Disk laser cell open day

Tuesday 2 October 2018, Rotherham.

The Nuclear AMRC, Cyan Tec Systems and Trumpf invite industry to discover the latest advances in welding technology and explore a state-of-the-art 16kW laser cell.

The Nuclear AMRC is leading research in high-performance welding techniques for the most demanding industries. The centre recently invested in a 16kW disk laser system designed and built by Loughborough-based Cyan Tec Systems, a robotic and laser specialist providing advanced manufacturing systems across a diverse range of high-tech sectors including nuclear, aerospace and automotive.

The system includes a high-tech Trumpf 16kW solid state disk laser, which minimises heat distortion and thermal stress to achieve high-quality welds for stainless steel, aluminium, titanium and alloy products. The Cyan Tec laser cell at the Nuclear AMRC is now driving forward advanced welding applications in industries including nuclear, marine and aerospace.

The open day on 2 October offers the opportunity to learn about the latest advanced welding techniques, talk to Cyan Tec engineers and Nuclear AMRC researchers, and see the disk laser cell in action.

This event is designed for manufacturers who are considering incorporating advanced laser solutions into production lines, as well as nuclear decommissioning organisations who could benefit from the latest advances in laser technology.

The open day is free to attend for relevant businesses, but numbers are limited. Please register now for either the morning session (9.30–12.30) or afternoon session (1–3.30) to ensure your place.

CGN and Nuclear AMRC reach memorandum of understanding

CGN, the global clean energy company, has concluded an agreement with the Nuclear AMRC to help deepen links between the company and the UK nuclear supply chain.

The wide-ranging memorandum of understanding (MOU) covers areas including the supply chain model to be utilised by Bradwell B, and how UK businesses can prepare themselves to participate in the project; how British companies and universities can add value to CGN nuclear operations in China and elsewhere; and how links can be built between Chinese companies and academic institutions and their counterparts here.

CGN plans to deploy its HPR1000 reactor technology at Bradwell in Essex, and is also co-investing with EDF Energy on its EPR development at Hinkley Point. The HPR1000 is currently undergoing the generic design assessment (GDA) for deployment in the UK, and is under construction at Fangchenggang in China (pictured below), the reference plant for Bradwell B.

The MOU is an example of the cooperation and sharing of knowledge and experience agreed under the UK’s new nuclear sector deal.

Zheng Dongshan, CEO of CGN UK, said: “This significant agreement with the Nuclear AMRC paves the way for our two organisations to develop the UK supply chain. It also will help to ensure that British companies are given the best possible opportunity to benefit from our planned investments in the UK nuclear fleet, and specifically our plans to build a new power station at Bradwell.

“The MOU also covers knowledge-sharing between the nuclear industry and academic institutions in the UK and in China.  Deeper relationships in these areas will enable us to learn from the best practice on both sides, including CGN’s experience of consistently delivering new power stations safely and efficiently, which ultimately will help us together to deliver projects successfully here and elsewhere.

“CGN is committed to the UK for the long-term, both in terms of our plans for new nuclear and our existing and future renewable energy projects.  We have made clear that we intend to become a major and credible industrial player in the UK – and this agreement is a big step forward towards that goal.”

Andrew Storer, CEO of the Nuclear AMRC, said: “We’re delighted to sign this agreement with CGN, and look forward to strengthening our relationship for the benefit of UK manufacturers of all sizes.

“Working with CGN will allow us to help UK manufacturers make the most of the opportunities at Bradwell B. We have already helped hundreds of UK companies prepare for nuclear opportunities through our Fit For Nuclear and Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth programmes – by working with CGN to understand their requirements in terms of quality and cost, we will be able to help UK manufacturers qualify, identify suitable opportunities, and win work at Bradwell.

“Our collaboration will also help UK companies and organisations access opportunities in CGN’s operations in China and worldwide, supporting exports and sharing best practice internationally. It’s a great example of UK industry and academia working with the global top tier for the benefit of all, in line with the aims of the new nuclear sector deal.”


