“When you’re a designer, you’re only as good as the projects that come along for you to do.” Designer Kevin Quigley may be as modest as he is talented. Recently recognized by the TCT Group for their annual design awards, he and his Quigley Design team have shown just how skilled they are, creating a complex, highly innovative tool for nuclear decommissioning in partnership with Viridian Consultants. Nominated in the Industrial Product Application category, the pair collaborated on a new design that demonstrates the power of Additive Manufacturing, not just for prototypes, but in end-use products.
Innovating a Safer, Faster Nuclear Decommissioning System
Nuclear decommissioning is tricky and dangerous work. When a nuclear facility is shut down, a painstaking process is initiated to dismantle the facility and clean up any remaining nuclear material so it no longer poses a threat to safety. This process requires a lot of sampling to determine the radiation levels contained within various materials at a site and traditional methods are very labour- and time-intensive, often involving breaking parts down physically and sending them back to a lab for testing. Viridian Consultants – experts in instrumentation solutions for the nuclear sector – saw an opportunity to improve this process. In collaboration with Quigley Design – a product design and development company out of Shrewsbury, UK – they created the game-changing ViridiScope System.
The ViridiScope is a nuclear characterisation sensor that brings an entirely new approach to sampling for nuclear decommissioning. Designed to operate on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the ViridiScope can climb walls and enter areas difficult for humans to access. Using a sampling head housed within a 3D-printed exterior, the scope takes material samples directly from solid surfaces, reducing the sampling time for 100 samples from 4–6 days down to just 4 hours. The ViridiScope was also designed to integrate with on-site sample preparation and analysis, allowing samples to be analysed instantly, giving a real-time measure of the radioactivity present in the material and immediate feedback to site teams, saving months of wait time.
Creating the Perfect Fit and Function with Additive Manufacturing
To ensure the product worked exactly how decommissioning staff needed, several versions of the scope were created, all with multiple intricate parts that needed to fit together precisely to securely hold the electronic and optical systems and allow it to operate in tight spaces. As Quigley emphasizes, “this particular project was actually ideal for [using 3D printing] because it was a low volume, high value product and it had to be nylon because of the nuclear disposal route. When you actually go into a hot area, there are only certain materials you can take in to actually be disposed and nylon was one of those materials, so that’s why we had to use SLS (laser sintering).” And because of the use of 3D printing, as each iteration of the scope was tested, pieces could be tweaked and improved quickly, with no stop point in development.
“It’s been a good project to demonstrate the application of end-use additive manufacturing and it’s a very diverse project — it’s not one or two parts, the whole system was done using AM and we really couldn’t have done the project if we hadn’t have used it. That’s the big difference [from our usual projects]. We designed it for AM right from the start.”
Parts As You Need Them, When You Need Them
When performing proof of concept work, it can be very difficult to make changes to your design as you go, and the cost is often prohibitive to not getting it right the first time. That’s why Quigley chose to use Materialise OnSite for this project. OnSite, Materialise’s online 3D printing service for professionals, was designed to help customers with time-critical projects. Dedicated fast-lane machines ensure short lead times for a wide range of technologies and materials. “OnSite’s got a good system in the sense that there’s an option for rush SLS jobs, which is two days, and they’ve also got next-day SLA (stereolithography). SLS parts are hard to get a hold of fast, most times it takes about five days and it’s quite a challenge to get them back any quicker than that.”
OnSite’s instant quoting feature also allowed Quigley to provide their clients with a ballpark figure for pricing. By choosing to use Additive Manufacturing for the development of the ViridiScope, Viridian saved approximately £200,000 in total production costs and reduced their time to market by almost three years.
The winners of the TCT Awards will be announced on September 25, 2019 in Solihull, England. As Additive Manufacturing is becoming more important and integrated into manufacturing in an end-use capacity, we are thrilled to see Quigley and Viridian Consultants’ innovative design recognized, showcasing the possibilities and advantages the technology has to offer. Best of luck to Kevin and his team, we’ll be watching in anticipation!