Robotic Valve Cladding Cell

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Project Participants: General Dynamics – Electric Boat

Project Start: February 2020

Program Offices for VIRGINIA (VCS), VIRGINIA Payload Module (VPM) and COLUMBIA (CLB) class submarines have directed a reduction in construction costs at the co-build submarine shipyards. General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) is faced with several processing and scheduling challenges involving cladding submarine components, such as hull valves and ocean interfaces.  The GDEB team envisions a robotic welding cell solution, one that scans the part’s contours and calculates the required clad thickness based on geometry.  The articulated welding robot will have the potential to clad internal surfaces for various component configurations.  Robotic welding also has the advantage of being continuous, thus minimizing starts/stops associated with manual welding and cleaning operations.

GDEB is investigating opportunities with the Robotic Valve Cladding Cell to develop a prototype to demonstrate proof-of-concept robotic capabilities, in order to improve production quality and throughput for candidate valve cladding processes. The innovative robotic system could greatly improve the efficiency and flow for the production of valves.  Having a system capable of greater efficiency and versatility will support the upcoming demand of critical schedules.

Currently the large hull valves are continuous production items.  Hull valves have long setup times, are labor intensive, and require a large shop footprint.   To satisfy   clad thickness requirements, a component must be precisely located for welding.  This requires multiple fixtures, optical tool checks, and manual adjustments for each component configuration.  Robotic solutions offer greater efficiencies to help satisfy upcoming VPM and CLB production demands.

This two-phased, 24-month effort will develop a prototype to demonstrate proof-of-concept robotic cladding capabilities.  GDEB will define the desired system functionality, and develop the system requirements and functional specifications. The project team will work with equipment integrators to modify existing robotic cladding systems to specific GDEB’s applications, and demonstrate the desired functionality on a prototype system at the selected robot integrator facility.  The team will compare legacy cladding processes to the cladding processes demonstrated with the prototype system, leading ultimately to procurement and system implementation.

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