Nuclear AMRC welcomes sector deal

The Nuclear AMRC has welcomed the launch of the nuclear sector deal, part of the UK government’s industrial strategy.

Andrew Storer, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC, says: “We welcome the nuclear sector deal, which represents a landmark agreement between government and industry to reduce costs and increase productivity across the UK nuclear sector.

“This deal will benefit manufacturers in all parts of the nuclear supply chain, and maximise the economic opportunity from clean growth. It will support innovation and technology transfer between sectors, helping companies increase their productivity and competitiveness, and reduce barriers to entry for manufacturers moving into nuclear from other sectors such as oil & gas or marine engineering.

“Here at the Nuclear AMRC, we will have an important role to play in delivering the deal. We will work with our industry and research partners to demonstrate the benefits of advanced techniques and technologies for manufacturers of all sizes. We will also play a leading role in the new national programme to enhance the capabilities of the UK’s supply chain, expanding our established Fit For Nuclear programme and building on the success of Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth.

“As well as supporting the deal’s headline cost reductions of 30 per cent in nuclear new build and 20 per cent in decommissioning, our work will be central to the national effort to create or sustain up to 12,500 jobs across the UK, and secure up to £2 billion domestic and international contracts by 2030. We’re already working with international partners such as in the United Arab Emirates and South Korea, and with global reactor vendors, to identify export opportunities for the UK supply chain.”

The new £200 million nuclear sector deal is designed to secure the UK’s diverse energy mix and drive down the costs of nuclear energy meaning cheaper energy bills for customers.

It includes a £32 million boost from government and industry to kick-start a new advanced manufacturing programme, including R&D investment to develop potential world-leading nuclear technologies like advanced modular reactors, plus up to £30 million for a new national supply chain programme.

The deal also includes a commitment to increasing gender diversity with a target of 40 per cent women working in the civil nuclear sector by 2030.

For more information, see the BEIS press release.

Assystem signs agreement with Nuclear AMRC

Assystem and the Nuclear AMRC have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on joint research projects involving advanced modular reactors, including small modular reactors, and other innovative nuclear technologies.

The agreement expresses the common intention to collaborate on research related to improving the cost effectiveness, safety and supportability of future nuclear plants.  This will include Assystem and Nuclear AMRC combining cutting-edge digital design and highly advanced manufacturing techniques.

Assystem, one of the top three nuclear engineering companies worldwide, brings over 50 years’ experience across nuclear power plant design, build, operation and support, and works with a range of OEMs, constructors and operators.

The Nuclear AMRC, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, combines the knowledge, practices and expertise of manufacturing companies with the capability of universities. Since its launch in 2012, it has developed and consolidated its position at the heart of the UK’s civil nuclear manufacturing industry.

Assystem and the Nuclear AMRC believe that advanced modular reactors (AMRs) have the potential to make a big impact on the future of energy production in the UK and globally. The joint research programme will initially focus on exploring the synergies between Assystem’s capabilities in advanced systems engineering and digital asset management, and Nuclear AMRC’s research into novel manufacturing technologies.

It is expected that a cross-fertilization between the two entities will create a new body of knowledge that will attract young talents in the nuclear industry and accelerate the development of the AMR business. The projects will consider how improvements can be delivered at the system level as well at the component level.

The agreement commences on 27 June 2018 and continues for five years.

Robert Plana, Assystem’s chief technical officer, said: “We are proud to be contributing to the future of the nuclear industry. Our commitment to participate in research is a clear fit with Assystem’s nuclear development strategy in the UK, France and internationally. The agreement we have signed strengthens our position in the worldwide nuclear industry and opens up new opportunities for working with other key players in the industry.”

Professor Steve Jones, the Nuclear AMRC’s chief technology officer, said: “We are delighted to work with Assystem to support the design and manufacture of a new generation of nuclear plants. New reactor designs present a great opportunity to use advanced manufacturing technologies to reduce cost and ensure construction to schedule, while sustaining the highest integrity and safety levels demanded within our industry. Combining our knowledge and capabilities will underpin and accelerate the innovative technology themes we are already working in that encompass joining, machining, modularisation and inspection.”

