Finding answers under pressure and keeping things flowing for customers
May 13, 2009— Mississauga, Ontario
Pressure Pipe Inspection Company (PPIC)
For most of us, out of sight means out of mind. For engineers at Pressure Pipe Inspection Company (PPIC), however, out of sight is their work environment.
PPIC is in the business of inspecting underground pipes used in municipal water and sewage systems. As the acknowledged global leader in the evaluation of water pipelines, PPIC provides clients with the information needed to fully understand the actual condition of their infrastructure. Based on these assessments, water supply system managers can establish a meaningful cost-savings plan for the rehabilitation and long-term maintenance of their lines.
PPIC is committed to working with the water industry to help set the standards for pipeline inspection and monitoring. They continue to bring new pipeline evaluation technologies to market by investing in R&D and working closely with external research partners.
The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) has played a key role in PPIC's innovation process. "As a Canadian company, we are fortunate to be able to access some fantastic innovation support programs from NRC-IRAP," says PPIC President and CEO Dr. Brian Mergelas.
"More than just the financial support, we have benefited through mentorship and advisory services from NRC-IRAP's Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA)," adds Mergelas. "Dr. Gopala Gowda, our ITA since 2003, has been involved throughout our innovation process and has provided valuable technical and business support in addition to key linkages and program referrals. His impressive expertise, knowledge and dedication to our success have enabled us to fully appreciate the value of the program."
Working closely with NRC-IRAP, PPIC has developed a clear roadmap for technology development and commercialization. The firm successfully completed three NRC-IRAP projects covering all PPIC's core services and technologies.
The first two projects were to advance PPIC's patented Remote Field Transformer Coupling (RFTC) and Acoustic Emission Testing (AET), which are complementary technologies for Pre-stressed Concrete Cylinder Pipes (PCCP). "RFTC checks for existing damage, and AET monitors the ongoing deterioration of a pipe in real time," explains Mergelas. "Both technologies take advantage of the actual construction of PCCP pipes which are reinforced with pre-stressed steel wires imbedded in the middle of the concrete."
Just as a hospital's MRI machine unobtrusively looks into the human body, PPIC has developed an unmanned RFTC pipe-crawling diagnostic tool that uses magnetic imaging to find breaks in the pre-stressed wires which encircle the concrete core of the pipe. The PipeCrawler tool, the first unmanned system using RFTC technology, can confirm the location, number and severity of breaks in the wire and let them choose between repairing, replacing, or just monitoring their pipes. PipeCrawler was part of the New Product Showcase at the 2005 American Water Works Association's annual conference and won NRC-IRAP Regional and National Awards for new technology in 2006.
Monitoring the ongoing deterioration of a wire break found by the PipeCrawler was the subject of another research project PPIC conducted through NRC-IRAP. PPIC has developed an acoustic system for monitoring the ongoing degradation of a pipe. This monitoring is done from the ground level and does not require a water utility to shut the system down. It passively monitors the acoustic signals sent through the pipe. With NRC-IRAP support, PPIC developed a remote and real time controlled AET monitoring system to reduce operating cost and improve the effectiveness of AET monitoring.
Most recently, PPIC completed the third IRAP project on advancements of Sahara leak detection technology. This unique system detects and pinpoints leaks in large diameter water pipelines. Using leak detection, water utilities reduce non-revenue water loss and sewer discharge, protect the environment, minimize their operational risk, and extend the safe and economic life of their pipelines - saving millions of dollars.
The benefits from NRC-IRAP supported R&D projects are immediate and significant, not only in achieving incremental revenue, but also in sourcing further R&D funding from other government agencies and even in acquiring external capital.
"We have seen significant incremental revenues as a result of NRC-IRAP support," says Mergelas. "It has made it easier to demonstrate our commitment to, and capability of, developing leading edge technologies and solutions for water industry when we were looking for external capital."
In fact, from 2005-2008, over $5 million in revenue can be directly attributed to NRC-IRAP related projects. "NRC-IRAP's unwavering support of our core technology development and the credibility it brings to the collaboration definitely strengthen our cases in securing funding from other sources," says Mergelas. "As a result of our continued success with NRC-IRAP, we were able to leverage over $3 million in R&D support from other government departments and clients and to close our first round of venture capital in 2008."
PPIC has also hired five highly qualified technical employees under NRC-IRAP's Youth Employment Program to meet the growing demands of inspection services.
"Working with NRC-IRAP has been a great experience and we look forward to more successes," says Dr. Brian Mergelas. "I'd advise any company involved in innovation to contact NRC-IRAP."
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