From design and consultancy to specification and planning, Abingdon-based Oxford Technologies Limited (OTL) have lengthy track record of solving engineering problems, specifically in the areas of complex remote handling operations.
Well versed in the sector, the OTL team delivered the world’s first remote handling equipment to operate inside a nuclear fusion reactor.
OTL’s application to the Game Changers programme has progressed to proof of concept stage with a live demonstration now planned at NNL’s facility in Workington in November 2017.
The technology being presented is designed to replace current glove boxes, and would remove operators to a remote location away from any radiation dose.
This would essentially allow operations to be performed on much higher activity systems which otherwise would be challenging (or even impossible) to be performed manually. The technology brings together two well-developed systems to a new area of application to form a new disruptive technology.
These sub-technologies are the remote Dexter™ Telemanipulator System that is a proven technology based upon the Mascot telemanipulator that has been used for many years at the JET fusion site in Culham.
The other technology is the Glovebox which, again, is well-developed but would have to be developed further to allow it to be used in a remote handling manner.
The Dexter™ slave arm would be located within a glovebox on a base rail that would allow it to be positioned as required within the glovebox.
The slave arm would be controlled by a kinematically identical master that could be situated well away from any dose (up to 8km if required) in a control room environment.
By moving the master arms, the operator is able to interact with and feel the forces exerted upon objects.
Moreover, using a range of cameras, the operator can see the operations taking place and gains a sense of telepresence similar to actually performing the operations at the work site itself.
By removing the need for sealed gauntlets and viewing windows, the gloveboxes are simplified and only require ports for entry and removal of equipment. This will reduce the costs associated with the gloveboxes.
Additional cost savings are made due to removal of requirement for operator barrier change facilities and PPE contaminated waste and the potential longer shift patterns both due to the time saving and no restrictions due to operator dose.
OTL’s current proposal is a proof of concept which would use an existing Dexter™ master-slave system at the NNL Workington site where the slave would be inserted into a simplified glove-box mock-up.
The trials will run for a period of up to 2 weeks to allow demonstration and operator testing of many operations.
During a visit by NNL and Sellafield to OTL in November 2016, it was indicated that sensitivity adjustment would be a useful development to the Dexter™ control system when manipulating low masses (e.g. spatulas) as well as devices with low mechanical compliance (e.g. fixed volume pipette plungers) that result in low contact forces.
This would allow sensitivity trials to investigate the adjustment to gripper closure and end-effector sensitivity and its effect on the force output and operator perceived haptic feedback.
Dexter™ is proven technology in nuclear fusion:
• Operator is removed from hazardous environment
• No operator dose
• No PPE Requirement
• Up-skilling of workforce
• Elimination of windows and glove-ports
• Simplification of glovebox and protection systems
• Reduced shielding requirement