Real impact from Fit For Nuclear

More than half of manufacturers taking part in the Nuclear AMRC’s Fit For Nuclear programme are confident of winning new nuclear work this year, a new survey has found.

The latest survey of companies which are currently progressing through Fit For Nuclear (F4N), or are already granted, shows that most are confident of winning new business and have seen real benefits from the programme. In all, 89 per cent of participating companies would recommend F4N to other manufacturers.

F4N is a unique service which lets manufacturers measure their operations against the standards required to supply the nuclear industry – in new build, operations and decommissioning – and helps them take the necessary steps to close any gaps. F4N is delivered exclusively by the Nuclear AMRC, and supported by top-tier partners in nuclear new build and decommissioning.

More than 680 UK manufacturers have now taken the initial F4N online assessment, with most receiving ongoing support from the Nuclear AMRC’s industrial advisors and nuclear specialists. Completing the programme requires commitment and drive from senior managers, and typically takes 12–18 months.

Almost all of the 116 companies who responded to the survey are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with more than half still working towards being granted F4N.

Around a third of respondents said it was too soon to report demonstrable benefits. Of the others, more than 60 per cent reported improvements in HSEQ measures, and more than half reported increased confidence and greater awareness of the nuclear market.

Despite divided views on the general economic climate for manufacturing, more than 90 per cent expect their turnover to grow in the next year, with 57 per cent confident of winning new work in nuclear.

Many have already secured new nuclear orders, and others say that the F4N process has helped them win work in other sectors. However, new entrants to the nuclear supply chain say they face significant obstacles to winning work – 64 per cent of respondents said that connecting with potential buyers was one of the biggest challenges, and 54 per cent said they lacked awareness of opportunities.

The survey results will be used in the continuing development of the F4N service to provide additional value to manufacturers. The programme was expanded in late 2017, with additional post-granting support to help companies maintain their journey of business excellence. The new F4N Connect online searchable directory of granted companies was launched in December, with five companies saying they have already received enquiries from it.

“While we are pleased with the progress that has been made, we recognise the ongoing challenges that our F4N community face, and we welcome all constructive feedback,” says Ian Williams, the Nuclear AMRC’s recently appointed head of supply chain development.

“F4N companies continue to report a lack of real commercial opportunities to break into the nuclear sector, or to develop relationships within the nuclear supply chain. We are working hard to address these concerns, and are developing new capabilities in nuclear sector demand modelling to map out commercial opportunities and how UK companies can align their planning and strategies to best position their offering.”


What manufacturers say about F4N

“F4N has made us take a good look at ourselves. It has helped us improve our business, health, safety and environment. It has also helped us to build a continuous sustainable improvement plan that is realistic.” – Tanya Brennan, Polycast.

“We are such a better business as a result of the investment.” – John French, IT4Automation.

“Overall this has been a fantastic scheme which has certainly helped to develop and improve the business. I am hopeful that more recent developments, such as the F4N Connect portal, will improve our chances of winning work in the nuclear sector.” – Roger Kimber, Strata Technology.

“All aspects are very useful and are helping to improve our business.” – Peter Bruch, AE Aerospace.

“The F4N programme has improved our company in many areas. This has provided benefits with the potential increase in business within the nuclear sector, and given confidence to clients in other areas.” – Paul Bunn, S+H Systems.

“We would recommend F4N to manufacturers wanting to go beyond the standard. The company reorganisation has improved the efficiency of the company for all customers, and was well worth completing even if nuclear work is not the end aim.” – Brian Kermode, WKW Precision Engineering.

Birchwood Nuclear Exhibition 2018

26 September 2018, Birchwood Nuclear Hub.

The UK’s biggest independent nuclear suppliers’ exhibition returns to Birchwood Park, the heart of the North-West nuclear cluster.

The Engineering & Technology Solutions Exhibition will feature exhibitors from along the nuclear supply chain.

