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A world-spanning drawing table

-Sabina Griffith

The goal is — virtually — pinned on every wall: 26 Procurement Arrangements are in the pipeline scheduled to be signed by the end of this year. Amongst them is the real big bundle, the ITER Vacuum Vessel with all its interfaces including the integration of the ELM control coils. In order to fulfil this ambitious task, literally almost all available hands are working on the completion of the design models and the CAD drawings.

Currently, there are 46 designers working in the Mechanical Design Section of the ITER Design Office and 29 in the Plant Design Section. Nine more designers from the companies Assystem and Jacobs Ltd. have recently joined to work together on the Preliminary Architectural & Engineering Design Services for the different buildings and technical groups. Another 26 people work in the Design Office Configuration Control Section. 9 of them support Stefano Chiocchio and the Design integration Team, 4 others are involved in the CAD data exchanges with the Domestic Agencies. In total that makes 112 staff engaged in the ITER design and associated process & software infrastructure. By the end of the year this number may increase up to 158. The staff ramp up foresees another accession over the next two years leading up to 205 by 2010. The problem only is that the bulk work has to be done — now.

"The Responsible Officers have estimated that over the next 12 months we will need an additional 190 people to meet the scheduled targets", Eric Martin, Head of the Design Office, says.

Now, an additional 190 designers and engineers working in Cadarache would not only strain the already limited office space, it would also blow the IO's resources. Thus the idea is to delegate work that can be done by and within the Domestic Agencies (DAs) to them. A nice idea, indeed. But as always, the devil is in the detail: How to provide access to the network? How to organize the exchange of data? How to synchronize the work done in east and west? How to monitor and control the progress so that it is in accordance with the Organization's quality assurance procedures? "It is obvious that the stakes are high, but we have to do it", Eric Martin says. "We need all the help we can get.. We are quite optimistic as we feel very strong support from the DAs.

Back in 2006, the Design Office was already establishing regular meetings with representatives from the DAs to organize collaboration across the planet. And a big step forward was taken two weeks ago when that CAD Working Group came together in Cadarache for a three—day workshop. But again, organizing the methods of collaboration is one thing, providing the staff and the necessary budget is another. "This ship is big and difficult to manoeuvre, but we are gaining momentum", Eric Martin describes the situation.

In order to get the ship moving forward, the Indian DA which Martin says is "highly motivated" has signed a task agreement providing 30 CAD and engineering designers.

Even though they have experienced a severe budget cut, the US DA will commit 19.6 design specialists. "That is less than originally planned, but there is hope that this number will increase by the end of this year", Martin says. "Japan is also highly motivated", Martin adds. "They were the first ones to come to Cadarache in May this year to negotiate. But they can only provide 8 instead of 25 staff for the moment due to budgetary issues." Korea has signed and is ready to commit 11.7 staff effort. Russia, too, has signed and will contribute 9.02 staff. The Chinese DA is not yet officially established and can thus not sign any agreement for the time being. Also pending is the European signature under this task agreement.

In order to enable the collaboration, the ITER IT Office has created a "collaborative network" that allows synchronized database applications. For example, if a designer on the other side of the Atlantic modifies a minor detail of the upper launcher, his counterpart on this side will be able to see the modifications. A CAD data base replication system has already been installed between Cadarache and the US and was successfully tested 2 weeks ago. This technology will in particular allow the US—DA and the IN—DA to redesign the ITER Cooling Water System, sharing the ITER database and taking into account the numerous interfaces.

Once the Design Offices are established within the DAs, design coordinators from each DA will be invited to work in Cadarache. "At the moment, this is just an idea", Eric Martin explains. But he and the CAD working group members from the seven DAs are convinced that this is a very good solution to build up knowledge, to get used to each others' working routines and — finally— to achieve smooth and efficient collaborative operations.


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