Experiment Installation Group’s tools of the trade

John Voirin

John Voirin, Experiment Installation Group leader, wrote this column.

Tools are a reflection of our power to control our environment, symbols of human empowerment. Humans make and use tools to enhance our own skills and energies.

The PPD Experiment Installation Group has a wide variety of tools at its disposal, and they all eventually come into play as we work to fulfill the lab’s mission. Over the years our group has installed many experiments: KTeV, MINOS, MINERvA, ArgoNeuT and SeaQuest, to name a few.

The recent installation of the NOvA near detector provides a great example of the large array of tools required a successful outcome. A few of the tools in that kit were a crane capable of lifting 15 tons, a fork truck that could transport 20 tons, slings, shackles, hydraulic pumps and house jacks. In a choreographed effort, many skilled professionals used these tools of the trade, including the most important two possessed by humans: brains and hands.

The task of wielding tools brings with it an awesome responsibility to use them correctly and safely. PPD provides numerous means to do this: safety experts, hazard and risk analyses, mitigation steps, measurement standards, training plans and databases. Equally important is the skill and knowledge that each member of the team brings to work every day.

The actual installation of these experiments is where the rubber meets the road. Good coordination and communication is the key. When the crane lifts and the bars pry, the hammer swings, and the level is used to position things just so. This is when the knowledge we have and the tools we use, with the support of safety, effective engineering and our training, allows us to feel the sense of accomplishment when we do the seemingly impossible.

Although the group was established to support PPD’s physical experiment installations, we provide support for many other lab tasks when called upon and when our tools and expertise are a good fit. We have unstacked and restacked shield blocks for the new test beamline and installed magnets and camera systems in the Industrial Complex.

We continue to expand our usefulness to PPD and the rest of the lab by adding equipment to our arsenal. Our recently purchased 2012 mobile TEREX crane (which replaces a 1982 Grove model), and the specialty training that went with the acquisition will allow us to better provide for the upcoming needs of the Muon Campus, short-baseline neutrino experiments and more. We have already rigged a replacement generator at MINOS and a MICE radio-frequency cavity into the MuCool Test Area as well as NOvA test blocks and the MicroBooNE midlevel platform.

After our jobs are done, other talented people show up with their tools to move the projects forward in their quest to better understand what our universe is made of.

Tim Griffin (right) finishes connecting a large vacuum pump to the MicroBooNE vessel while Jim Kilmer discusses the controls schematics with Dan Markley. Photo courtesy of John Voirin