A robot which accurately replicates the mechanics of a human arm has been manufactured to remove specific waste from hazardous liquids from a safe, remote distance.
Forth was approached by nuclear decommissioning company Magnox to find a solution on how to remove fragments of spent fuel rods from waste ponds at its Hinkley Point Power Station, in Bridgwater, by using a more efficient, cheaper and safer procedure.
Instead of removing all materials manually at the end of the process, the creation of the robotic arm allows companies to target specific materials and move them safely into a designated waste area.
The arm, manufactured from carbon fibre and stainless steel, is controlled remotely with a range of 10 metres and has cameras installed to feed back live images to the operator.
The machine operates exactly like a human arm and its flexibility allows the operator to navigate complicated routes. Similarly to an arm, it has joints to represent the shoulder, elbow and wrist to improve the maneuverability of the machine.
A two-pronged gripping mechanism was placed on the end of the arm to enable the machine to pick up the fuel rods and transport them without difficulty.
The robotic arm can be adapted by Forth to different clients’ needs and can therefore be used industry-wide.
Ben Telford, the engineering manager at Forth, said: “After being given a problem statement from the client, we had a recce of the site and looked at the waste pond and went away to think of some concept ideas.
“The robotic arm was the most versatile idea that would work successfully every time, and we went with that because there were a lot of constraints in the pond which we wouldn’t be able to navigate without the flexibility and fluid movement of the arm’s mechanics.
“Because it works like a human arm, the machine can manoeuvre around obstacles and angles and that proved game changing in the design.
“Just because we used it in the nuclear industry, it does not mean that it only serves a function for that sector and we can easily adapt this for multiple industries and whatever the job warrants.
“This robotic arm will be a huge asset to the industry because it is going to significantly speed up the process and save companies substantial amounts of money, while also reducing the risk to humans as it removes the interface previously required for the job.”
Forth manufactured three robotic arms for use by Magnox.