Nuclear AMRC helping Westinghouse cut SMR costs and lead times

The Nuclear AMRC is continuing to work with Westinghouse Electric Company to reduce build lead times for the US group’s small modular reactor (SMR).

Nuclear AMRC engineers are working with Westinghouse and modular construction specialists from Cammell Laird on a new advanced manufacturing study. The study will explore potential design efficiencies which can reduce costs to customers while promoting growth in manufacturing within the UK.

“The Westinghouse SMR is an innovative, industry-leading technology that builds upon the company’s extensive reactor and fuel technology expertise,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president for new plants and major projects. “The Nuclear AMRC has broad experience in design for the manufacture of large, complex parts for safety-critical applications, and its support will help to increase the efficiency of our design, while building on our specialised UK value proposition.”

Westinghouse SMR with logo

The study follows an initial advanced manufacturing study on the Westinghouse SMR reactor pressure vessel, one of the largest and most demanding parts of any reactor. That study, completed in April 2016, demonstrated that Westinghouse’s design had the potential to be efficiently manufactured in the UK.

The new study will focus on how the SMR design can allow for greater production efficiency through modular assembly techniques.

“Greater R&D focus on technologies surrounding SMR manufacture will reduce the risk, minimise the lead times, while significantly optimising cost and quality delivery performance,” said Mike Tynan, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC. “Design for assembly is one such area of interest which has the potential to significantly reduce construction costs and time, by minimising the amount of labour required on site.”

Heavy engineering group Cammell Laird has also been engaged by Westinghouse to work on the study.

“Cammell Laird has over 40 years’ experience in the design, manufacture, assembly and transport of large complex modules to a number of safety-critical sectors,” said Jonathan Brown, managing director of the Merseyside-based group. “We are pleased to bring this knowledge to support the Nuclear AMRC in undertaking the nuclear module study for Westinghouse.”

Westinghouse says that the study further demonstrates its commitment to partnering with the UK government to deploy the company’s SMR technology, and move the UK from buyer to global provider of the latest nuclear energy technology. Westinghouse also proposes to manufacture fuel for its SMR at its Springfields site in Lancashire.

Nuclear AMRC awarded Athena Swan bronze

The Nuclear AMRC’s commitment to supporting women in engineering and research has been recognised with the Athena Swan bronze award.

The Athena Swan scheme recognises commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering and related fields at universities and research institutions. The bronze award recognises that an institution has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.

“I’m absolutely delighted that the people of the Nuclear AMRC have been recognised through the Athena Swan bronze award for their dedication and commitment to providing a working environment that is free from gender bias, recognises the value of the individual, and promotes the unconditional trust and respect needed for true potential to be liberated,” says Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC.

“In a business dominated by technology, the Athena Swan bronze award is a prized possession that reminds us that our greatest asset is our people. To build a team that plays a lead role in the creation of a new era of civil nuclear power in the UK requires that talent is unleashed and is unfettered by prejudice and bias. This is the value of Athena Swan – it is a way of doing business rather than simply an award to be gained.”

Athena Swan team

The Athena Swan application was prepared over the past year by a team from all parts of the Nuclear AMRC, led by technology researcher Dr Kathryn Jackson.

“Equality is good for the nuclear industry, it’s good for the manufacturing research, and it’s good for engineering, which are all areas where women are under-represented and where we’re at the intersection,” Jackson says. “Our remit is to help UK industry win work in civil nuclear, and the nuclear industry has got a higher proportion of men than any other power generation sector, because it’s largely a legacy workforce. If we’re leading in manufacturing research, it makes sense we should be leading the cultural change as well.”

Athena Swan bronze awardThe Nuclear AMRC will now implement the action plan prepared for the application, with the aim of applying for the Athena Swan silver award by 2020. “We’ve highlighted everywhere we’re doing things well where we need to continue, and everywhere we need to do things better,” Jackson says. “There’s a lot of work to do and there’s no shortcutting as we have to demonstrate we have made significant improvements.”

