Tuesday, October 25, 2011

News: Nuclear AMRC’s robot research


Research involving an innovative robotic machining cell at the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) in Rotherham has been presented at a high-profile engineering conference in Toulouse, France.

The robot cell has now been installed in the Nuclear AMRC's research factory on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, following initial trials at Nikon Metrology's workshop in Tamworth.

The project aims to develop a single automated system which can carry out a range of processes such as machining, welding, dressing and inspection over a large area to very high precisions.

At the SAE AeroTech Congress last week, Roger Holden of Nikon Metrology presented progress on the project jointly led by Dave Stoddart at the Nuclear AMRC.

The event attracts thousands of the world's top aerospace professionals in preparation for future challenges and opportunities. Although the Nuclear AMRC project is focused on nuclear manufacturing applications, robotic machining technology is also the subject of intense interest from the aerospace industry.

Roger Holden, managing director of Nikon Metrology, said: "We've proven that we can tackle different metals with the robot, including stainless steel.

"The project is focused on the very large scale manufacturing that you're looking for in nuclear, but at a reasonable cost, without turning the whole building into a huge gantry access system. We've proven what we initially set out to prove, though there is still much more research and development to do."

Dave Stoddart, robotics project manager at the Nuclear AMRC, added: "Traditionally, the manufacture of very large components involves very large machines, and you spend a huge amount of time moving the components between various machines and processes.

"The principle behind robot machining is simple – it's a lot more efficient, cost-effective and safe to bring the machines and processes to the component."

"This adds a huge amount of flexibility to the manufacturing processes, while dramatically reducing the capital expenditure associated with traditional milling machines."

The robot cell provided by Nikon Metrology is based around a hexapod robot from Fanuc Robotics which can carry a variety of tool heads. The robot's position is tracked by an indoor GPS system. In trials, accuracies of 0.2mm have been achieved.

Nuclear AMRC website
Nikon Metrology website

Images: namrc.co.uk


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