The 2018 exhibition will include technology demonstrations – including a hands-on taste of advanced manufacturing innovation aboard the AMRC Mantra travelling showcase – knowledge-sharing and technical presentations, and networking opportunities.

The event is organised by Nu-Tech Exhibitions & Events, with support from the Nuclear AMRC, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Nuclear Institute, Nuclear Industry Association, National Skills Academy for Nuclear, North-West Nuclear Forum and Birchwood Forum.

Last year’s event was attended by more than 150 companies of all sizes, with exhibitors including over 40 Fit For Nuclear manufacturers.

This year, F4N-granted companies can claim an exclusive discount on exhibition space.

For more information, go to: www.nuclearexhibitions.com/BirchwoodEvent


World Nuclear Exhibition

26–28 June 2018, Paris.

A major event for key players in the global nuclear energy sector, with 10,000 visitors and 4,000 businesses expected over three days. The WNE covers all aspects of the nuclear industry from new build and construction, through operations and maintenance to decommissioning.

With the full support of the French nuclear industry and including all the major international reactor vendors, the WNE represents a key event for companies looking to win work in the UK or international nuclear market. It is also a great opportunity to connect with companies in the French nuclear industry, including key players in the EDF/Framatome supply chain.

The Nuclear AMRC is exhibiting as part of the UK pavilion (stand C23) organised by the Energy Industries Council (EIC) and Department for International Trade (DIT). We are sharing space with five Fit For Nuclear manufacturers – Abbey Forged Products, Delta Controls, Fan Systems, NIS and TPG Engineering – plus our founding member Sheffield Forgemasters. Together, we present a cross-section of the UK’s world-class manufacturing capabilities for the nuclear sector.

For full details: www.world-nuclear-exhibition.com



Horizon moves forward on Wylfa Newydd

Horizon Nuclear Power is moving ahead with its proposed new build at Wylfa, Anglesey, with the launch of the next phase of discussions with government and the submission of detailed plans for the new power plant.

Horizon is owned by Hitachi Ltd of Japan, and proposes to build two Hitachi-GE 1300MWe advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) reactors at the Wylfa Newydd site.

Business and energy secretary Greg Clark MP has confirmed that Wylfa Newydd is the next project in the UK’s new build programme, following EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C, and that the UK government is entering into detailed negotiations over financing and the cost to consumers of electricity from the new plant.

“The UK is likely to need significant new nuclear capacity in order to meet our carbon reduction commitments at least cost, particularly as we electrify more of our transport and heating,” Clark said in a statement to Parliament. “So alongside entering negotiations in relation to Wylfa Newydd, the government will also continue to engage with the other developers in the UK new nuclear market on their proposals for further projects.”

Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive officer at Horizon, welcomed Clark’s statement as a clear signal of the government’s commitment to delivering a low carbon future for the UK.

“Building on last year’s regulatory acceptance of our tried and tested reactor technology, it shows real momentum behind the project which will bring huge benefits everywhere from Anglesey to Wales and the UK and Japan,” he said. “Our focus now is to ensure we continue to deliver on our key project milestones as we move towards construction.”

The ABWR completed the government’s generic design assessment (GDA) process in December 2017.

Horizon has now submitted its development consent order (DCO) application to the government’s Planning Inspectorate. This comprises some 41,000 pages, 440 documents and over 400 drawings specifying the ABWR power station and associated work at the Wylfa Newydd site, and how Horizon plans to build it. The DCO process will include a public consultation, and is expected to take around 18 months from submission to decision.

Horizon has also applied for other key consents including a marine licence and permissions for combustion and water discharge during construction and operations.

Hitachi estimates that around 60 per cent by value of the first ABWR at Wylfa Newydd will be sourced in the UK, with more local input into later plant.


Cycle time slashed for rough milling

Nuclear AMRC researchers used a range of advanced techniques to cut the time for rough milling a large nuclear forging by more than 40 per cent.