“The bronze award acknowledges that we are on a journey to excellence,” Tynan adds. “My expectation is that Nuclear AMRC will continue to improve the opportunities for gender minorities in the nuclear industry and try to ensure that we access the extraordinary talent that exists in this country to deliver innovative and safe civil nuclear power for generations to come.”

 

100th UK manufacturer achieves Fit For Nuclear

Precision engineering group Paul Fabrications has become the 100th UK manufacturing company to prove its readiness for civil nuclear work through the Nuclear AMRC’s Fit For Nuclear programme.

Fit For Nuclear (F4N) is a unique service to help manufacturing companies test and develop their readiness to bid for work in the civil nuclear supply chain. F4N is delivered exclusively by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC), part of the national High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and is supported by top-tier partners in nuclear new build and decommissioning.

Paul Fabrications – based in Castle Donington, near Derby, and part of the global AGC AeroComposites group – is the 100th company to complete the F4N programme by benchmarking its performance against the standards demanded by the civil nuclear industry’s top tiers, and driving business improvements through a tailored action plan.

Paul laser

Paul Fabrications has over 50 years’ experience in the civil nuclear sector, and currently specialises in manufacturing intricate components for the fuel assemblies used in the UK’s current fleet of advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs). With the AGR fleet approaching the end of its service life, the company is looking to replace this revenue stream and increase its offering to the wider nuclear industry.

“The pressure on us is to look for new work in the nuclear sector,” says Peter Tryner, nuclear operations manager at Paul Fabrications. “There’s a world of work to be had in the nuclear area that we have the capabilities on this site to do.”

F4N support has helped the company drive continuing improvements to its business processes, and understand the opportunities of the wider nuclear market including new build and decommissioning. F4N also gives Paul Fabrications an industry-recognised hallmark to demonstrate its readiness for nuclear work, and allows the firm to tap into the Nuclear AMRC’s collaborative network and sector expertise to help identify opportunities and build new relationships with potential clients.

“Fit For Nuclear has opened some doors for us which we have not really been privy to in the past,” says Wayne Exton, chief executive officer at AGC AeroComposites. “This is a relatively slow-moving industry compared to others, but we have been part of the nuclear sector for a long time, we want to be part of it, and we’re prepared to invest. Our knowledge is growing as we go through Fit For Nuclear, and I hope in the next two or three years we should start to see some new opportunities.”

Paul workshop

Martin Ride, lead nuclear specialist for the F4N programme, comments: “Paul Fabrications is a tremendous Fit For Nuclear company, with a clear understanding of what it really takes to work in nuclear. By building on its experience of working for a leading UK customer in the current nuclear fleet, the company has set a very high standard. With a dedicated and extremely well-organised and managed nuclear capability, I’m confident that the Paul Fabrications team are well placed to meet requirements for light-to-medium sized precision fabrication and high tolerance components across the nuclear industry.”

Since the programme’s launch in 2011, over 500 UK manufacturers have taken the initial F4N online assessment. Completing the programme requires commitment and drive from senior managers, and typically takes 12–18 months. Successful participants range from contract manufacturers with no nuclear experience aiming to take a first step into the sector, to established suppliers wanting to benchmark their position and drive business excellence.

“With the UK’s nuclear new build programme moving forwards with the go-ahead for Hinkley Point C, and the decommissioning programme offering around £1.5 billion of supply chain opportunities a year, there are huge opportunities for UK manufacturers in the nuclear sector,” says Martin Ride. “It’s a challenging market, but Fit For Nuclear gives you the support you need to understand the opportunities and challenges, develop your capabilities, and ultimately win work.”

  • The Nuclear AMRC is launching a new series of regional events to introduce even more UK manufacturers to the support available through Fit For Nuclear. The first events are on 20 October in South Yorkshire, and 1 November in the West Midlands. For full details, see the F4N nuclear strategy events page.

Slashing the cost of waste box manufacture

The Nuclear AMRC is working with Sellafield Ltd to slash the cost of making future designs of waste container boxes, potentially saving hundreds of millions of pounds in decommissioning costs.

The clean-up programme at Sellafield and the other sites managed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will need tens of thousands of special steel boxes over the next 30 years to safely store and dispose of hazardous waste. The current design is a standardised 3m3 stainless steel box which can be stacked for long-term storage.

