Robotic Welding of VCS Major Assemblies

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Project Participants: General Dynamics Electric Boat

Project Start: November 2013

GDEB Operations personnel involved with the production of structural fabrication have identified the structural welding required during the manufacturing of major product assemblies as a significant contributor to construction costs. Using the product centric approach to manufacturing, 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. The PF and IP candidates include assemblies such as manufactured Tee and I assemblies, small foundations, tank internals, bulkhead structures, main propulsion foundations, and inserts and penetrations. Examples of major product assemblies would include the RAFT, engine room decks, and the various tank structures of the boat. 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 devices, automation, and mechanization.

This project will be executed in two phases. The first phase is the development of requirements/specifications and the resulting procurement of a robotic welding cell for major assemblies. It will also feature the development of required welding processes for major assemblies. The second phase will develop the stud locating and welding process, and back-grinding processes for full penetration welds on major assemblies. The main focus 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.

This technology, once implemented, could potentially save an estimated $1.045M per VCS Hull. These savings will result from enabling discrete planning of welding major 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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