Coriolis, a world-class industrial facility

Safran has recently expanded its Montluçon site in central France to accommodate a new plant dedicated to the production of inertial navigation systems*. A first in Europe in terms of its industrial capacity, this facility called Coriolis has become the world’s leading production unit in the field of hemispherical resonator gyros.

Safran is one of just a handful of manufacturers with expertise in inertial laser gyro and HRG (Hemispherical Resonator Gyro) systems. These strategic systems have been commissioned on the submarines of France's nuclear deterrent force and their missiles, as well as on the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle. To reinforce its leading position in the field, Safran has invested €50 million in building the most modern plant in the inertia sector and in creating a world-class production facility. This scalable, modular industrial facility will be in a position to adapt to changing requirements with the ramp-up in new HRG technology.

A sustainable building
A notable aspect of the building is that environmental criteria have been considered in the selection of materials. "As Coriolis is dedicated to the very latest technology, it is only natural that environmental concerns were taken on board. We have installed 4,500 sq.m of solar membrane roofing which generates a portion of the energy consumed by the building", Nathalie Morel, the project's chief architect, pointed out. The heat given off by the climate control systems is recycled to produce hot water. Insulating the facades has helped to reduce thermal bridges** and cut heat losses by 40 percent. Electricity consumption is further limited by the use of natural daylight in workshops located towards the outside walls.

A glass floor
Showcasing this high-level industrial activity was one of the aims of SLH, the architects commissioned to design the building. "We opted in particular to make glass a strong feature of the building as it is used in the manufacture of laser gyroscopes and HRGs. All of the openings in the facade are therefore equipped with glass sunscreens which bring a high-tech feel while helping to keep the building at a comfortable temperature," Morel explained.
In the lobby, a hexagonal shape covered in glass – reminiscent of the "GLS32" laser gyroscope – contains orange LEDs simulating the gyroscope in operation. This was designed to create an ambiance combining technology (metal framework and joinery, stainless steel, etc.) and warmth with the inclusion of wood.

A world-class center of excellence
Designed to offer large-scale production capacities, improve the efficiency of production processes and reduce cycle times, the construction of Coriolis followed three guiding concepts:

  • the quality of physical flows by optimizing staff and equipment traffic, automated stores and ergonomic working positions;
  • the high technical level of the infrastructures for total control of the manufacturing processes, particularly through permanent control of the temperature, humidity and cleanliness of the facility;
  • modularity and scalability, giving the structure the scope to adapt to growing industrial requirements with the capacity to extend production areas.

* An inertial navigation system is a type of ultrahigh-tech compass capable of measuring the direction and distance covered by a vehicle (airplane, vehicle, boat, submarine, etc.) and permanently calculating its position from this data. To do this, it uses a series of sensors (accelerometers measuring acceleration and gyroscopes measuring angular velocity) positioned along three axes (roll, pitch and yaw).

** A "thermal bridge" designates the areas of a building where indoor heat is liable to escape to the exterior environment, notably through openings (windows, doors, ducts, etc.).

High potential for technological development
The new Hemispherical Resonator Gyro (HRG) technology designed by Sagem is produced at the Coriolis center. It is already being used in the inertial system of the AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, or Modular Air-to-Ground Weapon), the new-generation, smart guided weapon system in service with the French Air Force. In view of the HRG's qualities, combined with performance levels that can be optimized according to the carrier, this technology has a high development potential for new applications. In particular, it offers an interesting solution for numerous designation, piloting and navigation systems for military and civilian uses.