Making these boxes using current manufacturing techniques is an expensive business, with each one costing tens of thousands of pounds to produce. Sellafield Ltd is driving a project to significantly reduce that cost, and tasked engineers at the Nuclear AMRC to help come up with solutions which could save the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds over the lifetime of the programme.

“This is a challenging project requiring a fully multi-disciplinary approach, bringing together many areas of research, with the potential to deliver significant savings to industry,” says Stuart Dawson, Nuclear AMRC operations director. “With our world-leading capabilities and expertise, the Nuclear AMRC is uniquely positioned to address such complex manufacturing problems for demanding sectors like decommissioning.”

The research focuses on the two most promising routes for cost reduction identified by Sellafield Ltd – optimising and automating welding of the container; and producing the lid flanges by casting instead of machining.

In the first phase of research, Nuclear AMRC research engineers worked alongside a specialist welding engineer from Sellafield Ltd, Jade Leonard, to investigate new approaches including fully automated welding and inspection. The complex design of the boxes means that many joints are not easily accessible to current mechanical welding tools, so the team investigated small flexible welding heads that can fit into tight spaces and weld in several directions using a range of welding technologies.

The team are focusing on the highly corrosion-resistant duplex 2205 stainless steel, which can present significant challenges during manufacturing.

“We have to control the heat that’s applied during welding, because that can affect the metallurgy of the steel,” says Leonard. “Duplex has a 50:50 mix of ferritic and austenitic steel, and we need to be careful that we maintain that balance because that affects corrosion resistance.”

The team have completed initial trials with a range of arc and laser welding technologies, using equipment at the Nuclear AMRC and at specialist welding partners, and identified the most promising for further development. In the ongoing second phase, the welding team are using the chosen technologies to produce more complex representative testpieces.

Duplex steel’s high strength also makes components difficult to machine. High residual stresses in the material can lead to changes in geometry when it’s machined or welded.

“This stress relief is extremely difficult to prevent or to even predict accurately, meaning that the precise geometry of the box components is very difficult to control as they progress through the manufacturing process,” says Dave Stoddart, Nuclear AMRC technology lead for integrated manufacturing.

3m3 box robot

The Nuclear AMRC has installed a new robotic cell to develop automated inspection techniques which can ensure that boxes produced with new techniques meet specification. The six-axis robot arm carries a photogrammetry head, which rapidly builds up a detailed three-dimensional image of the box’s geometry. The automated cell then analyses this model and identifies any distortions or defects within minutes, rather than the days needed for inspection on a traditional coordinate measuring machine (CMM).

To investigate new casting techniques for the top flange, the Nuclear AMRC called on the specialist expertise of AMRC Castings – part of its sister centre, the University of Sheffield’s AMRC with Boeing.

The top flange, a large and complex hollow square with four corner lifting features, is currently produced by machining from a solid block, with most of the expensive high-grade alloy being cut away.

AMRC Castings investigated whether the complex shape could instead be cast as a single item. Using the centre’s Replicast ceramic mould technology, the team successfully cast two highly accurate, one-piece prototype frames. The frames have passed material and metallurgical testing, and exhibited a superior surface finish.

3m3 casting lift

“Using a near-net shape casting optimises metal use, saves a massive amount of work, and significantly reduces the task of inspecting the finished product to make sure it meets stringent nuclear standards,” says Richard Gould, commercial manager at AMRC Castings.

The Nuclear AMRC’s machining group will now investigate how the cast part can be finished to the final precise specifications, while maintaining geometrical accuracy and surface integrity.

The research is part-funded by the Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth (CNSIG) programme, which aims to develop the UK manufacturing supply chain for civil nuclear with support from the Regional Growth Fund. The results will be shared with UK manufacturers which can produce the boxes to the required specifications.

Fit For Nuclear advisors hit the road

Five manufacturing experts have joined the Fit For Nuclear team to help even more UK companies get ready to win work in the civil nuclear sector.

Fit For Nuclear (F4N) is a unique service to help UK manufacturing companies get ready to bid for work in the civil nuclear supply chain, developed and delivered exclusively by the Nuclear AMRC.

