Nuclear rector operators worldwide are facing an ever increasing number of challenges. These range from increased regulatory oversight, Increased financial oversight, increased bureaucratic overhead, plant equipment aging and increasing quantities of obsolete equipment originally manufactured by companies that not longer in exist or no longer support the equipment. A all in one solution to mitigate the impact of these problems is not readily available but the solution to the last is through Bot Engineering’s Legacy equipment support program.
Many operators are finding that as facilities age and spares inventories diminish, that some of even the most critical equipment is reaching end of life. More often then not, this end of life equipment has no modern day drop in equivalent resulting in a difficult situation when a facility must either try to extend the life of the installed equipment, locate and borrow replacement units from operators of similar equipment or undertake the expensive option of carrying out facility modifications followed by certification of the new equipment. If this later option is selected, the costs escalate quickly due to the requirement for the development of new procedures and staff training, when all is said and done, the "new replacement option" results in a total caost between 5 and 20 times the cost of the equipment alon. This cost can be increase another 5 fold in the event that industry specific software qualification needs to be carried out, as is often the case with new computer based equipment. In recognizing that the options to facility operators is very limited, Bot Engineering has developed a third option which eliminates the costs associate with new equipment upgrade while at the same time eliminating the risks associated with use of reverse engineered equipment that utilizes obsolete. The option is facilitated by our Legacy support program.
The Bot Engineering Legacy support program is a comprehensive program that is intended to provide a venue to facility operators that allows end of life equipment to be replaced with equipment that is form, fit and functionally identical to the end of life units being replaced. The resulting products not only operate the same way as the original , they can also be made to look like the original, right down to the front panel colors and control positions. Development, certifications and testing is done by Bot as an in house funded project and once a design is completed, the product becomes part of our legacy line of off the shelf products that can be sold in volume or on a one by one basis thereby allowing the equipment to be purchased as either a capital or current (maintenance) budget item.
The evaluation and development process used for legacy line products is comprehensive and detailed. As a starting point, the currently end of life equipment specification is reviewed, along with the past performance history. This initial information is then used in follow up discussions with the actual people that have had hands on experience with the equipment. This includes service technicians and operators and is intended to provide insight into any aspects of the original equipment design that can be improved. Once the background investigations are complete, the development process is started, followed by prototype production, user review and finally qualification. The end result is a new replacement unit or system that can connected directly to the existing facility infrastructure often using the old cabling and connectors. Compatibility is guaranteed right down to the connector positions and mounting bolts.
In order to successfully develop a legacy line product, a very strict vetting and design process must be carried out. The process involves sepcification review, performance review, usability review as well as the regular design review and obsolescence assement reviews. The process is more complex that a clean sheet design due the the need to ensure 100% operational , physical and human factors compatability with the unit being replaced. The end result of the process is a look alike product, often with superior performance and ergonomics which is desgined for a 30+year life cycle. This extreme attention to detail ensures that the product meets all expectations and will function as intended for the life of the facility. To gain a better understanding of what happens during each step we have briefly described what is carried out. In the hope that potential customers can understand what information should be available at the start of a development in order to minimize the time between project start to final product availability.
In this step, the basic function, installation complexity, environment, reliability and prevalence in the industry is analyzed. From this a decision is made in whether a new project should be started or if is makes more economic sense to use a new non similar replacement, carry out a item rebuild or search for replacements on the surplus market. Often this analysis will reviel that replacement of a particular component in an end of life unit can considerably extend the useful lifespan of the particular unit. We will let you know we find and suggest the best solution.
Rest assured, if the initial investigation identifies a lower cost solution to a problem, that this finding will quickly conveyed to the customer.
This step reviews the original specification of the end of life equipment. Here the original specifications are analyzed and compared with the specifications that would be required if the equipment were new. This step is critical as regardless of the fact the a legacy line product is a direct replacement for an older unit with earlier specifications, often new specifications, such as those related to EMI/EMC are required on newly installed equipment. As a result, a new specification set must be drawn up which is a combination of original specifications and new standards.
