Safety challenge for portable machine tools

The Nuclear AMRC has helped Rolls-Royce demonstrate that portable machining technologies can make nuclear manufacturing more flexible and cost-competitive while meeting industry health and safety standards.

Rolls-Royce is investigating a “process-to-part” approach, which uses portable machine tools to work on large and unwieldy components and assemblies. Using portable tools in place of conventional large machine tools can potentially reduce capital equipment costs by at least half, while improving flexibility during manufacture.

In research supported by the Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth programme, Rolls-Royce is developing and testing a fleet of portable machines in the Nuclear AMRC workshop. These machines have been adapted from commercially available equipment, primarily used for repairs in the oil and gas sector, and capable of tasks such as weld preparation, drilling, flange facing and milling.

For nuclear applications, the machines have been modified to add higher levels of controllability, robustness, accuracy and safety. The trials have shown that the portable tools can reduce lead times, eliminate bottlenecks, remove the need to lift large and heavy components close to the end of the manufacturing process, and reduce capital investment in machine tools.

"All of that will allow us to be more responsive in meeting customer requirements. This is not a new technology to Rolls-Royce, but what's novel here is that we are bringing them into a modern production environment with modern health and safety practices, to ensure we meet our customer requirements and ensure timely delivery of components."
Tom Robinson, civil nuclear manufacturing engineer at Rolls-Royce


The Nuclear AMRC machining team worked alongside Rolls-Royce and the machine suppliers to develop robust and novel fixturing and guarding solutions, ensuring that the machines can be used safely, and applied dynamic analysis to increase the machining speed.

“The main challenge when developing this kind of technique is to modify the equipment to meet the more demanding health and safety requirements of a continuous in-house manufacturing environment,” says Mikael Thery, Nuclear AMRC programme manager. “Our engineers introduced innovative tooling solutions to deliver a simple process, giving large savings in process time and producing features right first time.”

Rolls-Royce is continuing to develop the tools in collaboration with the Nuclear AMRC and suppliers.

The Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth (CNSIG) programme is supported by the Regional Growth Fund, and aims to develop the UK manufacturing supply chain for the global civil nuclear market. As well as industry-led research and development, CNSIG includes intense business development for 10 key suppliers.

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