The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the biggest and most sophisticated particle accelerator ever made. It took 20 years, $10 billion dollars, 10,000 scientists, and surprisingly enough, two standard industrial robots to build.
The scientists could have created a high-tech specialized machine to do the work, but they decided the ABB IRB 140 industrial robot was up to the challenge. Two ABB IRB 140 robots were chosen to weld the stainless steel alloy tubing assemblies that make up the LHC's two accelerator rings.
The LHC's purpose is to smash together two particles moving at 99.99% the speed of light. This huge particle physics experiment simulates the state of things right after the Big Bang occurred. It is located underground at the Swiss-French border.
The LHC welding job required incredible precision and repeatability. The two 6-axis robots performed 54 million laser welds - some as small as 30 microns in diameter spaced 10-15 microns apart. Each tubing assembly is 15-18 meters long and the two rings are each 27 kilometers long. Laser welding was chosen to help maintain the stringent parameters.
These particular 6-axis ABB robots offer 5kg payloads, incredible flexibility, and a horizontal reach of 810mm. For the LHC project each IRB 140 robots were placed on a linear tracks. They were monitored via CCTV and performed the laser welds with Luxstar 100WND: YAG laser welding guns.