This article has been supplied by Oxford Technologies.

Oxford Technologies is a world-leading developer of remote-handling systems, providing innovative solutions in sectors including high-energy physics, nuclear fusion and nuclear decommissioning.

Leading-edge capabilities

The company, now part of Veolia Nuclear Solutions, was formed in 2000 as a high-technology spin-off from EFDA/JET, where the company’s team of specialist engineers was responsible for delivering the world’s first remote-handling operation inside a nuclear fusion reactor.

Veolia Nuclear Solutions

Typically, remote-handling projects combine many diverse leading-edge engineering technologies, including vision and image processing, human–machine interfacing and virtual and augmented reality and simulation, together with mechanical, mechatronic, electronic and electrical engineering – all of which skills and capabilities are brought together by Oxford Technologies and their growing team of engineers.

Global reach

With extensive expertise in the development of remote-handling solutions from conceptualisation through to implementation and operation, the company provides clients with services ranging from feasibility assessments and short-term peer reviews up to and including the supply and installation of fully operational remote-handling facilities – with projects varying from the provision of small hand tools up to large-capacity manipulators operating in super-hostile environments.

The international nature of many of its projects has meant that Oxford Technologies has developed into an organisation that is truly global in its outlook and philosophy.  Because technology and science at this level cross national boundaries, neither the geographic location nor the multinational nature of customers and their engineering teams pose a barrier to Oxford Technologies, which, in addition to working in the UK and France, has also participated in commissions in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Finland, Germany Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Poised for future growth

As Global Access Marketing & Business Development Director, Stephen Sanders, explains: “Oxford Technologies is strategically positioned to meet the rapidly increasing demand for remote-handling solutions, which is being driven by the growth of commercial and academic engineering projects in hostile environments, from CERN to deep-sea mining and space exploration.”

Tackling engineering challenges at ITER

Oxford Technologies is currently working on one of the many detailed engineering challenges that will turn the science of fusion energy into engineering reality: developing a compliant wrench to tighten and loosen the bolts, which hold the blanket modules that shield the walls of the tokamak.

The 440 blanket modules covering the inner walls of the vessel protect the structure from the heat flux generated by the plasma.  Each 1 m2 module weighs 3.5 tonnes and consists of a detachable, plasma-facing panel and a shield block, which forms the structure of the blanket module and houses the cooling water channels.

Due to the complex geometry of the interior face of the vessel, the exact alignment of the holding bolts will vary on each panel and the wrench must therefore be able not only to locate, engage and tighten/loosen the bolts, but also to cope with vertical, lateral and angular misalignments.

The engineering challenge has been to create a test rig to test two types of wrench design that can overcome the anticipated misalignments while continuing to function effectively.

Because the blanket will be installed in what may be one of the most hazardous environments on Earth, the tools to remove and replace damaged blankets need to be operated using remote-handling technology – Oxford Technologies’ core expertise.



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