The research was part of a major investigation into innovative forging and fabrication solutions for the energy sector, led by Sheffield Forgemasters with funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

Rough milling a large forged component such as a pressure vessel section can take hundreds of hours, even without the time required for set-up, movement and inspection. Reducing that time, while ensuring economic tool life and avoiding any additional manufacturing risks, can significantly increase productivity for parts with relatively high production volumes, such as components for new designs of small modular reactor (SMR).

The project focused on a large forged component representing a section of a dome, made of a low-alloy SA508 steel widely used in pressure vessels, with extensive cutting trials on the Nuclear AMRC’s Soraluce FX12000 horizontal milling machine.

The Nuclear AMRC team first considered a range of commercially available face milling tools to select the most suitable for the task. They then carried out extensive testing of the tools’ material removal performance to identify the optimum cutting conditions while ensuring the long tool life required for continuous machining of large components.

Finding the optimum conditions doesn’t just depend on the milling tool itself. “When you assemble your tool you don’t just have the face mill – you have the whole toolholder assembly,” says research engineer Ozan Gurdal. “A 100mm face mill becomes 400mm long, in addition to your spindle head and possibly an extended ram. That has an effect on the process dynamics and may lead to chatter.”

Gurdal used tap-testing to analyse the machine tool set-up – in simple terms, hitting the tool with a hammer and studying the resulting vibrations. That allowed the team to identify the vibration frequencies and regions of dynamic stability with the most productive and chatter-free cutting conditions.

“Tap-testing is a powerful technique that could provide significant cost savings compared with using conservative cutting parameters or trial-and-error tuning of cutting parameters,” notes Carl Hitchens, Nuclear AMRC head of machining and metrology. “It is common for tap-testing to identify a region of stability that is more productive than could have been found using trial-and-error, and UK industry could realise real benefits from this technology.”

After selecting dynamically stable cutting conditions to give the desired tool life, the team compared different CAM software packages and toolpath generation algorithms. The best performing toolpath was refined using physics-based toolpath optimisation software, used for high-volume production planning in the aerospace and automotive industries, which incorporates cutting trial data to model the machining response of the material.

The software could help increase productivity for relatively high-volume components for new designs of SMR, Gurdal notes. The Nuclear AMRC will now use the optimised cutting conditions identified during the project in its ongoing collaboration with the US Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to develop new manufacturing and fabrication methods for SMR pressure vessels.

After all the analysis and modelling, cutting trials on the selected toolpaths confirmed the predicted tool life and proved that cycle time for rough milling could be reduced by 41 per cent – potentially saving weeks of work for a full-sized pressure vessel section.

The team are now preparing a final showpiece using the techniques developed during the project, and aim to extend the research into finish machining. Gurdal will present part of the work at the ASME Pressure Vessel & Piping Conference in Prague in July.

The project was part of a major investigation supported by funding from Innovate UK. The £4 million, 33-month project led by Sheffield Forgemasters aims to reduce the cost, lead time and embodied energy of large forgings. Partners include Rolls-Royce, The Welding Institute, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, with the Nuclear AMRC providing machining and other process development support.

Researchers in residence tackle welding challenges

Two researchers from The University of Manchester are starting projects with the Nuclear AMRC to ensure that innovative welding methods don’t increase the risk of component failure.

The projects are supported by the new Researchers in Residence programme, funded by Research Councils UK to improve knowledge sharing between university-based researchers and the industry-focused Catapult network.

Of the initial 18 awards announced in March, 10 are based at centres within the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Electron beam weld toughness

Dr John Francis, reader in welding technology at The University of Manchester, is working with the Nuclear AMRC’s electron beam welding team to minimise the risk of crack propagation in nuclear pressure vessels.

Electron beam welding can significantly reduce the time and cost of joining pressure vessel sections. Arc welding such thick sections can require 100 or more passes, and can take weeks to complete. Electron beam welding can join thick sections in a single pass – the Nuclear AMRC team have demonstrated welds of 100mm in SA508 pressure vessel steel and 150mm in S355 structural steel.

But before electron beam welds can be fully accepted into nuclear codes, you need to fully understand their performance compared with traditional arc welding. One vital measure is the weld’s toughness, a measure of its resistance to crack propagation.

