As offshore drilling and production units become more complex, shipyards have to evaluate and update processes and tools. Korean yards, which have been highly regarded as reliable and competent facilities for decades, are investing in R&D with the goal of developing automated approaches to carry out routine tasks and introducing innovative technologies to improve construction capability.

R&D investment

Construction of the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) shipyard began in 1973 at Okpo Bay, Geoje Island, on the southeastern tip of the Korean Peninsula. Completed in 1981, DSME has since grown into a premium shipbuilding and offshore contractor specializing in offshore platforms, drilling rigs and FPSO units/floating production units.

To improve the construction process, engineers at the DSME R&D center are focusing on product design and production technologies fundamental to offshore assets. The onsite Research Institute comprises two research laboratories: a comprehensive test laboratory dedicated to R&D for welding technology and testing of related devices and a test and measurement laboratory for HSErelated research.

The Research Institute is developing and designing hull forms for offshore vessels and advancing hydrodynamic performance analysis and evaluation technology using computational fluid dynamics. The yard also develops analysis methods to determine offshore structure strength and fatigue and is investing in complex structure design technology. Additional R&D focuses on diagnosis and control technology for structural deformation and finding ways to apply composite materials.

The test laboratory for welding is looking into multiple issues—arctic welding, plumbing welding, thick-plate welding, thin-plate welding, high-energy welding, etc.— in addition to developing technologies for analyzing and assessing materials, assessing low-temperature toughness/ rupture testing and evaluating welding materials. Other focus areas include corrosion/heat treatment, steel processing, technology for analyzing residual stress and fatigue strength for welded areas, and investigation into welding mechanization and automation.

The focus on automation encompasses development and field application of automation-related devices, facilities and systems. Current research targets automation processes and facilities layout with research into the application of robot systems in the field.

Welding, manufacturing automation leveraged

Headquartered in Ulsan, South Korea, the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) yard is one of the largest in the world. Established in 1991, the yard covers 1,780 acres, with 10 large-scale dry docks and nine Goliath cranes, which allows HHI to manufacture vessels of any type and up to 1 million deadweight tonnage in size. HHI built the world’s first T-shaped dry dock in 2009 followed by the H-Dock.

HHI showcases its best technology in welding and manufacturing automation. Among its capabilities are fully machine-driven steel-cutting lines and a hot forming automation facility. As the use of robotics in shipbuilding increases and technologies such as sensor systems and artificial intelligence add complexity, there is a gradual move toward customized automation technology to optimize shipyard operations.

HHI released mini welding robotics to its shipyards in second-half 2013. The robots, which measure 50 cm by 50 cm by 15 cm with the welding arm retracted, can operate in areas inaccessible to humans. A magnetized body allows them to suspend from panels and ceilings, and a single human operator can control three robots simultaneously.

Mini welding robots can operate in areas inaccessible to humans. A magnetized body allows them to suspend from panels and ceilings. (Source: HHI)

The development trend for welding procedure specification is to improve the deposition rate, weld speed and welding quality. HHI has developed a new digital process to achieve better quality and higher productivity at a reduced cost. Included in this initiative is the “hybrid welding power source,” which changes polarity (direct current electrode negative to direct current electrode positive) and vice versa via electric circuit, making gas tungsten arc welding and flux cored arc welding achievable using a single power source. Additionally, HHI installed a “smart welding system” in 2016 to monitor welding parameters, machine error messages, etc., so workers can check welding conditions in real time. Data are recorded and stored in the smart welding system archive for immediate access and for future use for quality enhancement.

Production automation emphasized

The current harsh business environment has led Samsung Heavy Industries’ (SHI’s) Geoje Shipyard to leverage innovative automation technologies that allow low-cost construction, high-quality products and on-time delivery, expediting the transition from conventional construction to a “smart yard system” through information and communications technology (ICT) conversion.

A key to success for efficient construction and a highly qualified product is using automated robot systems and continuously enhancing their performance. With piping processes becoming more complicated, especially in offshore plants, SHI has focused on improving automated pipe welding and inspection machines. The flux-cored automatic orbital welding robot and hot-wire tungsten inert gas orbital welding robot for heavy pipe have increased welding speed by three to six times over previous welding robots. And automatic radiographic testing inspection, which is a change in approach from inspection of outside-on-circumference to inside-centerof- pipe using autonomous mobile robots, has reduced inspection time up to 93%. To shorten lead time, SHI has doubled lifting capacity from a gigablock to a terablock using two different floating cranes that make it possible to lift, move and mount offshore plant modules weighing about 11,600 metric tons.

SHI is capitalizing on ICT to implement a digitally monitored and managed system. The resulting smart yard uses large amounts of information across all construction processes, gathering and digitizing it to enable data-based process control and optimal resource allocation to minimize reworking rate and inventories. For example, real-time welding information will be monitored and welding specifications controlled using more than 1,200 digital welding machines through local LTE networks. Mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets will display the latest version of drawings in 2-D and 3-D as well as the real-time status of construction work, removing excessive paper and unnecessary communication losses among fabricators, vendors, class societies and owners.

Mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets eliminate excessive paper and unnecessary communication among fabricators, vendors, class societies and owners. (Source: SHI)