In the field of nuclear technologies, operators face the risks of exposure to radiation on the one hand, and contamination by dangerous products (radioactive and toxic) on the other. These risks have been known since the beginning of the twentieth century, and have led to the development of numerous protective measures: confined atmosphere, windows charged with lead, mechanical telemanipulators, etc. These protective measures are integrated at the design stage of nuclear research and industrial facilities, from fuel preparation to its disposal or reprocessing.
From the 1980s, the first decommissioning projects revealed new needs, which could not be met by the use of telemanipulators. Indeed, telemanipulators are fixed devices, not at all flexible, and which do not allow a significant distance between the human operator and the work area. That’s when robotics came into the game. First, a new form of telemanipulator emerged, in which the mechanical transmission was replaced by electric motors linked together through simple analogic amplifiers. But these systems were still inflexible and extremely expensive, due to the small number of units manufactured. At the same time, robotics researchers began to develop numerical control methods, and the field of telerobotics was founded.
The nuclear field does not lend itself well to automation, due to three factors: the nature of the processes, the environmental conditions, and the absolute imperative of safety. For these reasons, many operations require the intervention of human operators, even though they cannot approach the target area without great danger to their health. It is therefore necessary to put in place technical means to work remotely, without reducing human dexterity and decision-making abilities. Force feedback telerobotics is essential for the nuclear industry, because it allows human operators to control processes remotely with a high precision, while at the same time monitoring the forces applied to the equipment and materials.
Haption has been active in the nuclear industry from its creation, and counts as one of the key technology suppliers. Our haptic interfaces have proven their value and are used in an operational way for decommissioning, dismantling and maintenance operations. They sum up several thousand hours of use and keep counting, which proves their reliability and robustness. Our solutions in simulation are also widely used by our customers. Our CAD plugins (Catia/Delmia V5™, 3DExperience™, SolidWorks™) can help in support to virtually control the robot and simulate the interventions upstream of the project.
We are available for your requests regarding the use of our force-feedback manipulators in the nuclear domain.