TARM – the key facts and figures
With the first stage of RACE’s TARM (Telescopic Articulated Remote Mast) project now mechanically and electrically complete, here are some of the key facts and figures behind the project.
What’s the idea behind TARM?
TARM is a huge remote handling system and will play a key role in research at RACE. It was formerly used to perform ex-vessel maintenance on the JET fusion research device.
Essentially, it’s a vertical telescopic mast with range of up to 11m and a horizonal boom.
The first boom section came to RACE in December 2016 and the last piece, the vertical mast, came in May the following year. It’s now fitted to a large structure in the RACE workhall.
TARM will be used for numerous different projects but will see its first task at RACE as a development platform for the new Adaptive Position Control System (APCS), which has been developed by RACE engineers. The APCS is a piece of software developed by RACE engineers to perform the wide range of movements needing to be done on what is essentially a very old piece of kit in TARM.
How many people were involved in this project?
Around 56,000 hours of work have gone into the project so far – inclusive of the initial removal and transport of the TARM to B1, as well as design, procurement, assembly, testing, and commissioning of it.
At the peak in February 2018, 63 people booked time on the project either as core team members or as reviewers of designs, while 113 major purchase orders were raised with 33 suppliers providing the hardware.
So how do you move 17 tons worth of machinery across site from J1A to the RACE building?
Preparations for moving the seven-metre long mast took five months and the work paid off with a flawless operation. TARM was carried to RACE’s workhall on an articulated lorry.
It now rests on a support structure which took 18 months to design and manufacture.
What’s the latest?
Since the joints on the horizontal boom and those on the vertical mast were commissioned, the boom is now able to be raised and lowered and rotated around the vertical axis.
How will TARM help us with fusion?
TARM is essentially a test bed for trialling remote handling work through a very large robot.
It will have a particular focus on tests for the European DEMO prototype fusion powerplant, specifically the ‘blanket’ – a key reactor component. Currently, designs for DEMO have 80 blankets with each one weighing about 100 tonnes.
One configuration of TARM carries MASCOT (the Master Slave Manipulator used at JET for many years), while there are plans for TARM to carry standard robots as well as snake arm robots.
Isn’t a 1980s piece of large kit completely the opposite of what RACE want to spend time on?
TARM has actually been fitted with up to date tech and is now ready for the challenges of the next few years. The mechanical elements have been completely refurbished, while the control system has been stripped out and replaced. Overall, engineers stripped out 1.5 tonnes of cabling and replaced with a control system including high tech fibre optics.
What are they going to use it for over the next few months?
Over the course of the next year the TARM will be used for APCS testing before being used for specific DEMO trials. There are also plans to deploy various equipment on TARM. Further development of TARM will demonstrate the control of large-scale remote maintenance equipment, which includes the dynamic problems associated with manoeuvring large and relatively flexible loads.
Will the technology being developed in the TARM project be of use further afield?
Yes. One way it could be utilised is by those responsible for the Fukushima clean-up project in Japan.