Paul Cook, John Olver, John Coleman, Stephen Linley and Huw Jenkins have joined the Nuclear AMRC as dedicated F4N advisors. All have previously been involved with the F4N programme – Cook since the programme’s inception in 2011, and the others through the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), which has now been wound down.

F4N advisors

“We’ve all worked with manufacturing companies, and a lot of us have run our own businesses. We’ve been there and done it, and can empathise with companies,” says Linley. “We’ve all learned a lot about the nuclear industry through F4N, and can now use our skills to help more manufacturers succeed in nuclear.”

After intense training with the Nuclear AMRC’s lead supply chain consultant Martin Ride, the five are now hitting the road to identify and support manufacturers who could join the nuclear supply chain.

“We’ll be on site with clients, taking them through their journeys, and introducing them to what the nuclear industry expects from their potential suppliers,” says Coleman. “There’s a lot of really excellent companies out there still. Part of our role is uncovering those companies, and then helping them develop themselves for the nuclear industry.”

“F4N is not for everybody, but it is identifying where there’s excellence and capability that can be developed to make a real contribution to the supply chain,” notes Jenkins. “It’s about working with companies that really want to develop themselves.”

Hundreds of companies have already taken the F4N assessment over the past five years, with almost 100 completing their journey after driving business improvements through a tailored action plan. Participating companies range from contract manufacturers with no nuclear experience aiming to take a first step into the sector, to established suppliers wanting to benchmark their position and drive business excellence.

Many F4N companies have reported benefits across their business, not just in their nuclear operations. The new advisors agree that the lessons of F4N will prove particularly valuable to companies dealing with increased economic uncertainty following the vote to leave the EU.

“It’s all about working with the top end of the very best of British manufacturing.” says Olver. “It’s not quick and easy, it’s very rigorous, but the rewards for the long-term future are there to be had. If you do have to deal with difficult conditions, it can give you enough of an edge to help you win work.”

“What we want to do is support businesses to help them be more competitive in the market, which can only help,” Cook concludes. “Go online and take the plunge. If you want to be more competitive, take the F4N route.”

New European-Canadian research to explore additive repair for aerospace

Additive manufacturing experts at the Nuclear AMRC are leading international research into innovative repair technologies for the aerospace industry.

AMOS logo

The Amos project (Additive manufacturing optimisation and simulation platform for repairing and remanufacturing of aerospace components) is a collaboration between researchers and manufacturers in Europe and Canada, led by the University of Sheffield AMRC.

Amos will investigate a range of direct energy deposition techniques which combine welding tools with automated control to accurately deposit and melt metal powder or wire. Many of these techniques are already used in aerospace and other industries to build new parts to near-net shape.

The project will focus on additive technologies already being used by the partners, including the wire-feed gas tungsten arc process used in the Nuclear AMRC’s bulk additive cell. The team may also look at other additive techniques used at the Nuclear AMRC, such as powder diode laser.

bulk additive cell

Amos will investigate the use of these techniques to repair and remanufacture aerospace components such as turbine blades and landing gear. This could significantly reduce the time and cost of regular maintenance and repair for the aerospace industry, while reducing material waste and extending the life of expensive components.

“There’s a host of additive manufacturing technologies available to aerospace manufacturers, but they tend to be focused on new production rather than repairing damaged parts,” says Dr Rosemary Gault, European project coordinator at the University of Sheffield AMRC. “The Amos project is bringing together some of the world’s leading research organisations and companies to identify which additive technologies are best suited for repair and remanufacture, and develop them for commercial use.”

The Amos consortium includes nine partners from Canada, France, Sweden and the UK, including research organisations, top-tier aerospace manufacturers, and specialist technology developers.

“The research team is well balanced, consisting of industrial OEMs, repair providers and universities across the Atlantic,” says Professor Yaoyao Fiona Zhao of McGill University’s Additive Design and Manufacturing Lab. “The project will provide a fundamental understanding of thermal and mechanical behaviour of powder and wire material during deposition. It will also provide a simulation and optimisation platform for industrial partners to further develop their component-specific applications.”

