On the 22 February 2005 VTT Industrial Systems hosted a press conference to announce the launch of a Remote Operation Virtual Reality Centre (ROViR) to be set up in VTT’s Tampere site. ROViR is being established as a joint venture between VTT Industrial Systems and TUT IHA (Tampere University of Technology, Institute of Hydraulics and Automation), both located on the same technology campus. The establishment of the ROViR Centre has been strongly influenced by the EFDA Remote Handling (RH) programmes and was triggered by EFDA’s decision in October 2004 to locate its new RH test facility, the Divertor Test Platform (DTP 2, see facing page), in Tampere. Formal responsibility for hosting the facility will rest with the Association EURATOM-Tekes. However, day-to-day responsibility for its construction and operation will be carried out by VTT Industrial Systems and TUT IHA, who are members of the Tekes research unit.

Tampere is Finland’s second largest city (Population 200,000) located approx. 180 km north of Helsinki and a major centre for research, development, education and industry.

The plan for the ROViR Centre is to develop it into a leading European centre in the field of advanced robotics, remote handling and mobile robotics systems. Initially, the major activities are likely to center around the DTP2, but the ROViR Team have ambitious plans to engage industry and aim to develop into an organisation employing some 100 researchers of which at least 30% should originate outside Finland. The Executive director of VTT Industrial Systems, Jouko Suokas, explained that “As well as serving the remote handling needs of ITER, we want to expand and develop the use of Virtual Reality (VR) tools throughout industry and help it to meet the dramatic changes in development and design methods likely to occur. In fact, we believe that the use of this technology in manufacturing over the next decade is likely to have an impact of similar magnitude to the CAD / CAM revolution in the 1980´s”.

The key persons behind the establishment of the the ROViR Centre and the DTP2 project (from left to right): Arto Timperi (ROViR manager), Martti af Heurlin (Deputy Director general of the Finnish National Technology Agency – Tekes), Jim Palmer (EFDA Responsible for Remote Handling activities), Jouko Suokas (Executive Director of VTT Industrial Systems), Prof. Matti Vilenius (Director of TUT IHA), Mikko Siuko (TUT IHA Responsible for fusion activities), Seppo Karttunen (HRU Association EURATOM-Tekes) and Michael Pick (EFDA Field Co-ordinator Vessel/In-Vessel)

When asked why EFDA chose Tampere for the DTP2 site, Michael Pick (EFDA Field Co-ordinator) replied: “Apart from the strong working relationship we have developed with Finland over the years, what we have here [in Tampere] is the presence of a stable and well established technical infrastructure within VTT, coupled with a source of young and enthusiastic engineers from TUT. Young engineers who we hope will develop through their experiences with DTP2 to help satisfy the future staffing needs of ITER. A second major point in Tampere’s favour was the desire to think beyond the DTP2 itself and seek to create a much larger centre for the development of technologies related to remote handling. This will be good for Europe, good for industry and ultimately good for ITER.”