National Nuclear Security Administration

Meet a Machine: ATLAS turns NNSA operators into heavylifting heroes

July 14, 2016

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The United States doesn’t explosively test nuclear weapons, but NNSA is still charged with making sure the U.S. nuclear arsenal is safe and secure, and effective. This is why the U.S. nuclear security enterprise is home to the most brilliant minds and cutting-edge technologies for extreme physics and energy science. Learn about one of the members of NNSA’s family of capabilities.

As part of maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpile, NNSA engineers and Department of Defense crews learn to work with sophisticated “trainers” that are meticulously designed to simulate nuclear weapon assemblies. The teams complete this rigorous training and certification before handling the real weapons. In building the “trainers,” NNSA’s Kansas City National Security Campus found that the weight and size made maneuvering difficult and dangerous during the assembly process. Previously, two-man operations used lots of cranes and hoists; as a solution, NNSA engineers designed the Assembly Tooling Lifting Alignment System (ATLAS): an easier, faster, safer, and portable way for operators to do their jobs. ATLAS uses a single tool to eliminate labor-intensive hoisting operations, provide precise alignment, and assemble multiple components weighing more than 500 pounds each.

With the help of ATLAS, the assembly process starts and finishes in the grip of one machine.

ATLAS enables a lean manufacturing process, reduces footprint and solves ergonomic issues for operators.

There are two ATLAS machines at the Kansas City National Security Campus.