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Fincantieri and Comau Unveil First Mobile Robot for Shipyard Welding

Fincantieri robot
Fincantieri plans to deploy the mobile welding robot to improve productivity in shipbuilding (file photo)

Published Jun 28, 2023 5:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

Fincantieri working in collaboration with Comau, a leader in automation solutions, unveiled the first mobile robotic solution to be used for outdoor welding in the company’s shipyards. Known as MR4Weld (Mobile Robot for Welding), the companies report the mobile robot is designed to improve quality, performance, and employee well-being during labor-intensive welding activities. The companies also renewed their collaboration begun in 2021 intending to expand their efforts toward other innovative applications and skills improvement for the shipbuilding operations.

The collaboration was launched seeking to apply technology, digitalization, and innovation within cutting-edge, mobile robotic solutions that will increase production speed and worker well-being, by automating traditionally manual processes. According to the companies, the MR4Weld mobile robot is part of a new paradigm in bringing automation beyond the factory floor.

The companies have completed the production of prototypes of the system and report it is currently undergoing testing. They intend to use the robot within Fincantieri shipyards to autonomously weld steel structures, reporting it could produce a possible three-fold increase in productivity compared to a manual process. Fincantieri and Comau have jointly filed a European patent application for specific MR4Weld technological features.

“MR4Weld is a project that meets multiple directions of our development: automation and digitization, two driving forces of our business plan as well as corporate responsibility,” said Pierroberto Folgiero, CEO of Fincantieri. He highlights its ability to address the UN’s sustainable development goals, as well as for safety and training.

 

Fincantieri and Comau displayed the prototype of their new mobile robotic welding system (Fincantieri)

 

They designed it with a high-payload capacity creating a six-axis articulated robot fitted with a welding torch that is installed on a tracked undercarriage and equipped with an integrated vision system to autonomously identify welding joints. Designed to be able to move in any environment and to collaborate with workers, MR4Weld can be managed by a single operator during the transfer and welding activities and since it is in complete compliance with current safety regulations, it can be used without fences on each of the multiple decks of a vessel under construction.

The systems permit it to produce better welding quality while reducing ergonomic risks. It also employs digital tools to collect welding and production data that can be used to record the welded joints. They believe it will help in the transformation of the shipbuilding production process by ensuring greater flexibility and improved safety in addition to lower overall costs.

As part of their renewed collaboration, the companies will continue to develop advanced and mobile robotics to automate other repetitive activities of the shipbuilding processes including those characterized by vertical and non-linear surfaces as well as unstructured environments. They also plan to test Comau’s exoskeletons to further improve the operators’ ergonomic conditions and well-being. They will also focus on training and improving the technical skills of Fincantieri’s operators.

In addition to applications for the robotic system in the shipyards, the companies will also seek opportunities for its use in other industries that require the production of large steel infrastructures.