propelled, the tractor motor 36 can be used to easily and quickly change the direction of the tractor's movement between the forward direction 66 and the reverse direction 16.
When the propulsion motor is turned off and left in the forward gear or the reverse gear setting, the motor will resist reverse or forward rotation respectively. A free-wheeling clutch 68 is also provided that allows the tractor treads 58 to freely rotate in the forward and reverse direction 52, 54 when the tractor motor 36 is in a neutral setting.
As seen in
As seen in
Referring again to
As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 5-13, the launch chute assembly 38 aligns the lateral camera 44 with a lateral sewer pipe opening 80, and the drive assembly 40 inserts and removes the push rod cable 46 and lateral camera 44 with respect to the lateral sewer pipe 14. The launch assembly includes three launch motors: a drive motor 82; a rotate motor 84; and a tilt motor 86.
Referring now to
As seen in
Although the preferred embodiment includes drive gears 100, 102, 104, other embodiments may use suitable friction pressure rollers in place of the drive gears. Such pressure rollers would act on the push rod cable by way of surface friction instead of impinging on the surface of the shell 78.
Referring now to
As best seen in
As seen in
The launch chute assembly 38 also includes a third bracket or pinion arm 168 that is connected at a first end to the second bracket 148, and that is pivotal about a second transverse axis of rotation 170 (see
The second and third brackets 148, 168 are pivoted with respect to each other about the second transverse axis of rotation 170. The third bracket 168 and the second transverse axis of rotation 170 rotate with the first and second brackets 138, 148 and the first transverse axis of rotation 150 about the longitudinal axis 34, with the second axis of rotation 170 remaining substantially normal to the longitudinal axis 34 and substantially parallel to the first axis of rotation 150.
As best shown in
With reference to
When the tilt motor 86 drives the drive screw 180 in the raise direction 184, the pinion bar 176 moves along the threaded drive screw 180 toward the tilt motor 86, causing the third bracket 168 to push against the second bracket 148. This causes the second bracket 148 to rotate about the first transverse axis of rotation 150, thereby tilting the second bracket 148 and raising the lateral camera 44 with respect to the tractor longitudinal axis 34. When the tilt motor 86 drives the drive screw 180 in the lower direction 186, the pinion bar 176 moves along the drive screw 180 away from the tilt motor 86, causing the second bracket 148 to lower the lateral camera 44.
The first cable 200 includes a camera power line, a lights power line, a video line, and a control line. The first tractor cable 200 is interconnected with a tone relay 214 that is mounted on the frame 24 of the tractor 10. The tone relay 214 includes a tone decoder, a bank of relay drivers, and a camera select relay. The tone relay reacts to tones sent down the control line in a similar fashion to automated touch tone phone services.
The camera power line, the lights power line, and the video line are wired into the camera select relay. When a signal is sent down the control line from the remote control station, the tone relay 214 decodes the signal, and sends the signal to the relay drivers. The relay drivers instruct the camera select relay to feed camera power and lights power to one of the main camera 42 and the lateral camera 44. The relay drivers also instruct the camera select relay to receive video signals from one of the main camera 42 and the lateral camera 42.
The second cable 202 and second tractor cable 208 deliver power to the tractor motor 36, allowing the tractor motor 36 to drive the tractor treads in the forward or reverse direction as described above.
The third cable 204 includes a launch motor power supply for the launch motors. The launch motor power supply is interconnected with the tone relay 214 through the third tractor cable 210. The tone relay 214 further includes a drive relay, a tilt relay, and a rotate relay. Electrical conduit 220 connects the drive relay to the drive motor 82, the tilt relay to the tilt motor 86, and the rotate relay to the rotate motor 84.
Based on the signal sent through the control line of the first cable 200, the tone relay 214 instructs the relay drivers to energize one of the drive relay, tilt relay, and rotate relay. This operates the drive motor 82, tilt motor 86, or rotate motor 84, respectively, under power in a selected direction.
In this regard, only one of the main and the lateral camera 42, 44 can be operated at one time, and only one of the launch motors can be operated at one time in the preferred embodiment. However, it is within the scope of the invention to provide sufficient camera power, camera lights power, and video wiring lines through the supply cable to operate all motors and cameras simultaneously. The tractor motor operates independently of the launch motors in the preferred embodiments.
In the preferred embodiment, the tractor 10 operates in the following manner. An operator at the remote control station 18 views the inside of the main pipe 12, the lateral camera 44, and the upcoming lateral sewer pipe opening 80 through the main camera 42. The tractor 10, with the lateral camera 44 in the fully retracted position, is propelled by the tractor motor 36 and tractor treads 58 in the forward or reverse direction 66, 16 until the lateral camera 44 is positioned near the opening 80 the lateral pipe. Then the tractor motor 10 is disengaged, and the tractor motor left in forward gear to lock the tractor 10 against movement in the downstream direction 16.
The rotate 84 is then engaged to rotate the launch chute assembly 38 about longitudinal axis 34 until the lateral camera 44 is generally adjacent the opening 80 as seen through the main camera 42. If further adjustment is necessary, the tilt motor 86 is engaged, causing the drive screw 180 to rotate and the pinion arm 176 to move along drive screw 180. In this manner, the lateral camera 44 is raised and lowered with respect to the tractor longitudinal axis 34.
Then the drive motor 82 is engaged, rotating the drive gears 100, 102, 104 in the insertion direction 116 to push the lateral camera 44 into the lateral sewer pipe 14. Once the operator at the remote control station 18 has confirmed that the lateral camera 44 has been properly inserted in to the lateral sewer pipe 14, the operator sends a signal down the control line to switch the video signal from that of the main camera 42 to that of the lateral video camera 44.
The drive motor 82 continues to rotate the drive gears 100, 102, 104 in the insertion direction 116 and the lateral sewer pipe 14 is examined for cracks. If the lateral, camera 44 encounters an obstruction, such as a root, a clog of waste material, or a misaligned joint, that the drive motor 82 is unable to overcome, the drive motor 82 is disengaged, thereby locking the drive motor 82 and drive gears 100, 102, 104 from rotating in the insertion and retraction directions 116, 118.
Then the tractor motor 36 is engaged and used to propel the tractor 10 in the reverse direction 16 a small amount, on the order of one or two feet, and then in the forward direction 66 in rapid succession. In this manner, the tractor 10 is used to ram the push rod cable 46 and lateral camera 44 into the lateral sewer pipe 14 and against the obstruction. The tractor motor 36 is more powerful than the drive motor 82, and is therefore better able to overcome obstacles in the lateral sewer pipe 14. The tractor motor 36 may be rapidly switched between the reverse gear and forward gear settings several times to facilitate ramming the lateral camera 44 through or past the obstruction.
The lateral camera 44 is further assisted and caused to roll or twist by rotating and tilting the launch chute assembly 38. Therefore, the rotate and tilt motors 84, 86 are also used to overcome obstacles encountered within the lateral sewer pipe 14.
Although particular embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, other alternative embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art and are within the intended scope of the present invention. Thus, the present invention is to be limited only by the following claims.
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|International Classification||G01M99/00, G01M3/00, G01M3/38|
|Cooperative Classification||G01M3/38, G01M3/005|
|European Classification||G01M3/38, G01M3/00C|
|May 30, 2007||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8
|Jul 4, 2011||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|Nov 25, 2011||LAPS||Lapse for failure to pay maintenance fees|