Robotic Welding of VCS Interim Products

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Project Participants: General Dynamics Electric Boat

Project Start: July 2012

The U.S. Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) have a joint initiative to reduce the construction cost of the VIRGINIA class submarine (VCS). The Navy ManTech Program is participating in this initiative with specific focus on improving manufacturing processes for ship construction.

Operations personnel involved with the production of VCS structural fabrications have identified structural welding as a major contributor to construction costs. Major fabricated structural assemblies have been broken down by product structure and defined as either “part family” (PF), “interim product” (IP), or “major product” (MA) assemblies. These candidates include assemblies, such as manufactured Tee and I assemblies, small foundations, tank internals, bulkhead structures, main propulsion foundations, and inserts and penetrations. Preliminary assessments have identified opportunities to improve the accuracy of weld preparations, component assembly and fit-up, welding processes, and equipment, as well as increased use of fixtures, positioning, automation, and mechanization.

The goal of this project is to determine the overall steps and requirements for the development and implementation of a modular construction approach using robotic welding techniques for the VCS part family and interim product subassemblies. Electric Boat will survey the industry for alternate methods and equipment that support the VIRGINIA contractual requirements; review and select solutions for prototyping activity and from this work, develop and issue an implementation plan with a refined business case.

This technology, once implemented, could potentially save an estimated $551K per VCS Hull. These savings will result from enabling discrete planning of welding small assemblies within existing planning systems and increasing the percent of first time quality. While the project focuses specifically on improvements benefiting the VCS, the same benefits described here can accrue to all U.S. Naval ships.

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