Project Outcomes Report:
NSF PII award #0849008
October 15, 201
James W. Beard, PI
“Developing a Mobile, Robotic Welding System”
Many industries such
as large shipbuilding and site
based fabrication and construction do not
lend themselves to traditional assembly line robotic systems.
ships, for example,
to be unique with each successive ship manufactured having different characteristics.
size and scale of a ty
pical ship combined with the high costs associated with dry
docks or real
estate immediately adjacent to the launch location has led toward a common manufacturing
technique in which the structural components of the ship are assembled in multiple locations
with only the final assembly occurring in the most expensive location. We call these
“unstructured environments” because the building process is not regular (i.e., is not highly
dimensionalized). Robotic systems in these environments must be mobile, flexib
le and adaptable.
This creates a unique set of challenges that this project has addressed.
obile robotics (robotic systems capable of navigating through the environment to pe
motion control tasks)
new opportunities to improve worker product
ivity in unstructured
environments. Robotic Technologies of Tennessee (RTT) and its University partner, Tennessee
Technological University (TTU) have a history of developing automated mobile robotic
platforms in unstructured environments such as the power
production and shipbuilding
industries. Under the NSF STTR program, Robotic Technologies of Tennessee (RTT) has
developed and commercialized a climbing mobile robotic welding system suited for welding in
unstructured environments such as shipyards or con
struction of large structures. This system is
called the Mobile Robotic Welding System (MRWS). The MRWS is capable of mechanizing
weld processes while operating in inverted positions, even upside down.
When compared to manual welding processes or trac
k based automated systems, the MRWS
increases productivity, safety and quality.
This system allows the weld technician to perform the
weld process remotely making the job safer and more comfortable for the operator.
This tends to
reduce work place injuries
related to repetitive motion and flying debris. In addition, the ability
to control the welding from a control device allows the worker to remain in a comparatively
ition which enables older and less physically healthy welders to
their jobs longer.
Finally, the MRWS better matches the expectations of younger generations of
workers giving industrial recruiters a better chance of attracting young workers to join the
industry (i.e., the industry is having trouble finding workers
This system has been approved and qualified for the most stringent welding processes (NAVY
requirements for ships) by several Tier
I shipbuilding manufacturers. Two commercial ver
of the MRWS have been developed under the NSF STTR program.
e systems are in use at
the largest US shipyards. RTT’s mobile robotic welding systems have
been a featured
technology of the National Shipbuilding Research and ha
been featured at several indust
forums (Shiptech 2009
2011, Fabtech 2010, 2011
Fig. 1 Advanced MRWS
Light weight, portable, highly mobile system for remote welding