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Of Interest

See archived entries

Central solenoid structures and tooling

Innovation gets the job done

US ITER is procuring the elements of the cage-like support structure and specialized tooling that will be required during the assembly of the central solenoid at ITER. During a challenging year, keeping to the fabrication and delivery schedule has meant innovating ... 

A Climax technician works on a shear pin drill fixture, a critical tool used to prevent rotational movement among the central solenoid superconducting magnets. Photo: Climax (Click to view larger version...)
A Climax technician works on a shear pin drill fixture, a critical tool used to prevent rotational movement among the central solenoid superconducting magnets. Photo: Climax
Like many other ITER staff around the world, US ITER senior project engineer Travis Reagan did not expect to spend most of 2020 working remotely.

"Before the pandemic, we were probably travelling every two weeks to follow up on the fabrication, assembly and testing of tools and components. Quarantine really forced us to rethink the way we do our job," Reagan said.

The team soon realized that they would need to get creative to complete a set of assembly tools that will be needed at ITER later this year to start the assembly of the central solenoid, a massive magnet assembly at the heart of the ITER Tokamak.

In addition, the team is nearing completion of the delivery of critical support structures that will surround and stabilize the central solenoid. Among the pieces delivered by US ITER in 2020 is the assembly platform, the base on which the entire central solenoid will be very precisely erected.

"In spite of its size (approximately the footprint and height of a two-car garage), the assembly platform positions the central solenoid components to within fractions of a millimetre while keeping the entire 1,200-tonne, 15.5-metre-tall stack level, plumb and stable," explains David Vandergriff, US ITER senior project engineer.

Postponing design, fabrication and delivery of the pieces was not an option. 

Climax Portable Machine Tools in Newberg, Oregon, was selected for a critical drilling operation to assemble precision alignment pins that will prevent movement of the massive structure during operation. Due to COVID travel restrictions, however, US ITER was not able to attend the critical factory acceptance testing, which meant looking for alternative solutions to assess manufacturing performance.

Ultimately, they found a collaborator in the Pacific Northwest that was willing to make a routine week-long trip to Climax facilities, inspect the progress and report back to the US ITER team in Tennessee via live video streaming.

"This allowed us to conduct US ITER's first remote factory acceptance test," says Reagan. 

Some of the new procedures the team put in place are expected to survive even after the pandemic, says Vandergriff. For example, they plan to continue video recording and video streaming in factories where the pieces are being produced. This could have significant impacts in terms of resource efficiency, making certain processes less expensive, and as a tool to facilitate training of the installation contractor.

"We are excited to see the equipment in place and successfully completing the needed operations on the actual workpieces," states Scott Thiel, vice president of engineering, R&D at Climax.

US ITER is responsible for supplying four assembly tooling packages for the central solenoid. The first two were shipped to the international organization in mid-2018 and March 2020, respectively.

The third set of assembly tooling hardware, the drill fixtures mentioned above, was successfully shipped to the ITER Organization and was received at the site in February 2021. The total value of the assembly tooling contracts fulfilled in 2020 is close to USD 10 million.

"Half of our central solenoid tool commitments got delivered during the year of the worst pandemic the world has seen in a century. The flexibility demonstrated by our team has been a very valuable asset," says Graham Rossano, US ITER technical systems division director.

In addition to the central solenoid, US ITER is also responsible for providing hardware for 11 other systems to enable ITER operations and science. Find out more at the website below.

See the original story on the US ITER website.

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