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Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Improves Efficiency, Accuracy And Safety With Sphere Cutting Machine

Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Improves Efficiency, Accuracy And Safety With Sphere Cutting Machine

A federal research facility in Livermore, California, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is part of the National Nuclear Security Administration within the Department of Energy. The facility is responsible for the safety and reliability of nuclear technology, supporting the surveillance, assessment, management, and refurbishment of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.  

A full-circle challenge 

For a specific project, LLNL engineers needed to cut through spheres of four different diameter sizes; however, the task presented unique challenges: 

  • The cut was offset from the centerline of the sphere, and a second cut had to be made on the opposite side of the sphere, leaving two “bowl” ends and the center ring.  

  • The cut had to be a chip-less sever cut to prevent contaminants and debris from compromising the interior contents of the sphere.  

  • The finished apparatus had to fit inside a glovebox. 

  • The machine had to be operated remotely to protect operators from hazardous exposure. 

A well-rounded solution  

The challenge of cutting a sphere is the work holding and providing adequate clamping force. Therefore, Tri Tool utilized the model 614RBL as the clamshell lathe in conjunction with a lathe stand and customized the machine with the following features to meet LLNL’s requirements: 

  • To ensure adequate hold and clamping force, a set of two-piece clamps were designed to tightly fit around each sized sphere and an adaptor plate was installed into the 614RBL. 

  • To accomplish the chip-less sever, high-speed steel was used to remove the majority of the material and a roller cutter was used to finish the severing cut. 

  • To position the machine inside the glovebox, a custom lathe stand was built that minimized vibrations and maximized precision. 

  • To enable remote operation, the machining system was equipped with a custom electric motor and control panel that users could operate from outside the glovebox. 

360-degree benefits for LLNL 

Using the custom sphere cutting machine from Tri Tool, LLNL was able to achieve more efficient and clean cuts while ensuring the safety of the operators. 

Tri Tool’s custom sphere cutting machine: 

  • Increases efficiency – The use of both the sever bit and the roller cutter improve the speed and efficiency of the cut. The reduced friction and drag of the roller result in more power focused on the cut for faster operation. 

  • Ensures purity and precision – The roller cutter leaves a clean burr-free edge for the final breakthrough and the design of the clamps holding the spheres and the way they are mounted onto the 614RBL ensures the two cuts will be parallel to each other and equally spaced from the centerline. 

  • Protects personnel – The remote-controlled operation enables employees to remain a safe distance away, preventing contact with the hazard area during machining.  

As a prime contractor for federal agencies and defense companies, Tri Tool is well equipped to handle the most complex and unique projects, including ones under high security clearance, involving extremely tight tolerances, or with environmental concerns, such as nuclear radiation. 


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