New cable pulling method saves time and money

A stack of about 200 empty cable spools, referred to as Mount Ranson, sits in a parking lot near the Main Injector Ring. Mount Ranson is a reminder of a new technique that allows cable to be installed more quickly and more safely. Photo: Denton Morris, AD

There’s a photo going around the Accelerator Division titled “Mount Ranson.” In the photo, several stacks of empty wooden spools stand in a parking lot, each stack roughly twice the height of a car.

The spools previously held heliax cable – a quarter-inch-wide cable surrounded by copper shielding – that is being replaced in the Main Injector. The picture is named for Jim Ranson, electrical coordinator for AD, who has been overseeing the installation of new cable during the shutdown.

Fermilab used to purchase heliax cable on spools much larger than those pictured in “Mount Ranson.”

“These things came in spools that held 5,000 feet of cable,” said Cons Gattuso, AD shutdown coordinator. “Just the logistics of moving the cable around in the tunnel was a nightmare.”

The spools were so large, they couldn’t fit into the Main Injector tunnel without blocking access, creating a safety hazard and limiting how much work could be done at one time in each section of the tunnel. Worse, since each spool contained such enormous lengths of cable, installing the cable without damaging it was difficult.

Gattuso came up with a new plan for this year’s shutdown. He asked Ranson to find a company that could recut their large spools of cable into smaller ones. The idea was that with smaller spools, several jobs could be done inside the tunnel at once under safer conditions. Additionally, less cable would be damaged in the process. Ranson put out bids right away.

A company in Carol Springs won the contract and respooled all of the cable.

“The guys said, ‘Give us a week,'” Ranson said. “We got them back. One of our technicians, John Van Bogaert, made a list of origins and destinations on the Main Injector ring for each cable and marked the cables so the electricians could easily pick them up.”

The cable is for a beam position monitoring system that helps operators see how the proton beam is oriented in the accelerator. With the cable precut and labeled, electricians installed it in the Main Injector at record speed.

“We can now install cable in each house on the Main Injector ring in about four days,” said Denton Morris, AD engineering physicist. “Without doing this, it would’ve been twice that.”

Gattuso said labor cost per day for a team of electricians comes to about $6,000.

“When you do the math, it’s $30,000 a week,” Gattuso said. In total, they’ll save the laboratory $180,000 and six weeks of work.

When Morris noticed how quickly the empty spools were piling up outside the Main Injector, he took the photo that became “Mount Ranson.”

Ranson was modest about picture bearing his name.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “You learn from past mistakes. Next year we’ll think of something different to make it even better.”

Joseph Piergrossi