Over the past few weeks workers have been disassembling a large, custom made instrument to prepare it for shipping from its Lansing, NY birthplace to its permanent home at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) facility near Washington, DC. It will take three semi-trailer trucks to transport the 88 foot long, 60,000 pound VSANS (Very Small Angle Neutron Scattering) diffractometer that was fabricated at Advanced Design Consulting USA, Inc.. The unique design will allow NIST scientists to obtain very precise readings when bombarding a variety of materials with a neutron stream.
"It's really just a powerful tool," explains ADC President Alex Deyhim. "You can call it a microscope in a way -- it allows experimenters to look at things you can't see with your naked eye. Detectors and other instrumentation allow researchers at NIST to look inside materials and do the fundamental research they want to do. It's more precise."
The device is a giant tube with rails on either side. Three large detectors are mounted on carriages that can move along the rails to set them at various distances. The detectors, about half the size of a conference table, are loaded with sensors. A pneumatic air powered metal gate valve is mounted on the far end.
On the other end is a giant door that resembles a bank vault door. Shelves mounted on the outside hold powerful vacuum pumps. Manholes are located along the length of the tube for added access. When these are closed the atmosphere is pumped out to create a vacuum that insures the neutrons are only hitting the sensors and testing materials, untainted by particles and air.
"Equipment is loaded into the giant tube, then the gate valve is shut," says ADC Director of Operations Eric Van Every. "The atmosphere is pumped out to create a vacuum so the neutrons have nothing to hit other than the samples and detectors. It can get into the 10 to the -4. NIST can get into the -5s. Space is -5."
Ten to 15 ADC employees worked on the device, including salespeople, administrators, engineers, fabricators, and assemblers. It was assembled in the company's 2016 addition that nearly doubled the work space in the Ridge Road facility to 22,000 square feet. So far the company has added four jobs since the addition was completed, and hopes to add more in the near future. Van Every says the addition made it much easier to create such a large instrument.
"We could have done it, but it's a lot easier doing it with the addition there," he says. "Getting the forklift around, equipment around... we can move around without stuff getting in the way."
ADC builds unique, precision instruments for laboratories and businesses around the world, in the United States and about 20 other countries. Another current project is the fabrication of parts for the Oakridge National Laboratory that will be part of the ITER magnetic fusion device being built by contributors from 35 countries in southern France.
"What is really cool about what we do here is that 50% to 60% of our business comes from all over the world," says Deyhim. "We are such a small company. We do manufacturing. We design and build some of the most cutting edge instruments, creating solid manufacturing jobs right here. Not only made in the USA, but made in New York -- made in Lansing."
ADC has entered into an alliance with Cornell University via its CHESS (Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source) program that Deyhim says will not only bring good new jobs to Lansing, but will develop new technologies that will create future manufacturing jobs fabricating the new technologies that come out of the program.
"Typically the get their funding from the National Science Foundation, but they got some funding from New York State," he explains. "Cornell does cutting edge research. They got funding from New York State that would help them to do this amazing research. When Cornell works with us, not only is the work we do with them going to create jobs here, but the technology we develop for them -- we're going to build the same thing for other facilities in other parts of the country and overseas. So you have multiple factors in creating jobs right here."
"Not only does it create this big influx where we can hire people, but it educates us and we develop new technologies that, long term, will be able to sustain these jobs," Deyhim adds. "Everybody wins. New York State wins. Tompkins County wins. Cornell wins. It's a really good thing."
The VSANS instrument will be loaded onto the three semis with a large crane, and is expected to begin its journey to the NIST facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland next week. Van Every says the device was designed to come apart in three sections, and only one of the trucks will need to be an 'oversized load'. Once installed, a catwalk on top of the device may be installed on fittings already included.