Back in the 1970s, Bay Cast Inc. built parts for the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University, parts that accelerated beams carrying charged particles to velocities nearly half the speed of light.
This past year that same Bay City-based company designed and built a piece of equipment for the next generation of equipment at MSU. Its job: To slow down the fast-moving beams.
The company’s construction of what’s known as a cyclotron stopper is part of a $1.3 million contract it has with MSU. Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the cyclotron stopper will be used for experiments at the current NSCL, which will eventually become part of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a $680 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Michigan and MSU.
“While the cyc-stopper project did not add specific jobs to our facility, it did account for about 6 percent of our 2012 sales dollars, which provided work for our 110 employees,” said Max Holman, Bay Cast’s president and general manager of Bay Cast Inc.
The Bay Cast Companies consist of a specialty steel casting house and a large-format machining company owned by three brothers, Scott, Max and Jason Holman.
Holman said the sheer size of the product – picture a doughnut made of steel standing nearly 13 feet tall and weighing in at 400,000 pounds – and its complexity made it a challenge, but a good challenge.
“This was unique because there were so many large components which had to be cast, machined and mechanically fit together like a jigsaw puzzle,” he said. “While many of our other projects have a large scope of work, none have ever required so many large cast parts to be assembled into a single unit.”
FRIB will be a new national user facility for nuclear science, providing intense beams of rare isotopes to better enable scientists to make discoveries about the properties of these isotopes. This will enable researchers to gain deeper understanding into key scientific questions including the origins of stars and the universe. Isotopes discovered may have important applications for medicine, national security, metallurgy and other uses.
The facility also will be critical to preparing the next generation of scientists. MSU’s nuclear physics doctoral program was named the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report last year, and the prospects of FRIB continuing the NSCL’s reputation as the world’s top rare isotope facility is helping the university continue to attract world-class students.
“Working with MSU was a good experience,” Holman said. “We are very appreciative to be given the opportunity to complete our third cyclotron project for this facility.”