Automated Interior Scanning, Blasting and Painting

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Project Participants: General Dynamics – Electric Boat & General Dynamics – Bath Iron Works

Project Start: March 2020

For this effort, General Dynamics Electric Boat, in collaboration with General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, has embarked on the Automated Interior Scanning, Blasting and Painting project to investigate opportunities to utilize robotics that will combine scanning, blasting, cleaning, and painting into one innovative solution for large scale projects. The current process used for blasting and painting the interior of tanks involves limited access to these areas and requires substantial Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure safety in confined spaces. Additionally, there is a significant amount of man hours required to complete this process due to the complex shapes of the tanks, lack of visibility in the confined blasting environment, and associated cleanup required.

The Automated Interior Scanning, Blasting and Painting project will develop and demonstrate a fully automated system to scan, blast, and paint a complex surface similar to that of the interior of the tank. The system will aid in reducing cycle time for the process and man-hours required to complete the entire evolution. In addition, the proposed automated system will create a more uniform quality product while maintaining safety. Blasting and painting robotics technology has been proven to be a feasible alternative for the manual blasting and painting processes in other industries. Scanning technology has been shown effective on smaller scale initiatives, and will require investigation and adaption for a large scale project demonstration. Ultimately, the scanning technology will create a 3D digital representation of the part and then be used to program a robotic path given the dictated parameters for the robot with respect to offset distance, step size, and translation rate. These inputs, in addition to a digital representation of the part, can be used to manufacture a path for the end effector to blast and paint the complex features of the interior tanks.

This two-phased, 24-month effort will define the desired system functionality, identify the candidate tanks, and develop the system requirements and functional specifications. A small scale representative demonstration will be used to down-select a robot integrator for the large scale demonstration. The large scale test demonstration will be conducted on a representative tank, with test plans created and executed to demonstrate scanning, blasting, cleaning, and painting functions.

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