In this step, the past performance history is reviewed with the intent of identifying any operational, or calibration issues that may be an indication of is systemic flaw in the end of life equipment to be replaced. If such a fault is identified, the new equipment development effort will include the elimination of the flaw.
Here, the ease of use, calibration and service is examined in order to identify any modifications that can be made to the replacement so as to simplify the use and operation of the equipment. For this step, it is essential to have access to operators and technicians who have had familiarity with the equipment to be replaced so that a hands on level feedback is obtained.
In this step, the design of the obsolete equipment is examined in detail. The review is carried out to identify any design faults that may have originated in the original design effort. Often small errors in design are found and are corrected in the replacement, resulting in improved performance. In some cases major design errors have been discovered clearly showing that the original equipment did not meet the original specification. In these extreme cases, a special customer meeting is held to determine the course of action.
Once the original equipment is fully analyzed, the concept for the new equipment is developed. The concept includes details on the equipment electrical architecture, physical layout, calibration method and user interface. In many cases, the investigations carried out in steps 1 through 5 will support the inclusion of modifications to improve various aspects of the original design.
With all initial work done a detailed design effort is undertaken. The new design may include features from the original design but in all cases utilizes components that have a guaranteed availability for at least 30 years. In some rare cases, where long term availability cannot be guaranteed, the new design is such that that component is “modularized” to a plug in level so that it can be replaced with a substitute in the future without changes to the equipment design.
This stage involves building a prototype of the new equipment. This prototype is used for proof of concept and performance testing and fine tuning of the design. This prototype often does not resemble the entire final product during this step, the design of the product utilizes existing and proven BOT core techlogyis that have continued to be developed on an ongoing basis. The cntinuos development of core technologies is targeted to address specific future needs that are predicted to emerge and are ready for incorporation into legacy line products years before they are actually needed
This step involves construction of a prototype that closely resembles the final design. These units are used for initial qualification testing, manufacturing process refinement, human factors review and other aspects that must be confirmed prior to production tooling.
In this step, the new design is examined and tested for compatibility drop in with the end of life unit.
Here the first version of the production unit is built. This step often results in some small changes being made mainly to simplify assembly or improve serviceability of future versions. If the changes are significant.
It is through this step that the performance of the new unit is verified by testing the production prototype. The testing involves the development of a test plan and procedure that ensures that testing for compliance with all of the specifications is carried out.
Once the production prototype is verified as being compliant with the specifications, the unit is sent to the facility and a test fit carried out to ensure that there are no issues of incompatibility between the original and new equipment.
For some types of equipment, specialized manufacturing processes must be used during the manufacturing phase. If these are new processes, these are analyzed for quality liabilities and the process and procedures are refined to ensure the utmost in final quality. In most cases no new processes are needed but there have been some instances where a new process has been developed.
Processes are defined as anything used in the manufacturing operation and includes fabrication, assembly and testing.
In this step the design, manufacturing, quality and calibration documentation is finalized. Depending on the QA requirements of the particular customer, these documents may need to be approved by an authority designated by the customer.
Here production units are built. Production units are subjected to acceptance testing and shipped to customer.
In this stage full production is started. At this point in time, the design is fully qualified, all documentation is complete and no further open items remain regarding the equipment design.
This is the last step prior to product release. Here the completed units are tested for specification and performance compliance using a detailed procedure. The result from these procedures are then maintained as quality records
In this step the product is released to the customer as a standard off the shelf product. In some cases, the customer may require that additional or retest be carried out while being witness by an authority approved by them.
In this final step, the customer integrates the new product into the maintenance process of the end of life equipment . In most cases, there is no change required to the original procedures the customer use this opportunity to refine the procedures that already exist. In a well executed legacy replacement, there should be no difference between the original and replacement equipment procedures, allowing them to be used interchangeably.