Tele-Welding – Tele-welding Shipyard Prototype for Welding (2019-375-006)
EWI, Robotic Technologies of Tennessee LLC, Visible Welding, HII- Newport News Shipbuilding, GD-Electric Boat Shipyard
January 2022 – December 2023
INDUSTRY INVESTMENT: $896K | NSRP ASE INVESTMENT $892K
The objectives of this project are to:
- Develop a system that allows workers to operate welding equipment from a remote location yet be in complete control of the equipment.
- Create a method for shipyard welders to gain exposure and confidence, and guide future efforts in remote-controlled manufacturing technologies.
- Allow anyone, anywhere to be active participants in manufacturing.
Shipyards are challenged to find experienced welders and keep aging welders on the job. Remote or tele-presence welding will allow a worker to operate the welding process from a remote location. All who desire to do the work – older, younger, and person with physical disabilities – will have access to technology and equipment allowing them to become fully productive as shipyard welders.
Allowing a welder to perform welds from a distance can solve many worker and workplace challenges. Experienced welders can stay in the work force years longer than today; injured workers can re-enter the workforce sooner; certain disabilities will not impair the ability to tele-weld. The high tech, clean environment of tele-welding will attract younger workers.
This project will provide an integrated system allowing a worker to remotely operate the welding process while in full control at all times. “Tele-welding” is the initial implementation, but other processes use the software and hardware interfaces developed in the project. Further, the goal is to be “agnostic,” not limited to traditional robot arms and fixed automation, but flexible for the kinds of unstructured environments where the demand has been shown to be greatest, with the least effort for set-ups, staging, tracks, or limited areas of functionality.
- The primary impact on people and organizations is expansion of the number of available workers who benefit from this technology. This concept is truly a game changer in that it will empower those who want to work but have physical limitations. It will also attract the younger, tech-savvy individuals that do not want to get “down and dirty” in the shipyard welding environment.
- Remotely operating a welding system will allow more productivity due to increased “operator factor.” The operator factor is the amount of welding time versus the amount of total time charged to a job. By virtue of the remote operational environment, the amount of fatigue and level of discomfort experienced by traditional welding will be vastly reduced for the operator. It is possible to achieve a level of sustained operation unseen in shipyards today.
- A secondary cost benefit is the avoided cost of seeking, hiring, and training a large number of personnel to meet the production demand of future vessel building efforts. This is achieved by enabling many persons who are already employed but on limited-duty, as well as those who are out of work due to a physical condition that prevents them from performing the very work in which they are trained for but cannot perform.
- It is anticipated that higher first-time quality will be achieved through such systems. The opportunity for better visual imagery coupled with the precision operation provided by haptic feedback will allow all personnel to achieve quality results, with fewer training hours.
POINT OF CONTACT: Connie Reichert LaMorte | EWI | firstname.lastname@example.org
To request a copy of this report please email NSRP.