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UK nuclear research centre orders laser welding cell for process development

The Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) in Rotherham, UK has ordered a custom laser welding system to support manufacturing process development.

The laser cell, being built by Cyan Tec Systems, will further enhance the welding capabilities of the Nuclear AMRC. The device will be delivered before the end of 2017.

Nuclear AMRC is one of seven High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult centres funded by Innovate UK. Situated on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire, the research facility offers an array of equipment for machining and fabrication, supported by in-house engineers and researchers, all of which are made available to manufacturers to use in collaborative R&D projects.

Cyan Tec, based in Loughborough, has extensive experience in integrating high power fibre-delivered lasers in large systems for automated laser welding and cutting.

The laser cell being built for Nuclear AMRC could reduce manufacturing times and costs for manufacturing the duplex steel boxes used to store hazardous waste from Sellafield and other decommissioning sites. The welding cell will be used to develop and optimise these welding processes, as part of a programme to save hundreds of millions of pounds over the life of the decommissioning programme.

The system is designed for deep penetration welding, for R&D of laser and hybrid laser and arc welding. With the highest power disk laser in the UK, delivered by fibre optic cable, the system will have a wall-plug efficiency higher than 30 per cent, and is fully protected against back reflection, which is vital in high power welding of reflective materials.

Integrated with a six-axis gantry system, the overall cell has the capability of delivering a simultaneous MIG weld for deep penetration hybrid welding with hot wire or cold wire feed. The system includes a large tilt and turn manipulator that can carry components up to 15 tonnes, and the advanced CNC controller is able to interpolate all eight axes simultaneously to weld complex seams.

With such a high average laser power delivered by fibre optics, and a system capable of steering the beam in all directions, laser safety is extremely important. Cyan Tec has developed its own safety solution, comprising an active guarding laser safety enclosure measuring 10 x 7m and 6m high. The safety system has an actively monitored cavity wall with instant shut-down in the event of any break-through of the outer layer.

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