VIDEO: Machining experts face toughest test

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Hi-tech manufacturing experts from South Yorkshire have completed one of their most taxing challenges yet.

A team of specialists from the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has just completed the specially shaped floorpan that will stop the 1,000mph Bloodhound Super Sonic Car from taking off.

Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing research Centre machining experts, L-R, Matt Reaney, Mathew Challinor and Andrew Smedley, with the completed floor of the 1,000 mile an hour Bloodhound SSC.

Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing research Centre machining experts, L-R, Matt Reaney, Mathew Challinor and Andrew Smedley, with the completed floor of the 1,000 mile an hour Bloodhound SSC.

The pan, known as the ‘diffuser floor’ is the largest of seven parts made by the Nuclear AMRC which make up the sub-frame that will hold the car’s rocket engine in place and provide vital stability.

The metre square diffuser started out as a piece of aerospace grade aluminium weighing nearly half a tonne.

After 192 hours of machining, spread over several months, it now weighs just over a tenth of that and is only five millimetres thick in some places.

The top of the diffuser sits immediately below the rocket engine and has had a complex pattern of latticed pockets machined into it, while the underside has been aerodynamically sculpted.

“The biggest challenges were the pockets, which are up to 155mm deep,” says Mathew Challinor, who carried out the work with Nuclear AMRC colleagues Andrew Smedley and Matt Reaney.

“This is very challenging for tooling, as you need a tool that has a length of 15 times its diameter. Fixturing was also a challenge, as we had to avoid vibrations in such a slender aero-like structure, while making sure the part was held securely.”

Head of machining Stuart Dawson says that although there are very few aluminium parts in a nuclear power station, the Nuclear AMRC was able to learn a lot about the concept of producing very complex high-value precision parts, right first time. The Nuclear AMRC has won the praises of the Bloodhound team which hopes to push the record above 1,000 miles an hour.

“The commitment of the team at Nuclear AMRC has been second to none,” says Bloodhound’s Conor La Grue.

“They have produced complex components of the highest quality and delivered to very tight schedules. We are delighted with the manufacturing partnership.”