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So you want to build an experiment? A Technician’s Perspective. Tom Ortiz P-24. My Background. 34 Years at LANL 4 year prototype machinist program Projects worked on: Syllac Torroidal Pinch Machine - Operations

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my background
My Background
  • 34 Years at LANL
  • 4 year prototype machinist program
  • Projects worked on:

Syllac Torroidal Pinch Machine - Operations

Antares CO2 Laser – Assembly and installation of optical mounts and performed optical alignment of laser system from the front end to the target chamber.

Lujan Neutron Scattering center - Built several neutron spectrometers and diffractometers.

Nevada Test Site – Built and fielded x ray line of sight diagnostics.

Pegasus Pulsed Power – Operations

Colt Pulsed Power – Helped build and operate.

Trident – Operations, Modified North Target Chamber. Currently involved in Short Pulse Compressor Chamber development.

Welcome to




WHAT DO YOU WANT? A STARSHIP? (Dreamy, but not likely)

WHAT DO YOU NEED?An environment / tool for your experiment / project. (More likely to happen)


“Plan” is a noun and a VERB !!!

Define the fundamental goal of the machine.

Who will operate it?

Is it realistic?

What is the expected lifetime?

General purpose or task specific?

getting started

Defining the Fundamental Goal of the machine

  • What does it need to do?
  • Has it been done before?
does someone already have it
Does someone already have it?
  • What might be available that is not in use?
  • What does it take to adapt, modify, upgrade existing hardware, work space etc. in order to be useful?
  • Salvaging pre existing equipment may or may not be worth while.
what do you need to do
What do YOU need to do?
  • Participate in:
    • If it’s a simple machine, you may need to do everything.


    • Conceptual design. Rough sketches / drawings.
    • Supervise engineering? (Keeping in touch, communication, not always required but usually useful)
    • Facilitate purchasing? (Maybe not, but be prepared)
    • Participate in, or oversee construction. (Probably)
    • Operate. (Depends on the machine and your preference)
some concerns
Some Concerns

Hardly an exhaustive list

concerns cont
Concerns (cont.)
    • Electrical power: Heavy as in 220/440. Clean Power
    • Water: Chilled water
    • Exhaust lines, air lines, gas supply lines, cryogenic supply lines etc.
    • Climate control?
concerns cont17
Concerns (cont.)
  • procedures, interlocks, training
concerns cont18
Concerns (cont.)
  • $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
concerns cont19
Concerns (cont.)
  • PERSONNEL SUPPORT (Ease of operation)
  • EXPERTISE (engineering, fabrication, assembly, operations support.)
kiss keep it simple stupid nothing personal also better is the enemy of good
KISSKeep it simple stupid (nothing personal)Also, better is the enemy of good
  • Define operation mode (1 experiment a month, 1 experiment a week, 1 experiment a day, 1 experiment per hour, etc).
  • Required diagnostics.
  • Required personnel.
  • Required infrastructure.
  • Required approvals.
  • Whenever possible, use commercially available hardware, software, etc,
    • i.e.. Flanges, fasteners, electronic and electrical interfacing etc.
certification rules rules rules
  • Hazard analysis
  • IWD’s
  • Component Certification
    • Electrical
    • Mechanical Design
    • Pressure Vessel (i.e.. Vacuum Vessel)
    • Corrosive / Hazardous Gasses
    • Radiation issues
    • Chemical
    • Chemical Waste
    • Laser
    • Documentation
    • ETC. ETC. ETC. ad nausium
  • System Certification
  • All open circuit work requires:

Training, Two Man Rule

  • High voltage requires:

Specialized training, experienced workers, properly specified and designed hardware.

IWD (or equiv.)

Remember - High Voltage is lethal.

Make use of subject matter experts regarding design and safety concerns / requirements.

  • Learn the fundamentals of good vacuum practice.
  • Define what type of environment you need for your experiment.

High Vacuum (1X10-8 Torr or better)?

Oil less pumping system?

Consider pumping and venting time.


Viewports and diagnostic access.

Limited access / egress issues.

Use of standard vacuum ports, flanges, clamps, hoses etc.

Use proper seals to achieve the required vacuum levels.


pressure vessel

Define requirements.

Partial pressure? Types of gasses used? High pressure? Extreme High Pressure?

Different than vacuum especially in sealing practices.

Requires review by LANS subject matter experts review and approval.



Must be redundant.

Must be engineered.

Must be approved.

Must be failsafe.

Consider the consequences of bypassing interlocks and the ability to continue operations in a bypassed mode. VERY DANGEROUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Also must be engineered, approved, failsafe.

Properly placed.

Recognizable by personnel.

safety cont
Safety (cont.)

General environment


Adequate lighting.

Minimize tripping hazards and head bump hazards.

Access and Egress.

Provide proper routing of cables, power lines, vacuum lines, water lines, air lines.

Be aware that many of these utilities are not compatible in common race ways.

Exclusion Areas

Hazards involved, i.e. Radiation, Laser, Hazardous Materials, Gasses etc.

materials considerations compatibilities proper selection etc
Materials Considerations(compatibilities, proper selection etc.)
  • Do you need magnets (deflect electrons)?
  • Do you not want magnets (interfere or destroy incompatible electronic or recording media? (Note: Extremely strong magnets can be hazardous, i.e. mechanical force).
  • Lead

Requires special handling.

Requires training.

Requires Safety Shoes!

materials considerations cont
Materials Considerations (cont.)
  • Feed throughs.

Electrical (insulated feed throughs)

Water feed throughs.

Signal feed throughs (control cables, diagnostic feed troughs etc.)

High Voltage


Fiber optics

mechanical design and fabrication
Mechanical Design(and fabrication)
  • Take advantage of engineers and designers in the group and Laboratory
  • Talk to and listen to your technicians / machinists. Remember, almost anything can be fabricated with today’s capabilities. Just because it can be made, doesn’t mean that it is a good idea, practical or necessary. Be willing to listen to all of the above mentioned people. They will make your life easier, in cost of fabrication, operation and a nice to look at piece of hardware (great for PR !!! ).
  • Remember that fabrication usually requires some formality of process (official drawings, consideration for certification, safety, etc. Also realize that fabrication and procurement lead time is an issue.
  • Let tools like CAD, SolidWorks, Unigraphics work for you. The engineers and designers in P-24 and throughout the lab are very good with these tools, and can help you get the product you need. Take advantage of this expertise.
  • Everyone will love you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who made this?

Where are the drawings?

I need to duplicate this, can you help me?

I need to set up this experiment 6 months from now. Will I or my assistant remember how we did it?

other considerations
Other Considerations

Ground Loops

Loading airlocks

Re entrant tubes

Alignment viewing and capabilities

Handling: forklift access, crane, hazardous material (additional training required).

Remote Handling

Remote operation

Remote diagnostics

Screen Room?

have fun
  • Build your dream machine
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Make use of all support resources
  • Asking for advice saves time, money, effort, and headaches.

Have fun !!!!