The application of a welding robot for small batch manufacturing in shipbuilding
This thesis is concerned with the application of a welding robot in a shipyard. It outlines the results and experiences gained from a research project on the application of a standard welding robot for small batch manufacturing. The theoretical work of this study was carried-out at the University, while all practical experiments were carried-out using a CM-T3-566 Industrial robot in a real shipyard environment. In particular, the concept of robotic welding for small batch manufacturing of minor steelwork and outfit items was practised and as a result the robot workcell was successfully taken to a production situation, producing components for ship and shipyard use. The experiments enabled a number of parameters that influenced the successful implementation of robotics on the shopfloor to be examined, while the feedback obtained opened and pointed the way for further robot applications in shipbuilding. The thesis begins by making the case for robots in shipbuilding and reviewing shipyard automation and robotic developments. The need for welding robots is then emphasised and the small batch manufacturing problem is explained. It then details the practical implementation of the welding robot and examines the lessons learned. The economic justification and areas for further development are also discussed. Finally, the expected future use of robots in shipbuilding is examined, describing a number of shipyard areas for robotisation and presenting the Flexible Automation in Shipbuilding Technology (FAST) concept, for advancing the use of robots from stand alone applications to Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM). The main conclusions are that robotic manufacture of small batches offers viable production benefits, that certain critical parameters exist which can enhance the effectiveness of robotic workstations and finally, that considerable scope still exists for further application of robotics, integrated with computer based manufacturing systems.