Statistical analysis of the Nb3Sn strand production for the ITER toroidal field coils

A. Vostner, M.C. Jewell, I. Pong, N. Sullivan, A. Devred, D. Bessette, G. Bevillard, N. Mitchell, G. Romano, Chao Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The ITER toroidal field (TF) strand procurement initiated the largest Nb3Sn superconducting strand production hitherto. The industrial-scale production started in Japan in 2008 and finished in summer 2015. Six ITER partners (so-called Domestic Agencies, or DAs) are in charge of the procurement and involved eight different strand suppliers all over the world, of which four are using the bronze route (BR) process and four the internal-tin (IT) process. In total more than 500 tons have been produced including excess material covering losses during the conductor manufacturing process, in particular the cabling. The procurement is based on a functional specification where the main strand requirements like critical current, hysteresis losses, Cu ratio and residual resistance ratio are specified but not the strand production process or layout. This paper presents the analysis on the data acquired during the quality control (QC) process that was carried out to ensure the same conductor performance requirements are met by the different strand suppliers regardless of strand design. The strand QC is based on 100% billet testing and on applying statistical process control (SPC) limits. Throughout the production, samples adjacent to the strand pieces tested by the suppliers are cross-checked ('verified') by their respective DAs reference labs. The level of verification was lowered from 100% at the beginning of the procurement progressively to approximately 25% during the final phase of production. Based on the complete dataset of the TF strand production, an analysis of the SPC limits of the critical strand parameters is made and the related process capability indices are calculated. In view of the large-scale production and costs, key manufacturing parameters such as billet yield, number of breakages and piece-length distribution are also discussed. The results are compared among all the strand suppliers, focusing on the difference between BR and IT processes. Following the completion of the largest Nb3Sn strand production, our experience gained from monitoring the execution of the QC activities and from auditing the results from the measurements is summarised for future superconducting strand material procurement activities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number045004
Number of pages14
JournalSuperconductor science and technology
Volume30
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2017

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