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Light-tight tech reflects turnkey maturity for manufacturer

Supplier: Industrial Conveying Australia By: Val Pavlovic
29 March, 2010

Industrial Conveying (Aust) Pty Ltd has once again broken new ground with its turnkey design/manufacture service, in this case, supplying specialised steel enclosures now in use at the Australian Synchrotron Company (ASCo) at Clayton Victoria.

The Australian Synchrotron is the country's largest research facility and internationally recognised globally for the calibre of its research facilities and outputs. It competes on the global market and is recognised as a world leading scientific and research facility.

ASCo appointed Industrial Conveying Australia Pty Ltd (ICA) to design and build four experimental Beamline Shielding Enclosures (commonly known as hutches) to contain x-rays - the highly energised light beams used in scientific and industrial experiments undertaken at the Australian Synchrotron.

ICA's Engineering Director, Mr Barry Thompson, led this project for ICA. Mr Thompson noted that the management of Australian Synchrotron showed good faith in finding a local turnkey supplier rather than going offshore to find a supplier to meet their highly specialised requirements.

Moreover, Mr Thompson saw this as clear recognition of ICA's innovative ideas and of the Australian Synchrotron's support for local industry.

"We are both based in Victoria and were able to work very closely with the client to refine the design before manufacturing a prototype for rigorous testing. The innovative design principles proved to be very successful – no leakage of x-rays was detected," said Mr Thompson.

"A modular design was developed due to the varying hutch sizes and weight of components which has the benefit of simpler manufacture, easier handling and installation. A total of four hutches were supplied, the largest being 18 meters long x 3.6 meters wide and 3.5 meters high weighing many tonnes.

"With the high energy source, there was no room for error in the engineering as these high energy light beams travel at incredible speed (a little less than the speed of light) and need to be contained at all times. A one metre x one metre x 100 mm thick lead block was installed in the end wall of each hutch to contain the photons should the beam be misaligned.

"We engineered a unique system of labyrinths for the support structure, side and roof panels, access doorways, roof venting systems, service entry points and floor interface for each hutch to ensure containment of  the many different types of light sources to be used across wide ranging experiments.

"Apart from thick lead blocks on the ends of each hutch, each module is fitted out with a range of equipment and services including an internal crane for assisting in the setting up and connecting of experimental equipment.

"Until now, hutches supplied to other Synchrotrons around the world have been of lead panel construction covered with thin mild steel pressed sheets, but we saw the opportunity to use heavy-gauge specially shaped steel panels integrated with the support structure which is less expensive and eliminates the use of lead (except for the end block) which is better for OH&S."

The Australian Synchrotron has many applications across both science and industry. In many instances, half an hour of processing in a Synchrotron hutch is equivalent to about two years of processing in natural conditions. This powerful instrumentation provides a significant edge in both research and industrial applications in a highly competitive market environment.

The Australian Synchrotron is a source of highly intense light ranging from infrared to x-rays that can be used for an impressive array of non-destructive, high-resolution, rapid, in-situ, real-time imaging and analysis techniques.

The unique properties of synchrotron light mean that experimental results are far superior in accuracy, clarity, specificity and timeliness to those obtained using conventional laboratory equipment.

In making these intense beams of light, the Australian Synchrotron creates much more than just visible light. It ranges all the way from large wavelengths such as infrared to short wavelengths such as visible light and UV; then even the shortest possible lengths such as x-rays.

In addition, the unique labyrinth design is capable of containing hazardous radiation beams from all directions which are sometimes used for experiments carried out by Synchrotron clients.

Previously, this type of hutch enclosure was being manufactured overseas. ICA was contracted to this high-tech construction under the Victorian Government Industry Participation Policy (VIPP), which brought business to another Australian company.

The hutches designed and built by ICA for the Australian Synchrotron are made of very thick steel. Their design requires a high degree of precision engineering and requires careful installation to interface these structures with the delicate equipment they house.

Simultaneously, these structures must remain 'light tight' under all circumstances to ensure the successful operation of the Australian Synchrotron.

Therefore, this product has helped ICA achieve a new level of innovation in design, manufacture and delivery. ICA's work on this application is yet another example of the high level of design and manufacture that can be achieved by Australian companies today.