Amos team

The project will research fundamental aspects of selected additive processes, including the material integrity of deposited metal, and the accuracy and limitations of the deposition process. The consortium will also investigate automated techniques to map damaged areas and calculate repair strategies, and look at how the near-net shape repairs can be effectively machined to a final seamless shape.

Amos will also investigate how additive repair techniques can be factored into the design of new components to optimise efficiency over their life cycle, and the qualification of innovative repair processes which don’t comply with current industry specifications.

“Additive manufacturing is a revolutionary technology, and one of GKN’s strategic priority technologies,” says Rebecka Brommesson, solid mechanics engineer at GKN Aerospace Engine Systems. “The large comparative study carried out in Amos will help us understand the pros and cons of the tested direct energy deposition systems. We want to investigate suitable repair and remanufacturing strategies as well as the qualification process required for repair and remanufacturing.”

The European partners are the University of Sheffield AMRC in the UK; Ecole Central de Nantes in France; GKN Aerospace Engine Systems, based in Sweden; and DPS, a French SME specialising in process simulation and optimisation.

Canadian partners are McGill University, Montreal; the University of Ottawa; jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada; landing gear supplier Héroux-Devtek; and automated welding specialist Liburdi.

The project will involve a range of additive manufacturing technologies used at the participating centres and companies, including laser powder and robotic laser wire systems operated by Liburdi in Canada, a CNC laser powder facility at Ecole Centrale de Nantes in France, and robotic powder diode laser and wire-feed gas tungsten arc facilities at the Nuclear AMRC in the UK. Material research will focus on three widely used aerospace alloys: Ti6Al4V, Inconel 718, and 300M alloy steel.

The four-year, €2.6 million (C$3.8 million) project is supported by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme and by Canadian funding agencies CARIC and NSERC. It is one of the first European-Canadian projects to be funded under the ‘Mobility for growth’ collaboration in aeronautics R&D.

For more information: amos-project.com

Nuclear AMRC study shows UK capable of Westinghouse SMR manufacture

The UK has the advanced manufacturing capabilities to effectively manufacture critical systems for a small modular reactor (SMR), according to a study by the Nuclear AMRC for Westinghouse Electric Company.

The study focused on the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) of Westinghouse’s SMR design. The RPV is one of the largest and most demanding parts of any reactor.

“The ability to locally source the steel, forge, machine and then assemble all of the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor RPV is a significant finding and builds on our unique offering to the UK government,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president for new plants and major projects. “We are confident that our innovative approach and ability to localise our supply chain and manufacturing in the UK further demonstrates our commitment to developing SMR technology in the UK.”

The Nuclear AMRC’s study builds on its extensive experience in design for manufacturing large complex parts for safety-critical nuclear applications, drawing on broad academic and industry knowledge. The manufacturing study determined that Westinghouse’s use of UK advanced manufacturing techniques offers a potential 50 per cent reduction in delivery lead times and offers substantial cost savings to SMR manufacturing.

WEC Marshall Tynan

“The results of this manufacturing study demonstrate the important role that Nuclear AMRC can play in identifying efficiencies within the advanced manufacturing process to significantly reduce capital costs and drive project savings, whilst also highlighting key opportunities for the UK supply chain which can only benefit the UK economy,” said Mike Tynan, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC.

The Nuclear AMRC study provided a professional, independent assessment of Westinghouse’s RPV design, and identified how advanced manufacturing processes can be deployed to significantly reduce capital costs.

Westinghouse’s existing UK footprint supports the Nuclear AMRC’s findings on localisation and advanced manufacturing. The company’s Springfields facility near Preston is a strategic national asset employing more than 1,000 people, and allows for SMR fuel to be manufactured locally, something no other SMR technology provider currently offers.

In March, the UK government launched a competition to identify the best-value SMR design for the country. The first phase aims to gauge market interest among technology developers, utilities and other stakeholders in developing, commercialising and financing SMRs in the UK. The government is also investing at least £30 million for an SMR-enabling advanced manufacturing R&D programme to develop nuclear skills capacity.

