Cloud-Based Onshape Is Used to Design Radioactive Dirty Bomb Detector
Phillip Keane posted on December 17, 2018 |

Cloud-based CAD software company Onshape has had its platform selected for use in designing a nuclear radiation sensor that will help detect radioactive dirty bombs.

Dirty bombs are not full-on nukes in the traditional sense of the word, but are designed to explode with traditional chemical explosives, scattering nuclear debris throughout an area. It’s a very effective means for spreading terror and panic. The bombs can be concealed in a small package, and so it is critical to have an equally mobile detection solution.

Boston-based detector company Silverside Detectors has come up with exactly that. It has designed and manufactured a small neutron detector than can fit inside a suitcase or backpack, and it has done so with the help of Onshape’s cloud-based CAD solution.

Figure 1. Silverside Detectors' mini-neutron detector in Onshape. (Image courtesy of Silverside Detectors.)
Figure 1. Silverside Detectors' mini-neutron detector in Onshape. (Image courtesy of Silverside Detectors.)

"We switched to Onshape because we urgently needed help with data management," said Silverside VP of Hardware Engineering Philip Taber. "Onshape probably cuts our design time in half because we're designing all our parts together in one place versus flipping back and forth between files. We can make [CAD] changes without worrying about breaking the assembly.

“With our previous CAD system, we’d have engineers trying to figure out which version was the latest version of a design. With separate files for the front, back, the side plates and the base, each part would get a letter and number code so we could try to keep them straight, but they’d get all mixed and matched.”

In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. government wanted to install radiation detectors at all of its border crossings to ensure that no nuclear materials could be smuggled across. Unfortunately, traditional neutron detectors require the use of Helium-3, which is a rare isotope (here on Earth, at least). The new miniaturized system from Silverside Detectors not only minimizes the physical profile of the detectors, but also utilizes Lithium-6 instead, which is more abundant.

This means that customs security officers are one step closer to getting the detection equipment they need to help prevent wrongdoing.

Figure 2. The real-life detector, with Onshape running on the cloud. (Image courtesy of Silverside Detectors.)
Figure 2. The real-life detector, with Onshape running on the cloud. (Image courtesy of Silverside Detectors.)

“Silverside Detectors is genuinely making the world a much safer place,” said Jon Hirschtick, CEO of Onshape. “We’re proud that Onshape is playing a role in speeding up the production of their nuclear radiation detectors and getting them deployed on the ground as quickly as possible.”

There seems to be a little reluctance in circles such as nuclear, defence and aerospace to use cloud-based design software, so we think seeing a project like this is definitely a step in the right direction toward gaining wider acceptance among more security-conscious industries.


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