Automated Robotic Heat Exchanger Tube Cleaning and Inspection Machine

Technology #ua14-185

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Daniel Mccrady
Manager, Energy Management Technology, Facilities Mgmt
Alan Wall
Staff Technician, Senior, Facilities Mgmt-Utilities
Managed By
Robert Sleeper
Licensing Manager (520) 626-4604


This invention consists of an automated machine to clean each individual tubes on a chiller condenser barrels with minimal operator input. The invention works by mounting a typical manual tube punching device onto a mobile frame, which utilizes imaging technology to determine the location and accessibility of a tube. It then automatically maneuvers the punching device in place, cleans the tube, and repeats this process with the next tube. The invention also implements sensors to determine if either the punching device or tube is damaged and needs replacement.


Chillers are machines that remove heat from a fluid. They are often utilized as a central component of air conditioning systems, among other uses. One of the more common types of chiller utilizes water flowing up through a collection of to several hundred (or more) tubes inside a condenser. However, over time these tubes experience a buildup of sediments and minerals, lowering the efficiency of the individual tubes and can affect the system as a whole. Typically, this is remedied by cleaning the tubes using a method referred to as “tube punching.” In this process, the chiller is deactivated and partially disassembled to expose the tubes, and then an operator uses a device to manually clean each individual tube. Because there are so many tubes, this is often a lengthy process, taking upwards of 72 man-hours, often at a premium price. .


  • Large scale HVAC chillers in buildings and marine applications, and ice rink chillers
  • Tube style Heat Exchangers
  • Power plants, factories, ships, and refineries


  • Minimal operator input, meaning significantly reduced cost of operation
  • Facilitates regular maintenance that increases overall energy unit efficiency through increased power availability and water usage
  • Utilizes commercial standard tube punching bush-type cleaning device
  • Integral cameras provide pre and post cleaning results data for use in condition confirmation and health monitoring feedback
  • Can detect tubes that may be in danger of failing, allowing prompt replacement
  • Utilizes mobile Ap to remotely communicate with technicians
  • Cleans every functional tube, every time
  • Not specific to a single chiller model; easily adaptable to other types


Alan Wall

Dan McCrady


Robert Sleeper, J.D.

Licensing Manager, College of Engineering

University of Arizona, Tech Launch Arizona

O: 520-626-4604