hoirzon milling machine

VIDEO: NNSS obtains first-of-its-kind Horizontal Milling Machine in the U.S. for Subcritical Experiments

hoirzon milling machine

The Nevada National Security Sites’ (NNSS) newest tool – a Mazak HCN 12500 Horizontal Milling Machine – is a mechanical marvel. Touted as the first of its kind in the country, the HCN 12500 will primarily support the Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Facility (JASPER) and will directly support mission-critical projects at the NNSS.

“This is a gamechanger,” said NNSS Machine Shop Manager Chris Naffziger.

When the 35-ton machine arrived in North Las Vegas in several massive steel crates, the manufacturer estimated it would take two to three months to assemble its machine. Instead, NNSS was able to assemble it in a month.

Functioning with a two-pallet system, the new horizontal milling machine allows workers to manage two projects simultaneously. Whereas each tool previously had to be loaded by hand, the HCN 12500 has a 120-tool changer called “the hive” that reduces human error and improves efficiency and accuracy. The Mazak-built machine also addresses and eliminates other safety concerns, including coolant leaks and physical strain on workers.

Funded through the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Capabilities Based Investment Program, the HCN 12500 is one of the machine shop’s most mission-critical investments. As part of NNSS’ overall modernization mission, the new mill increases the ability to build primary target chamber (PTC) tanks for JASPER. Its predecessor was more than 45 years old and unreliable.

“If that machine went down, the JASPER program would need to be paused,” explained Naffziger. “This caused a risk to the mission, being a single point of failure in the shop.”

Scientists and physicists use the JASPER two-stage gas gun to explore plutonium performance. In the final stage of a JASPER experiment, a PTC tank collects and contains the shocked material projected from the gas gun.

Previously, a PTC tank for JASPER could be machined in around a month. By using the HCN 12500, however, the NNSS can produce a finished product in just a fraction of that time, around seven to ten days.

“This machine pushes our technology forward,” said NNSS Machine Shop General Foreman Anthony Montoya. “As people think of new ideas of what they need, we can more quickly and efficiently service and support those projects.”

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