When you wake up sleepy-eyed and rumple-haired in the morning, making a beeline to fill the coffee pot while brushing your teeth at the same time (okay, maybe you don’t all multi-task like I do, but you get my drift), you are probably not thinking about water usage. You are thinking about twenty other things, while depending unconsciously on water. Without it, your morning (afternoon, or evening) would come to a screeching halt.
An incredible amount of work goes into that simple flow of water that comes out of the tap every day, all day. Maintenance is a huge machine to handle all in itself, and one can only imagine how challenging that probably is in areas of the UK where water systems may be quite old in origin.
Thames Water, of the UK, is the UK’s largest water and wastewater services company. Many of their cast iron water mains are indeed located in areas of London and the Thames Valley that are the oldest around–and they are in need of maintenance as parts are degrading.
Mixing very old with the very new, Thames Water shows just how unafraid they are of contemporary changes and technology in their latest undertaking to streamline maintenance of smaller distribution mains that have been wearing out for over 15 years, and now, larger trunk mains which are becoming a problem as well.
“A burst in just one of our trunk mains can leave thousands of customers without water, cause major flooding and disrupt transport routes,” states the team.
With such a serious consideration at hand, Thames Water had to take serious measures to prevent such outages, and in doing so, they had already begun researching alternatives, as well as using a Konica-Minolta Vivid system to map corrosion in small diameter (4-8”) pipes. That system was simply not enough to handle what was developing into a growing job, however.
“It’s costly to replace pipes, so we need to prioritize the riskiest ones,” said Dr. Tim Evans, water network innovation manager, explaining how new technology is paving the way for a more sustainable replacement approach. “A big challenge with cast iron is that it corrodes unevenly and the corrosion is very hard to detect. Traditionally we’ve assessed the condition of a water main by cutting out a short length of pipe, sand-blasting it to remove the corrosion, then measuring the resulting craters by hand. But taking pipe cut-outs is disruptive for customers and road users, and expensive for Thames Water.”
“To remove the need for pipe cut-outs we’ve started to use non-destructive testing (NDT) technology, such as ultrasound; it’s similar to pregnancy scans, except we’re looking for corrosion instead of babies!”
Their hope for the future is to be able to use a device in the water main that is capable of gathering all the NDT condition data at once, rather than in ‘short excavations.’
For a project of this scope, the team was well aware that they would need a handheld scanner that could handle an industrial job. After some searching, they settled on the Artec Eva. Manufactured by Artec3D, both the Eva and other scanners made by the manufacturer are tools that we’ve covered on numerous occasions from enormous scanning projects in cataloging ancient artifacts for museums to innovative new hardware and software packages.
Patrick Thorn & Co., Thames Water’s local Artec specialist, collaborated with the water company in performing a test. They used the Artec Eva to 3D scan a large pipe section to see if the scanner was the tool they might be looking for. Not only was it the most able, but the Eva 3D scanner was also the most cost-effective–and user-friendly, as evidenced by the entire team learning how to use it in a comprehensive manner. They also learned how to use the associated software, and are able to perform detailed analysis.
Since the Eva has arrived on the scene, the Thames Water team reports that researcher Alex Rainer has been working with them, as well as the University of Surrey, in ‘developing a methodology’ that uses the scanner, accompanying software, along with visual textures to make 3D models of the pipes being built.
With the Eva 3D scanner, Thames Water is experiencing benefits which would have been previously unattainable. In processing data that allows them to compare models both before and after corrosion is removed, they are to assess corrosion levels with great accuracy, using the Eva scans as a baseline. This is all performed under quality conditions, with speed, accuracy, and great affordability.