Monday, July 29, 2013

News: Latest Bloodhound part machined at Nuclear AMRC

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Machining experts at the Nuclear AMRC in Rotherham have made the most complex and high-value machined part for the Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC), that aims to break the world land speed record by achieving the supersonic speed of 1,000mph.

The Nuclear AMRC on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham is a joint initiative between the University of Sheffield, The University of Manchester, and a consortium of industry partners led by Rolls-Royce. It provides a focal point for the bulk of the UK civil nuclear manufacturing industry supply chain.

Part of the government's High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the centre helps to develop capability and competitiveness through process manufacturing innovation and R&D, driving up quality and reducing cost.

The diffuser floor is the largest of seven parts made by the Nuclear AMRC for Bloodhound's rear sub-frame, the assembly that holds the car's rocket engine in place and provides vital stability. Each part had to be machined from a solid block of aerospace-grade aluminium, to precise specifications, with no room for mistakes.

The diffuser floor measures about one metre square, and features a complex pattern of latticed pockets on the top side, with an aerodynamically sculpted reverse. It will sit beneath Bloodhound's hybrid rocket engine, and provide the downward force to keep the car on the ground as it reaches 1,000mph.

The finished part contains just one ninth of the metal in the original 480kg aluminium billet, with a final weight of 55kg. At its thinnest, the floor is just 5mm thick.

Mathew Challinor, NC programmer at the Nuclear AMRC, said: "The biggest challenges were the deep pockets, which are up to 155mm deep. This is very challenging for tooling, as you need a tool that has a length of 15 times its diameter.

"Fixturing was also a challenge, as we had to avoid vibrations in such a slender aero-like structure, while making sure the part was held securely."

On the face of it, the Bloodhound parts are very different to the large components that the Nuclear AMRC machining group usually works on for industrial partners from the energy sector.

Stuart Dawson, head of machining at the Nuclear AMRC, said: "There's very few aluminium parts in a nuclear power station, so this isn't the kind of material we usually work with. But where it fits is the concept of producing very complex high-value precision parts, right first time. The principles and practices involved in nuclear manufacturing have served us very well in producing these one-off parts for Bloodhound."

Conor La Grue, product sponsorship lead for Bloodhound, added: "The commitment of the team at Nuclear AMRC has been second to none. They have produced complex components of the highest quality and delivered to very tight schedules. We are delighted with the manufacturing partnership."

Building a car quicker than a fighter jet is not, however, the primary goal of the project. Rather, it is to inspire future generations to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by showcasing these subjects in the most exciting way possible.

Nuclear AMRC website
Bloodhound SSC website

Images: Nuclear AMRC

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