Westinghouse SMR vessel

Nuclear AMRC to work with Westinghouse on SMR manufacture

The Nuclear AMRC is to work with Westinghouse Electric Company to explore the most effective way to manufacture reactor pressure vessels for Westinghouse’s small modular reactor in the UK.

Westinghouse SMR concept

The manufacturing study will focus on reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) – one of the largest and most demanding parts of any reactor. The Nuclear AMRC will provide a professional, independent assessment of the current Westinghouse small modular reactor (SMR) RPV design, and determine an optimal manufacturing solution. Nuclear AMRC has extensive experience in design for the manufacture of large complex parts for safety-critical applications, drawing on broad academic and industry knowledge.

“Innovative and advanced manufacturing techniques are fundamental to the cost-effective production of UK small modular reactors,” said Mike Tynan, chief executive officer, Nuclear AMRC.

A key component of the manufacturing study will be identifying efficiencies within the advanced manufacturing process to significantly reduce capital costs and drive project savings. These savings, coupled with the UK’s strong nuclear supply chain and Westinghouse’s commitment to SMR technology, would promote economic growth and job creation in the UK’s nuclear industry. The study will utilise expert knowledge of local manufacturing capabilities to identify potential suppliers for when the Westinghouse SMR enters production.

“The Westinghouse small modular reactor is innovative and industry-leading technology that builds upon our extensive reactor and fuel technology expertise,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president for new plants and major projects. “The efficient construction of Westinghouse small modular reactors can play an important part of the UK’s future by creating local manufacturing jobs to develop safe, clean and economical energy.”

The announcement of the manufacturing study further signals Westinghouse’s commitment to SMR technology in the U.K.  In 2015, Westinghouse bid to partner with the UK government to deploy Westinghouse’s SMR technology – a move that would advance the U.K. from buyer to global provider of the latest nuclear energy technology. Westinghouse’s Springfields facility, a strategic national asset in the UK employing over 1,000, recently achieved the requirements necessary to manufacture Westinghouse SMR fuel in the UK, something that no other SMR technology provider currently offers.

Chilled machining to reduce stress

The Nuclear AMRC is exploring the use of cryogenic coolant for civil nuclear machining, with the aim of improving machining efficiency and increasing tool life while minimising the risk of component failure.

cryo machining

Cryogenic cooling uses extremely cold gas or liquid to control the heat generated during machining. Benefits can include reduced residual stress and thermal damage, improved surface roughness and longer tool life.

Nuclear AMRC machining researchers have installed a carbon dioxide cooling system to the Hermle C60, a flexible five-axis mill-turn centre, and investigating its use in cutting a range of hard-to-machine metals, including steels, titanium and nickel alloys. CO2 can replace conventional coolant for many cutting tasks, and can potentially benefit processes which are usually run dry.

The ChilAire Aero system delivers a controlled stream of carbon dioxide gas and CO2 ice particles through the machine spindle or external nozzles.

As it expands, the CO2 reaches temperatures as low as –78°C. This is not as cold as temperatures achieved with liquid nitrogen, the standard for cryogenic cooling, but is more controllable and reduces the risk of adverse material effects.

cryo spindle

“We are looking to develop this environmentally-friendly technology for nuclear applications,” says Dr Krystian Wika, advanced cooling technology lead at the Nuclear AMRC. “One of the major benefits of cryogenic machining is that it has the potential to reduce residual stress and help prevent stress corrosion cracking.

“With carbon dioxide, our aim is to optimise the key process variables so we can control the cooling and improve the surface integrity. If you can obtain favourable compressive stresses instead of tensile stresses, you can help stop crack initiation and propagation and extend the life of nuclear components.”

Initial research is benchmarking carbon dioxide against conventional coolant, and seek to understand how it behaves under different application modes, flow rates, pressures and machining parameters.

Carbon dioxide avoids the chemical hazards of conventional coolants, and can be used in non-enclosed portable machining tools, but the gas does bring its own risks in the workplace. The Nuclear AMRC has introduced additional safety measures around the Hermle during trials, including CO2 alarms and personal exposure monitors.

The researchers are also using another recent addition to the machining group’s R&D armoury, a state-of-the-art high-speed thermal camera.

