Cavendish Nuclear Led Consortium Develops Weld Inspection Technology That Optimises Sustainability and Productivity

A new technology to identify weld defects in minutes will save time and cost in high-integrity fabrications for nuclear new build projects and other quality-critical applications.

The technology was developed by the AWESIM (Automated Welding Equipment System Inspection and Monitoring) consortium, led by Cavendish Nuclear Ltd.  The consortium included Doosan Babcock Ltd, the Advanced Nuclear Research Centre at University of Strathclyde, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at University of Sheffield, Peak NDT Ltd, Babcock International Group and Frazer Nash Ltd.  The consortium has filed patents on the technology.

Image 1: Temperature compensated phased array ultrasound sensor from ANRC, University of Strathclyde

The AWESIM disruptive technology is a game-changer for fusion welding as it enables real time detection of defects in fusion welding processes as they occur.  It will yield greater schedule certainty, take hours out of the process, help to significantly reduce the incidence of abortive welds, drive productivity up and ensure sustainability is optimised by reducing the energy and materials used in the weld.

As part of its primary function AWESIM gathers high resolution data from several different sensors being used to interrogate the fusion welding process in real time and uses computer algorithms to rapidly analyse the data.  This process gives operators an immediate indication of the presence or not of welding defects.  The sensors involved include acoustic, laser profiling, cameras and temperature compensated phased array ultrasound among others.

Cavendish Nuclear’s Managing Director, Mick Gornall said: “The technology generated by the AWESIM project marks a step change in the ability to detect defects in welds in real time.  Commercialisation and deployment of the technology is now being planned so that users can make a significant contribution to Net Zero 2050.”

Image 2: AWESIM project test rig at NAMRC, University of Sheffield.

Cavendish Nuclear’s Head of Innovation and Technology, Tony Burnett said:

 “The impact of this disruptive technology in the field of high integrity fabrication is expected to be significant”.

“Our AWESIM technology is capable of reducing the time taken between forming a fusion weld and knowing it is free from defects from several hours to minutes. Closing the time taken for feedback between welding and non-destructive weld inspection to such short durations enables significant productivity and sustainability improvements, provides greater schedule certainty so saving time and money while maintaining quality.”

Bert Holt, Director of Nuclear Lifetime Programmes from Doosan Babcock said:

“The AWESIM project has demonstrated the power of collaboration in innovation between the academic and industrial partners in projects enabled by the judicious application of government funding to make a real tangible impact in bringing new, potentially disruptive technology to the market.  The extent of the application of the patented AWESIM technology to Nuclear New Build projects such as the future Sizewell C, UK SMR and AMR builds in the UK and similar projects internationally is expected to be great; however, its use in other industry sectors involving high integrity welding, such as the defence and process industries, are likely to be even more significant. The consortium members are now working towards a commercial launch of the AWESIM technology.