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WARD CNC SET TO INSTALL ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST MACHINING CENTRE FOR RESEARCH CENTRE

One of the world’s largest machining centres of its kind available for collaborative research is being installed at the Nuclear AMRC by T W Ward CNC Machinery (Ward CNC), the exclusive UK and Ireland distributor for Soraluce of Spain.

With the Soraluce FX12000 floor-type travelling-column milling and boring centre at its heart, a machine with exceptional X, Y and Z traverses of 12,000 mm by 5,300 mm by 1,900 mm, the innovative system will process workpieces weighing up to 65 tonnes (the crane limit at Nuclear AMRC is 50 tonnes) and measuring up to 12 metres long by five metres diameter.

Equipped with an automatic head changing system that will utilise a range of machining heads – orthogonal indexing, universal indexing, fixed horizontal and boring, and boring and facing, all served by an automatic toolchanger of 80 stations - plus a rotary/travelling table of 3,500 mm by 3,500 mm, the machine will be used to develop and demonstrate advanced manufacturing processes for large pressure vessels, high-value reactor internals and offshore wind turbine hubs.

The Soraluce machining centre is an invaluable addition to the organisation’s already impressive portfolio of machines and manufacturing facilities and, according to Head of Machining, Stuart Dawson, “it will offer the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, of which Nuclear AMRC is an essential part, a unique resource: we will be the only research centre in the world that has such a machining capability, which will be available to manufacturers for collaborative projects”.

He continues: “The extensive machining capability offered by the Soraluce will enable full-size parts for small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to be machined, ideally in one-hit, therefore for the first time providing UK manufacturers with a potential lucrative foothold in this global business.

“In selecting the Soraluce, we of course investigated all likely options following our policy of adopting best-in-class technology to achieve best industry practice,” says Mr Dawson.

"On visiting Soraluce in Spain, we were struck not only by the overall multiple machining capabilities of the FX12000 but also by the machine builder’s professionalism. In addition, of course, the proposed solution also offered extremely good value for money - plus we had the added assurance that Ward CNC, a local company, would also be installing and commissioning the machine as well as providing ongoing support when required.”

Highlighting a number of machine features that impressed – not least the combination of a variety of machining heads and the impressive dynamic ram traverse (droop) compensation system - Mr Dawson also pinpoints the use of linear guides (rather than hydrostatics) on the machine’s main axes as critical features.

“By adopting innovative and cost-effective design, Soraluce has achieved an extremely high level of positioning and machining accuracy on such a large-capacity machine”.

With a main spindle power of 71 kW, high-pressure coolant systems and rapid feed rates of 25,000 mm/min in X, Y and Z axes, the machine boasts impressive traversing/positioning repeatability accuracies (to VDI/DGQ 3441 standards) down to 0.014 mm and 0.011 mm, respectively (and to 0.005 mm in the W table traverse axis) using Heidenhain linear scales.

Capable of performing pendulum machining, if required, in two separate working areas on the same expansive table, the machine is of rigid cast iron construction for superb stiffness, anti-vibration and stress absorption.

Mr Dawson concludes: “The machine will be put to work on a variety of pressure vessel and reactor internal parts, mostly of steel/austenitic steel and often clad with nickel alloy.”

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