Article

Robotics specialists at Framatome share ongoing projects

November 22, 2021 | 5 min |
Category: subsidiaries

Earlier this year, Framatome launched the Center of Excellence for Robotics, with the ambition to raise the profile of our automation offer and position Framatome as a key company in this domain. There is a wide range of solutions at Framatome, managed by a dynamic community of passionate experts.

They are experts in robotics within Framatome and share their experience and current projects.


1. How or why did you come to work on robotics?

Tony CINSON, Nuclear NDE Technology and Strategy, Framatome, Inc. 

As a non-destructive examination (NDE) professional, I became interested in robotics and unmanned systems platforms particularly for how they benefit NDE performed in the field [safer, faster, cheaper]. Robotics are indeed an evolutionary must for advancement in the NDE sector – across critical asset inspection applications including Nuclear, oil & gas, infrastructure, etc. Working complementary, NDE combined with robotics delivery systems provide an efficient and robust inspection solution. Seeing the potential, I became involved with R&D projects that focused on integration of robotics with NDE. To support the R&D, I sought participation in international communities such as the ASME (1) Mobile Unmanned Systems standards committee and the Energy Drone and Robotics Coalition (2).

Nicolas CHARNAY, manager of the robotic development department, Installed Base BU, France

I specialized in robotics in engineering schools (Polytech Montpellier and Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal). I was very excited to compute and generate life on a piece of metal and silicon. I’ve been working for Framatome as a robotics engineer since 2005 and I became a manager in 2013. I manage the robotic development department of the installed Base Business Unit in France, including 10 technicians and engineers in robotics, automation and computing. I’m part of the Framatome expert community in the field of robotics.

Sebastian KOHN, Software Engineer with focus on robotics and computer vision, I&C BU, Germany

At the department of ICTA (3) within Framatome, we design and manufacture auxiliary and autonomous systems for nuclear plants and the external energy sector. Since 2013, I have been part of the robotics team at ICTA, where we focus on remote control systems using different user interfaces to maximize efficiency and user comfort. My undergraduate studies in mechatronics and postgraduate studies in computer science provide the necessary background for these kind of systems.


2. Can you share an achievement (in robotics) of which you are particularly proud?

Robot for the replacement of elbows on a primary nuclear reactor circuit piping
Robot for the replacement of elbows on a primary nuclear reactor circuit piping

Tony CINSON

Prior to joining Framatome in 2020, I was successful with fully integrating a vibration imaging camera system onboard of an unmanned aerial vehicle platform (UAV). The integration featured power modification, additional camera hardware configuration, remote gimbaling, mechanical stabilization, and the addition of a small modular remote computer with secure wifi capabilities to interface with the data acquisition software. The integration onto the modified drone (UAV) platform was successful; proven by remote data acquisition while the drone was mid-flight! Data files were locally recorded and downloaded for additional analysis. This tool now has the capability to acquire vibration information from a myriad of vantage points previously not possible without the use of ladders, climbing gear, etc. Increased efficiency and improved worker safety.

Nicolas CHARNAY

I’ve worked two years on a successful project for “A elbow replacement” at the Dampierre nuclear power plant in France. We developed a new robotic solution to realize this complex operation in the best radiological and safety conditions. From an existing articulated arm, we created tooling and programs. Some of the technological bricks benefited from an important return of experience, which could be used to optimize costs and time of development. Within 18 months, we could design, test and qualify a new robot.

Sebastian KOHN

After a project at a German plant, where we first used our teleoperation system, we identified several difficulties and potential for improvement. We found the control of articulated robotic arms using standard monitors to cumbersome and error-prone. To improve on this, we envisaged a new intuitive and precise way of teleoperation using modern technologies like virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) and 3D cameras. This was the basis for our 2020 launched R&D project VIRERO, which is partially funded by the German government. This project itself and the path to start it, is currently my proudest work.

“There is a wide range of solutions at Framatome, managed by a dynamic community of passionate experts” explains Guirec Maugat, leader of the Center and CEO of Intercontrôle, Framatome's subsidiary specialized in automated Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) processes.


3. What projects are you working on at the present time?

Tony CINSON

As the North American Installed Base R&D Coordinator for NDE and robotics and common tooling, I am supporting a variety of robotic projects for Framatome. These projects encompasses the use of robotics to assist in delivering NDE inspection solutions of complex components with difficult geometries, development of a water proof in-pipe crawler / snake robot for inspection of small bore piping systems, and focus on robotic driven application solutions to apply pipe liner coatings. Outside of Framatome, I am an active member and contributor to the ASME Mobile Unmanned Systems Standards Committee and associated Use of UAS/UAV for Inspection Subcommittee and support the development of code for using such systems for inspection and maintenance applications for critical assets - including nuclear power plants.

Nicolas CHARNAY

I currently supervise the development of robots for 900MW primary cooling system sections replacement. The removed pipes are the C elbow on the hot leg, the cross-over between the steam generator and the primary pump and a cold leg section around the SIS nozzle. We are developing remote handling robot for inside pipe operations (welding leveling, radiographic control, dye penetrant testing inspection, cleaning, arm with grippers for caps removing). We will use these new robots for C elbow replacement in Blayais, summer 2022. The technical challenge consists of introducing robots into piping via the man's hole of the steam generator.

Sebastian Kohn

Together with our robotics team at ICTA we are working mainly on VIRERO, but also on its future market applications. Furthermore, we are supporting other departments to automatize their workflows using robots. Besides these robotics work, I am also part of the RodPilot development team, the electrical control systems for the control rod drive mechanism where I am responsible for software development.

Notes

(1) ASME : American Society for Mechanical Engineers
(2) Forum dedicated to the launch, growth and scaling of enterprise unmanned system operations in energy companies around the world, bringing together leaders in the drone and robotics ecosystem with asset owners and end users in the energy industrial complex
(3) Autonomous Systems product line of 1&C

 

About Framatome

Framatome is an international leader in nuclear energy recognized for its innovative solutions and value added technologies for the global nuclear fleet. With worldwide expertise and a proven track record for reliability and performance, the company designs, services and installs components, fuel, and instrumentation and control systems for nuclear power plants. Its more than 14,000 employees work every day to help Framatome’s customers supply ever cleaner, safer and more economical low-carbon energy.

Framatome is owned by the EDF Group (75.5%), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI – 19.5%) and Assystem (5%).