As a leader in the oil and gas industry, our client regularly performs deep offshore drilling. This process requires complex and sturdy equipment to extract the oil, especially the drill bits located at the end of the bore head. Each drill bit, which contains dozens of cutter heads and costs tens of thousands of dollars, goes through extreme amounts of wear and tear every time it’s operated.
To ensure these drill bits are consistently up to standard, they needed to be inspected both before and after operation. Prior to DMC’s help, this inspection process was lengthy, inefficient, and required a lot of manual input. Therefore, our client reached out to DMC to better automate the inspection process.
DMC’s development effort for this project can be broken down into two main components. The first subsystem DMC developed was a device-routing system controlled by a PLC to load and unload the drill bits into the inspection cells. This subsystem included a REST API to an orchestrator previously developed by the client that managed overall system sequencing. This API interfaced with the PLC to control servo drives to route and position drill bits accurately and efficiently.
The second subsystem DMC developed were cells to carry out the inspection operations. Each inspection cell consisted of a six-degree-of-freedom (DOF) UR10 robot arm and a rotary table, which is able to independently rotate the drill bit under inspection. The additional degree of freedom afforded by the rotary table allows for a greater functional workspace of the robot arm and therefore greater flexibility in inspection operations.
To coordinate the motion of the redundant DOF with the UR10 and perform inspection operations, DMC developed a Docker-based microservice. This microservice provided a REST API developed in collaboration with the client and exposed a set of operations to their orchestrator. This API included a variety of endpoints—most critically, a set of commands to load and execute inspection operations including point-to-point and scan-path motions.
The microservice then interfaced with Energid’s Actin SDK to generate specific joint commands to each hardware device. These commands were then relayed through Energid’s UR hardware plugin as well as a custom-developed, MQTT-based Actin hardware plugin to the rotary table. By wrapping and containerizing the Actin SDK’s motion control logic, the system was able to separate the inspection operations from hardware control and business logic. Inspection actions could then be triggered from simple REST endpoints without requiring any knowledge of the path planner or hardware control.
Within the inspection cell, cameras take RGB images of the drill bit at each orientation. These images are compiled and analyzed to detect damage at each of the around forty cutter heads. A laser scanner also generates a three-dimensional point cloud of the drill bit, which is used for analysis as well.
DMC’s solution not only made the inspection process more efficient and cost-effective, but also reliable and sustainable. By containerizing the inspection cell operations, DMC was able to work with the end client to develop a set of functional tests which could be executed on the inspection cell software by executing REST API calls in sequence. Additionally, by separating the hardware layer out as a set of well-defined communication interfaces to the control logic container, DMC was able to create virtual hardware which could be actuated from the container. Automated testing was further developed to integrate these functional tests with build pipelines including Jenkins.
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