The Flir X6580sc cryo-cooled medium wavelength infrared camera can visualise and quantify changes in surface temperature and heat dissipation during machining processes, including drilling, milling and turning.

The camera is fully calibrated from –20° to 1500°C and can take up to 355 frames per second at 640×512 pixel resolution.

“This is probably the fastest thermal camera on the market with this level of detail, and has a range of unique features,” says Wika. “It will help us reach a deeper understanding of cryogenic cooling and many other challenging issues in high-performance machining.”

  • nl21 frontFor more news on how the Nuclear AMRC is supporting industry through manufacturing R&D and supplier development, download our Q4 newsletter (4MB pdf).

In-process inspection for the biggest components

The Nuclear AMRC has installed the state-of-the-art Renishaw Sprint scanning system in its largest machining centre, the first time the technology has been deployed in a machine of this size.

Soraluce Sprint

By providing rapid in-process measurement and monitoring during complex machining tasks, the technology promises to significantly reduce risk and cost in the production of very large high-value components.

The Sprint on-machine contact scanning system was developed by Renishaw to allow high-speed, high-accuracy scanning during CNC machining processes. The probe rapidly creates data-rich coordinate information about the workpiece surface to an accuracy of a few microns, which can be compared to model data at each stage of machining and used to control the machining process.

“The Sprint system’s combination of high speed and high accuracy measurement brings new capability to on-machine process control, combating the inherent trade off between cycle time and quantity of data often experienced with current industry standard measurement and process control solutions,” explains Derek Marshall, scanning and software group business manager for Renishaw’s machine tool products division.

The Sprint system has been adopted in industries such as aerospace, and has been deployed on a number of machines at the Nuclear AMRC’s sister centre, the AMRC with Boeing.

“The Sprint system has demonstrated real benefits on smaller machines,” says Carl Hitchens, Nuclear AMRC head of metrology. “The increased performance requirements of modern high-value components call for ever more demanding tolerances, and the Sprint system is a valuable enabling technology to increase confidence in the manufacturing process.”

Soraluce ext

The Sprint technology has now been installed on the Soraluce FX12000 horizontal boring centre, the largest machine tool at the Nuclear AMRC with a working volume of 300m3.

The FX12000 was supplied and installed last year by Soraluce, part of DanobatGroup of Spain, and its UK agent TW Ward CNC Machinery.

Both companies have now joined the Nuclear AMRC as tier two members, to support ongoing research into innovative techniques and new applications for their machines.

“This is the first time that Renishaw’s Sprint system has been used on a CNC machine tool of this size,” says Hitchens. “We are aiming to create a step change for in-process inspection of very large high-value components, and provide a distinct competitive advantage for UK manufacturing for nuclear and other demanding sectors.”

In-process inspection can bring significant cost and time savings for parts over two metres in size, and help ensure right-first-time production.

Sprint Carl

“Moving large components from the machining centre to a CMM can be logistically difficult, and often accounts for a significant amount of the overall manufacturing time,” Hitchens notes. “It also increases the risk of the part being damaged during transport, and of errors incurred during manufacture not being identified in time.”

For key nuclear components, such manufacturing problems can cause hugely expensive delays in new build or maintenance projects.

The Sprint system can capture 3D data at a rate of 1000 points per second, with a feedrate of up to 15 metres per minute. It can also be used to check for sources of geometric error in a machine tool, automatically check component position and alignment during set-up, and measure critical features after machining.

The Nuclear AMRC machining team will also use Sprint’s capabilities to support research into the dynamics of large machine tools. “The mass of the moving parts in these large machines creates a lot of inertia that needs to be understood if we are to achieve reliable and repeatable measurements,” explains Hitchens. “We are already actively working on this issue, to improve the cutting performance of these machines.”

“Renishaw puts a strong emphasis on such development relationships,” says Marshall. “This project demonstrates the strong commitment of all parties to improvements in on-machine measurement technology.”

  • nl21 frontFor more news on how the Nuclear AMRC is supporting industry through manufacturing R&D and supplier development, download our Q4 newsletter (4MB pdf).