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New pipeline rehabilitation technology combines carbon fiber and robotics

California-based Fibrwrap Construction Inc. — construction arm of the Fyfe Group, manufacturer of fiber-reinforced polymer — was recently awarded a grant from The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to generate a prototype robot enabling the application of carbon-fiber reinforcement inside water transmission pipes. The goal is to facilitate trenchless repair and rehabilitation — even in small diameter pipes.

In December, NIST announced up to $71 million in funding through its Technology Innovation Program (TIP) for 20 new cost-sharing projects that will support innovative, high-risk research in novel technologies that address critical national needs.

And as an innovator in the field of carbon-fiber reinforcement and installation, Fibrwrap was awarded over $8 million by the NIST TIP to develop a robotic platform that will repair and retrofit deteriorating water mains nationwide.

In partnership with San Diego-based Fyfe Co. LLC and the University of California, Irvine, Fibrwrap’s prototype robotics will be used to apply high-strength fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) to the inside of aging water transmission pipelines.

Tyfo Fibrwrap FRP is designed to prevent pipes from bursting, collapsing or further deteriorating, and it is reported that when implemented, this new technology will perhaps contribute to saving communities $245 billion in lost opportunities and rebuilding of critical underground pipelines.

The Tyfo Carbon Fiber System has been used to strengthen pipelines for the past decade. But, the TIP plan will permit the system to be applied as much as ten times faster than manual application.

Heavily populated urban areas experience catastrophic water main breaks on a regular basis, emphasizing the compelling need for affordable repair solutions. When the robotic prototype is complete, it will adjust to a variety of pipe sizes and apply advance composite fiber more rapidly than human workers — even to problematic surfaces that are uneven and oddly shaped.

Thus far, the robotics approach has been attempted, but to no avail.

“The difference in this approach is the patent-pending technology and the strong team of joint venture partners, along with supporting members such as San Diego County Water Authority, East Bay Municipal Utilities District, District of Columbia Water and Sewer, and renowned engineers Simpson, Gumphertz and Heger,” says Heath Carr, chief executive officer of Fibrwrap. “The combination of expertise and cutting-edge robotics is taking the standardization of carbon fiber for advanced pipe retrofitting — including extended runs — to the next level.”

For more information, visit https://fibrwrapconstruction.com.

Project Stats
Active Project Members:
•Fibrwrap Construction Inc., Ontario, Calif. (Original, active member)
•Fyfe Co. LLC, San Diego. (Original, active member)
•The Regents of University of California, Irvine, Calif. (Original, active member)

Project duration: 5 years
Projected TIP contribution: $8.5 million
Total project cost (est.): $17.6 million