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Reinventing the lateral connection cutter
Ever since pipe lining technology was invented, there has been a need to reopen lateral connections. Until now this has been achieved in the main using remotely controlled robotic cutters located and operating inside the newly lined pipe. The increasing utilisation of lining techniques in the smaller diameter pipe market, such as down pipes within buildings and small diameter drainage, has meant it has become increasingly difficult to utilise this type of remotely controlled robotic cutter on lateral connections, in particular in the vertical plane and with the introduction of very small diameter liners down to 50 mm.
To address this dilemma, over the past four years Finland-based drainage contractor and pipelines solutions provider Picote Oy Ltd, has developed and utilised across the Finnish small diameter pipe lining market, a completely new concept in lateral reopening cutter. Known as the Smart Cutter™ System, the new cutter operates not from within the lined host pipe, but from the lateral itself.

Whereas previously pipe surveys had to be completed to locate and plot the position of lateral connections to allow accurate location of the reopening robot once lining was completed (with a skilled and experienced robot operator), now once the lining is completed lateral reopening can take place without the need to enter along the lined pipe. To date, the system has been utilised to reopen over 11,000 lateral connections, so comes with a significant and proven track record of success.
The patent-pending Smart Cutter™ system is a manually operated cutting/grinding device. Powered using milling machines manufactured by Picote or simply by utilising a correctly set up hand drill, the cutting/grinding head of the system is simple to configure to the pipe diameter in question. The correct Smart Cutter™ hub is selected by determining the pipe diameter and the number and angle of bends in the pipe. Side grinding panels are loaded into slots in the hub; these are then held in position with initially the front facing cutter that will make the cut through the liner. The cutter assembly is then inserted into the customer side of the lateral being reopened and extended into the lateral to the liner itself. 
Power is then applied rotating the cutter/grinder hub which is pushed against the liner material to commence the ‘cut’. A range of cutter heads has been designed to cut various liner materials quickly and easily without damage to any part of the liner in the host pipe. Once the cutter has passed through the liner wall, the assembly is removed from the pipe and the cutter is replaced with a blank end. Whilst keeping the grinding panels in place, this further prevents any damage to the liner inside the host pipe because there is now no cutting capacity at the front of the hub. 
The grinding panels then come into play. The hub is now inserted back into the lateral and powered up. The rotating panels then grind away the remainder of the liner covering the lateral connection back to the original pipe material completing the reopening process. The whole process to reopen a connection takes typically 5 to 10 minutes.
In circumstances where there has been a build-up of resin in the lateral as the liner installation and cure took place, the Smart Cutter™ can be reversed by changing the direction that the grinder panels face. Further to this, a bias can also be applied to the grinding operation using a variety of weighted attachments that can be added to the front of the hub or by attaching a steering wire which can apply a directional pull from within the lined pipe.
The Smart Cutter™ is currently applicable to lateral pipes of DN 30 to DN 150. However, systems for larger diameters are now in development and are due for release shortly. Other recent innovations include the introduction of an aluminium hub to complement the standard stainless steel hub and make the working head lighter and easier to handle at larger diameters. Working with Picote’s range of miller units, the Smart Cutter™ can operate over distances of up to 40 m should the need arise, and the lateral connection length be of this order.
Currently the Smart Cutter™ is available worldwide through Picote’s approved reseller, Germany-based Brawoliner. The system is available both as a full set of equipment or as a starter set for smaller operations or customised for specific diameter ranges. The full equipment set comprises two ‘tool’ boxes which contain a full range of hubs, cutters, blank ends, tools and grinding panels. The starter kit comprises one hub and a selection of parts. Specific diameter kits can also be tailor made to match customers’ specific requirements.
According to Smart Cutter™ System developer and CEO of Picote Oy Ltd, Mika Lokkinen: “Picote has been working in the pipe rehabilitation sector for many years on pipes from DN 50 to DN 250.The company has provided quick, effective and low cost solutions to the market both in terms of contracting ability and product development. The growth in the small diameter lining market highlighted a gap in the market for a new type of cutter system to eliminate the difficulties associated with reopening small lateral connections from inside the lined host pipe, particularly in vertical pipe systems. So we decided to work on answering that requirement. Out of this research and development the Smart Cutter™ was born. Having tested the product extensively on our own lining operations, and with other Finnish contractors to prove its effectiveness in the field, we are now opening up the product’s availability to the rest of the world.”
Commenting on The Smart Cutters official launch to the international market by Brawoliner at the recent IFAT event in Munich, he added: “We were extremely happy to see the positive reaction at IFAT. Brawoliner did a great job introducing the new cutter system to the international clientele and there was a lot of interest. Naturally this has successfully impacted on our sales too.” 
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Email: sales@picote.fi
Website: www.picotesolutions.fi