The station’s Maintenance Welding and Fabrication Projects (MWFP) team uses pressurized water to precisely cut various materials, turning them into vital components to keep Pickering Nuclear running safely and reliably.
The impressive water jet cutter machine has a head that spits out water at a force of 60,000 pounds per square inch. With this kind of pressure, there is no limit to what it can cut – be it titanium, steel, wood, carbon or granite.
At Pickering, the machine is used to make a variety of products for use in the plant – such as gaskets for boiler feed pumps and spacer rings for condensers. The five-axis head, which is controlled by a computer, makes this an excellent option for anything that requires precision cutting – perfect for the nuclear industry.
“Basically, it can cut whatever I design,” said Mike Langlois, a First Line Manager Assistant in MWFP, who saw a need for the machine and initiated a process for OPG to purchase it. He is just one of six people in the department trained to safely operate the water pump, which was installed last September.
“It’s good for creating flat pieces, like gaskets, as well as for creating specialized tools,” he said. “It’s definitely saving OPG money on labour and vendor costs by doing a lot of fabricating in-house.”
Before a part is cut, a design is created using a computer program, which is then sent to the machine. The water jet’s advanced self-contained system re-filters the water to 40 parts per million before shooting it out again. A combination of water and garnet sand allows the jet to cut even the toughest materials.
Because of its ability to cut quickly, Langlois believes the machine has paid for itself twice over in the savings it has provided OPG.
“This machine can prevent a unit at the station from being off-line for an extended period of time because we can make a part faster than we could by going outside the company,” he said.