Many of the challenges faced by small and medium sized EU shipyards can be addressed by improving their productivity for fabricating new, high technology vessels and increasing their access to the specialist repair and maintenance market. Friction Stir Welding (FSW) is a high integrity, low distortion, environmentally benign, welding technique, which was previously investigated in FP7 project HILDA (High Integrity Low Distortion Assembly) and recommended for shipbuilding due to its high quality and suitability for automation.
A recent break-through in the tooling material available for FSW now shows potential to enable this process for welding of steel structures (traditionally it has only been possible to use FSW in aluminium) – this represents a huge opportunity to improve the productivity of European shipyards.
In RESURGAM, will combine FSW with the new tool material to deliver:
• The introduction of low cost friction stir welding (FSW) systems for steel that can be retrofitted to their existing CNC machines;
• The introduction of AI enabled, robotic FSW systems capable of making underwater weld repairs.
These fabrication and repair capabilities, backed by the secure, digital Industry 4.0 infrastructure and techniques already in widespread use in the automotive and aerospace industries, will facilitate the rapid, coordinated but distributed modular manufacture of ships and watercraft throughout Europe.
Practically, this will allow ships damaged anywhere in the world will have the option of being repaired in place without the need to travel to the nearest dry dock. This will allow ship owners to choose the most suitable yards to conduct their repairs rather than the nearest, and the repairs may be undertaken by yards with no dry dock of their own thus significantly increasing the number of yards able to undertake such work. All of this will be implemented by the European shipyards and Naval architects in Europe.