In earlier research carried out as part of the Nnuman programme, Francis and colleagues found that electron beam welds of pressure vessel steel absorbed less energy in Charpy impact tests than arc welds, suggesting that they have lower toughness.

“The test results were still well within all the thresholds, but a flag has been raised because the nuclear industry is so cautious,” says Francis. “The important thing is if you’re going to adopt a new technology, it needs to be fully understood. It’s not a showstopper by any means, but we want to understand it and make sure that any detrimental effects can be mitigated by your choice of process parameters.”

The new two-year project will focus on the effects of welding speed on toughness, by carrying out a series of welds of different speed and power. “We’re looking for a fundamental understanding of any effects or relationship that may exist between welding speed and toughness,” Francis says.

The research will also investigate whether innovative heat treatment methods can reduce the loss in toughness. Unlike an arc weld, an electron beam weld can produce a thick fully-fused joint without any filler material – in theory, heating it beyond 870°C can effectively make the weld disappear by giving it a uniform composition indistinguishable from the parent steel. “We need to understand to what extent does non-uniformity persist after post-weld heat treatment, and whether any history can be erased by such re-austenising and tempering heat treatments,” Francis says.

Welding trials will be carried out using the Nuclear AMRC’s production-scale electron beam facilities, with advanced analysis at Manchester’s material characterisation laboratories.

“Working with the Nuclear AMRC gives me the opportunity to get involved with welding on a large scale, and keep the research I’m doing focused on the challenges that are relevant to industry,” Francis says. “There are challenges associated with making large components that you can’t address if you’re working exclusively in a small laboratory.”

Francis will work closely with Dr Bernd Baufeld, Nuclear AMRC research fellow for power beam and additive manufacturing. “John’s in-depth knowledge of the metallurgy of pressure vessel steel will strengthen the scientific approach at the Nuclear AMRC to improve safety-critical joints by electron beam welding,” Baufeld says. “The results of his work will help us to choose the most appropriate set of welding parameters to obtain better performance and quality.”

Reliable stress analysis

Dr Matthew Roy, lecturer in materials for demanding environments, is developing more consistent methods for identifying and analysing residual stresses which could lead to the premature failure of high-value components.

Any welding process can leave deep residual stresses in the metal around the join. That can increase the risk of fatigue and stress corrosion cracking, a particular threat for components intended to have a long service life in challenging environments.

To reduce the risk of component failure, you need to understand what residual stresses are produced by different welding and forming processes, and how they can be minimised.

One emerging technique is the contour method, which generates a detailed map of residual stress in a cut cross-section of an engineered component. Roy previously used the contour method in the Nnuman programme to study how residual stresses develop in thick-section ferritic steel plates.

“The contour method is relatively simple and uses accessible workshop equipment to assess what the residual stress is,” says Roy. “The analysis is then up to the experts, which is informally organised at the moment.”

Unlike established methods, such as the x-ray diffraction techniques currently used at the Nuclear AMRC to analyse near-surface residual stress, the contour method does not yet have a standard process which would allow comparisons of data from different sources.

Roy’s two-year project builds on his previous work to develop open-source software to allow more consistent analysis. “Because there are so many steps to the contour method, there’s lots of ways that errors such as observation bias can creep in,” he says. “The value of open source software is that if two people perform the same measurement, we can both look at the data in the exact same way.”

Roy’s research with the Nuclear AMRC will focus on developing the software to analyse complex tubular geometries, with the centre producing and preparing a range of welded and clad samples for analysis. His work will complement Francis’s investigation of electron beam welds, Baufeld notes. “I hope that, with Matthew’s help, we can measure the stresses in samples prepared in John’s project,” he says. “These results would support us in determining the optimal weld parameter set.”

Roy will also work with the Advanced Forming Research Centre in Strathclyde on components produced by forging and other processes, and draw on both centres’ networks to better understand industrial requirements.

“I want to get a feel for what appetite there is for this tool,” he says. “By working with the Catapult centres, I can get more embedded with people who care about residual stress and its measurement and the ability to assess them correctly.”