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Robots bring big bang

Two ABB robots were an integral part of the ‘Bing Bang’ experiment on September 10, which has subsequently been named the largest and most complex scientific experiment ever.

Two IRB 140 robots performed 54 million precision welding operations to help build the two accelerator rings in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which was designed to simulate conditions in the universe one billionth of a second after the Big Bang.

The particles are beamed in opposite directions through the two 27-kilometer accelerator rings in the LHC last week and then were smashed together—600 million times per second at 99.99 per cent the speed of light—and the results measured in four huge detectors.

Each tubing assembly is 15-18 meters in length and comprises an unusually complex arrangement of components welded to extremely demanding specifications. On one detail alone the tubing assembly required 0.3 mm diameter spot welds every 1 mm in axial length. The position of the welds had to be within 10-15 microns to be effective, though the welds themselves are only 30 microns in diameter. For the two particle accelerators an estimated 54 million welds were performed by the two robots.

“This is probably the most precise and demanding application of a standard robot ever devised,” said Chris Moore, a director of Garrandale Systems, who designed the tubing assembly in collaboration with Ferranti Photonics for Accles & Pollock, each hailing from the U.K.

“The combination of precision tooling and a standard, though high-performance robot coupled to a high level of robot programming, has produced incredible levels of accuracy and repeatability.”

Located in a tunnel 50-150 meters beneath the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) on the Swiss-French border, the LHC has taken 20 years to set up, costing an estimated $10 billion and involving more than 10,000 scientists from 80 different countries.

Image: copyright CERN

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