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Fincantieri and Comau Develop Steel Welding Robotics for Shipbuilding

Fincantieri developing steel welding robots
FIncantieri's yard at Monfalcone, Italy (Fincantieri)

Published May 20, 2021 3:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

In an effort to enhance the efficiency of its shipbuilding operations, and possibly develop new business opportunities, Italy’s Fincantieri signed a letter of intent with Italian robotics company Comau to develop robotic and other solutions for shipbuilding and other heavy construction applications.  The companies will work together to develop and test the new applications at Fincantieri’s shipyards.

The focus of the effort will be on the development of prototypes and the manufacturing of advanced robotics capable of handling steel welding projects first at the shipyard. Common in other industries, robotics has become a widely used tool in assembly line manufacturing handling tasks such as welding for the automotive industry. The partnership will draw on Comau’s experience with these applications. Comau, an industrial automatic and robotics company, is currently a part of automaker Stellantis and traces its origins to the 1970s developing robotics for the automotive industry.

According to the companies that have already begun work on developing a welding robot vehicle consisting of an anthropomorphic welding robot and a remote control tracked vehicle. Tests are scheduled to begin at the Fincantieri shipyards by the first half of 2022.

“This partnership is an important innovation for the shipbuilding industry,” said Fincantieri General Manager, Fabio Gallia. “Apart from improving the safety of workers and their ergonomic working conditions, these solutions will enable great progress in pursuing the competitiveness of our production system. Moreover, looking to the future, the possibility of developing projects together with Comau is a great opportunity to further broaden the Group’s range of competencies.”

Under the agreement between the companies, Fincantieri and Comau will be co-owners of the know-how and intellectual property generated while developing the new concepts. At a later stage, they will explore the possibility of marketing welding products both to the shipbuilding industry and other related industries based on the designs developed. For example, they said they believed the technologies could be applied in the production of large-size steel products for infrastructure and special works (e.g. continuous structures for suspension bridges, structures for large-size hoisting systems, products for special constructions).

The companies have also agreed to consider and examine new opportunities to create innovative solutions within the broader scope of a digital factory.

Comau became part of Stellantis as part of the merger of Fiat Chrysler and PSA, the owner of Peugeot. The company has been working to expand its applications into other industries while Stellantis announced that it expects to spinoff Comau in the future.