Shipbuilding Technologies of the future

Programme Topics:

3-D Printing technology

Advancement in technology is key to the development of any industry. The shipbuilding industry is no exception. In fact, shipbuilding is changing at a rapid rate taking advantage of highly advanced technologies. This topic presents the current status of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D-printing, and its relevance for the maritime construction sector.

The most basic, differentiating principle behind 3D printing technology is that it is an additive manufacturing process. And this is indeed the key because 3D printing is a radically different manufacturing method based on advanced technology that builds up parts, additively, in layers at the sub mm scale. This is fundamentally different from any other existing traditional manufacturing techniques.

Traditional manufacturing process has evolved a lot over time from hand-based manufacturing to the automated processes such as machining, casting, forming and moulding. Yet these technologies all demand subtracting material from a larger block – whether to achieve the end product itself or to produce a tool for casting or moulding processes — and this is a serious limitation within the overall manufacturing process. In contrast, 3D printing process can create objects directly by adding material layer by layer in a variety of ways, depending on the technology used.

In recent years, 3D printing has gone beyond being an industrial prototyping and manufacturing process as the technology has become more accessible to small companies and even individuals. Previously, only big corporate used to own 3D printers as the scale and economics of owning 3D printer make it prohibitive for smaller companies to own one. This has opened up the technology to a much wider audience.


Shipbuilding Robotics

The use of industrial robots in production operation is a relatively new aspect of manufacturing engineering. The development and implementation of robot applications generally follow the same basic sequence as any other basic manufacturing process.

Today’s shipbuilding industry is characterised by great participation of direct human work on hard, dangerous and tiring jobs. The actual status of development in science and technology enables human to be replaced by industrial robots or by other automatic machines in a large number in these work places.

Recent trends suggest that the shipbuilding industry is recognising robotics as a driver of efficiency along with a method to prevent workers from doing dangerous tasks such as welding. The shortage of skilled labour is also one of the reasons to look upon robotics. Robots can carry out welding, blasting, painting, heavy lifting and other tasks in shipyards.

Although industry is now developing systems for many of these applications, particularly welding, painting, and grinding, additional controls and sensors will be needed to facilitate their implementation in the shipyard. Controls are required to program a robot more quickly to carry out a particular task.

Based on the review of current ship construction, several new applications of industrial robots to shipbuilding are proposed. Preliminary estimates indicate that the time required to perform certain shipyard tasks could be decreased by 50% to 80% by the addition of various robot workstation concepts.


Buckypaper (carbon nanotubes)

The discovery of carbon nanotube (CNT) in 1991 opened a new era in materials science. These incredible structures have an array of fascinating electronic, magnetic and mechanical properties. CNT are at least 100 times stronger than steel, but only one-sixth as heavy, so nanotube fibres could strengthen almost any material. Nanotubes can conduct heat and electricity far better than copper. CNT are already being used in polymers to control or enhance conductivity and are added to anti-static packaging. A carbon nanotube is a tube-shaped material, made of carbon, having a diameter measuring on the Nano-meter scale.

Buckypaper is a strong and lightweight substance manufactured from compressed carbon nanotubes, which are long, cylindrical carbon structures consisting of hexagonal graphite molecules attached at the edges.

A sheet of buckypaper looks like old-fashioned typewriter carbon paper but is much stronger than an equivalent mass of steel. When sheets of buckypaper are stacked and compressed, the resulting material is up to 500 times stronger than steel, at one-tenth of the weight. In this arrangement, the current-carrying capacity is remarkably high. Buckypaper also has excellent thermal conductivity and low optical reflectivity.


Airbag ship launching and hauling

Ship launching using air bags is an innovative technique. Airbags are inflated to lift up the vessel or structure and then with the help of gravity, allow it to slide into the water in a controlled environment. This method can easily be used for all types and sizes of vessels and is especially popular for flat bottom barges and small-to-medium sized vessels.

Over the past thirty years, marine airbags have made great advancements in the manufacture and application. The first-generation marine airbags employ rubber dipped canvases as reinforcement material and two cone-shaped ends are stuck to the chamber trunk. Now the top marine airbags are seamless and their performances are about 15 times of the first generation with the same specifications. Regarding the launching/landing technology, marine airbags have also achieved a significant leap. In the beginning, only small and flat bottom ships located on a fabricated slope could be launched with marine airbags. Now this technology is more flexible and less limited by the ship and landform.

The use of airbags helps to remove the hindrance of using tows and tugs as launching and landing instruments. Moreover, since the airbags use synthetic rubber and a high defined system as their core design, it has become easy to use such airbags for any ship.

The advantages of marine airbag ship launching can be concluded as: less landform limited, fewer fixtures needed, environment protective, multi-functional and cost-effective.


Advanced outfitting in Ship Building

As global competition in shipbuilding is increasing, shipyards are forced to find competitiveness beyond quality and reliability. Minimising project duration without losing adaptability of production is a key factor both in order winning and cost effectiveness. Advanced outfitting has become an important part of modern shipbuilding.

The process improvement operations are very significant in shipbuilding industry as the other industries. In recent years, the shipyards attempt to improve their processes by examining their current production system and to reduce the cycle time of the interim product so that they can keep their competitive power.

If shipyards wish to become successful and competitive in the world of shipbuilding market, they must build quality ships along with decreasing costs of the production process and shortening of delivery time of the ship. Shortening the time of the shipbuilding process by using the modular outfitting concept is one way of reducing total ship production time, thus improving efficiency and cost performance.

In conventional shipbuilding, the ship’s hull structure is fabricated and erected on the berth or dock and the outfitting is started only after launching the hull from the berth. As a result, it has been found that the process of first fabricating and completing the hull structure followed by outfitting the hull after launching takes longer time. Hence, to reduce the cycle time and improve the productivity of the shipyards, the concept of advanced outfitting has been developed. In this topic the advanced outfitting concept is taken into consideration to improve shipbuilding productivity.