Have you ever been on a cruise ship? Chances are it’s robot-welded!

Building a ship is a gargantuan task. Robots make it easier.

For most of the history of the world, shipbuilding was an “art,” depending largely on the skill of the shipbuilders themselves to figure out problems as they arose. But some drastic improvements have happened in the recent past, and today the idea of building a ship the size of a small city is as commonplace as taking an ocean cruise with the family. In no small part, robotic construction techniques have played a key role in that transition.

Dutch robot integrator KRANENDONK has used ABB robots for over 25 years to innovate new ways to take shipbuilding into the future—and we’re proud to have them as a partner.

The construction of a ship is essentially a jigsaw puzzle—but at the same scale as a city block. All the pieces of the puzzle are joined together in the dock, where the ship takes shape before setting sail. To make the process more efficient, shipyards use production lines where the individual pieces are prepared.

If you’ve ever built a very large jigsaw puzzle, the above process may seem like a big enough challenge on its own, but when you take into consideration the fact that every piece in the shipbuilding “puzzle” is a different shape and extrapolate that to the size of a city block, you begin to get a sense of the magnitude of this challenge.

The large variety of pieces makes it hard to automate the process, but with some clever thinking it can be done—especially when the robots are equipped with smart sensors and software that can analyze each assembly step and let the robot “program” itself to make adjustments on the fly.

Towards this end, KRANENDONK has developed the RinasWeld package to control and tell ABB robots what to do based on 3D models of the ship’s design. With this tool, every piece of the puzzle is welded automatically, even though they are all different shapes and sizes. In a sense, the robots are using artificial intelligence to automate a process that doesn’t lend itself well to automation.

The technology is changing shipyards all over the world. They can weld more, on less floor space, with an incredibly consistent quality. And high-quality welding means a better and safer ship, which is good for all of us.

Take a look at a movie of the KRANENDONK robot welding lines for shipbuilding (it also shows how the programming is done):


Also, for fun, take a look at how ABB robots are even entertaining ON BOARD some of these cruise ships:


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About the author

Stephanie L. Stanton

I’m the Trade Show and Event manager for ABB Robotics US. I joined ABB in 1995 and have been with the Robotics team my entire career. I have held a variety of roles within the business prior to joining the communications team in 2006 and have greatly enjoyed every one of them. I’ve grown up here and I love this business. When I’m not planning an event or travelling for a show, I spend my time with my family and friends and pursuing my hobby of photography.
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