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The robotic welding system developed at Ensa completes the work on the first Splice Plates set of the Vacuum Vessel model for ITER

The robotic welding system developed at the Center for Advanced Technology of Equipos Nucleares S.A., S.M.E concluded the work of the first Splice Plate set of the 1/1 model that represents the Vacum Vessel of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor , which is being developed in the workshops that the company has in Maliaño, as part of the order received from Iter Organization at the end of 2012.

The main objective in this phase of the project is to design and verify that the equipment and developments carried out are suitable for the work that will later be done in the installation phase in Cadarache. One of the key activities is welding, and for this reason the validation of the robotic welding system has begun, welding the first set of splice plates that act as joining pieces between the two sectors of the 1/1 model. The method used is based on an integrated robotic system conceived in the Automatic department of the CTA for the tracking of trajectories generated from 3D scans of the pieces.

In the case of ITER, the 3D model of the splice plates is used together with the data provided by the dimensional control of the robot positions. All this information is previously loaded into the system at the disposal of the welders at the operation station, which allows the joint to be selected by its reference as well as controlling and recording the operation parameters throughout the process.

Another important aspect of the system designed, has to do with the protection gas, since the particular characteristics of the sectors, the backup gas system can only provide protection in a very localized way, so a module was included in the control system that allows to coordinate the movement of the robot with that of the backup system and thus achieve that the area covered by the gas is always below the zone of incidence of the current.

Once the first batch of splice plates has been completed, a second batch will continue which, if necessary, will allow new functions to be added to the system and new improvements to be introduced that could be identified with the aim of continuing to improve the process.

Ensa’s Advanced Technology Center designs an extendable lance for manual welding

The first tests have obtained very satisfactory results.

The Automatic unit of the Advanced Technology Centre of Equipos Nucleares S.A., S.M.E has designed an extendable welding lance that allows reaching the most complicated and deepest areas of the components of the ITER project.

One of the fundamental points in the welding of these elements is the manual punching of the plates that join the components of «sectors and ports» that will later be welded by the robots. These components are double-walled and the work has to be carried out from the inside. The fact that they have double walls makes the access in a good part of the areas to the most external wall a tremendously difficult task due to the space that separates both walls.

The mast of the lance, designed by Automatic, can be modified in length and the torch has a ball-and-socket joint that allows the working angle of the tungsten to be adjusted slightly.  In addition, it has been incorporated a wire feeding system with adjustable position and speed and a camera next to a screen that allows to see the development of the weld during the work.

The first tests with the equipment were carried out on the welding of the first set of sheets of the ITER model and very satisfactory results were obtained.

F4E highlights Ensa as a pillar in the scheme of companies for the manufacture of Vacuum Vessel

Ensa has participated in a video made by Fusion for Energy , the European Union organization set up to manage Europe’s contribution to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor , which shows the capabilities and contribution of the different European companies currently in different fields in of the design and manufacture of the largest international project for the development of fusion energy.

As the video explains, Ensa’s activity is mainly focused on two work packages: the manufacture of segments for the vacuum vessel sectors and the development of technology for the assembly, as well as the final welding of the reactor sectors in on site.

The sector segments that Ensa is manufacturing for the first order are called PS1 and PS4. The Cantabrian company is responsible for developing the technology, manufacturing, welding and supply of the components for sectors 3, 2 and 9 of the vacuum vessel.

For work related to PS1, there is an external company for electron beam welding of some of the sub-assemblies in Inner Shells such as T-Ribs, Intermodular Keys and Flexible Housings to Inner Shells; key and very precise welds. However, in the PS4 the Cantabrian Company is responsible for the entire cycle of preparation of work related to engineering, technology development, manufacture of parts and delivery.

For the second order, which Ensa has been awarded by the French agency IO , it has produced three 1:1 scale models on which all the processes developed by its engineering during the last 4 years are being validated, including robotic welding and non-destructive tests that will be performed when welding the sectors and ports to build the complete vacuum chamber.

The ITER project is a great opportunity for the nuclear industry. In fact, it is a «first of a kind» project, which means it has its own challenges. That is why Ensa has had to develop its own processes and robotic solutions to be able to face these challenges, among which there are very strict dimensional requirements, very demanding quality standards, the segregation of hardware and materials and special sequences that it has to think about, develop and implement to make sure that they adjust to the high levels that they have to have when they are carried out on the hardware and components.

But in order to be able to face all these challenges, Ensa has its Advanced Technology Center where all the necessary technology is developed, ranging from the hardware, software and methodology to have the precise technique for its successful implementation first in its Maliaño facilities and then in Cadarache when its final assembly is carried out.

Ensa experts visit the facilities of Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant

Recently, experts of Ensa in loading and unloading of spent fuel casks visited the Daya Bay plant to prepare the training operation and maintenance of the ENUN 24P cask and its auxiliary equipment, all of which has been designed and supplied by Ensa.

During the visit meetings were held with URC, DNMC and CNOC to fully understand the needs and requirements and to prepare training content tailored to their needs. The ENUN 24P cask is one of the ENUN cask series designed by Ensa for the transport and storage of high burnup spent fuel, and it is currently in the process of licensing in Spain and China.

The meetings were very effective and constructive and URC, CNOC and DNMC appreciated the efforts made by Ensa and were very satisfied with the presentations and explanations of the Ensa technical experts.

Maliaño, 24th June.