Large machines open up collaborative work at Nuclear AMRC

Sheffield University’s Nuclear AMRC is preparing to receive machining centres that are claimed to be the largest of their kind available for collaborative research anywhere in the world.

The machines – a purpose-built vertical turning lathe from Dörries Scharmann, and a Soraluce FX12000 floor-type milling and boring centre – will be used to produce large representative-sized parts for the nuclear industry and other high-value sectors.

According to the Nuclear AMRC, the vertical turning lathe (VTL) will be capable of working on parts of up to five metres diameter, over three metres in height and will offer full milling and deep drilling capabilities. It is designed for the largest high-value components for the nuclear industry, including full-scale reactor internal parts. It is also suitable for machining offshore wind turbine shafts and the largest jet engine fan casings. The VTL is funded by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and is currently under construction at the Dörries factory in Germany.

The Soraluce will be capable of working on parts up to 12 metres in length and five metres diameter, and can complete five-sided machining of complex parts in a single set up.

It will be used to develop and demonstrate advanced manufacturing processes for large pressure vessels, high-value reactor internals and offshore wind turbine hubs.

In a statement, Stuart Dawson, Nuclear AMRC machining head said: ‘The Soraluce and Dörries VTL are an absolutely unique capability for any research centre. No other research centre anywhere in the world has the physical size or research capability of these machines, as far as we’re aware.’

Preparatory work to construct the additional foundations required for the new machines began in October. Creating the foundations will take around 20 weeks – while this has the potential to disrupt work in the rest of the Nuclear AMRC workshop, careful planning and specialist contractors mean the workshop will be closed for just three weeks in November. The Soraluce will then take around 12 weeks to install, and the VTL 14 weeks.

‘It is a unique heavy engineering challenge,’ Dawson said. ‘But we will be the only research centre in the world with these capabilities and, from summer 2014, these very large machines will be available to manufacturers for collaborative projects.’