Viable Manufacturing Through Sensor-Enabled Robotic Welding-Innovation partnership EPSRC

Project: Internally funded project

Project Details


Funding is sought to support a collaborative programme between University of Strathclyde and Babcock International Group based in Rosyth. This IAA submission seeks to exploit the results of fundamental EPSRC funded research within the Centre of Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE) (> £4.0M) in next generation robotics for automated fabrication. This work seeks to directly exploit the repair and maintenance research outputs from Dr Loukas’ PhD in collaboration with Babcock Devonport Royal Dockyard and translate these into new manufacturing activities, supporting the Type 31 shipbuilding programme and Sellafield waste container delivery.

Brexit transition marked by the introduction of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has drastically restricted the free labour flow between EU and UK and has had significant adverse impact for UK’s manufacturing sector causing significant labour-supply challenges and increasing the skills gap shortage. As manufacturing decreased to 12% of UK GDP, with a share of 9% in total employment, many welding jobs were lost and the UK’s remaining 190,000 welders have an average age over 55 with global shortages worldwide. This, a significant labour shortage coupled with hazardous working conditions starkly validates requirement for automated solutions.

Fundamentally, Babcock cannot recruit enough skilled welders and the Type31 and waste-box programme are slipping, affecting energy transition and national security targets and activities.

A secondment position to Babcock Rosyth focused on new build manufacturing (Charalampos Loukas) will:
• Industrialize novel research in adaptive robotic welding initially focused for repair activities for Type 21 Warships into active manufacturing practices
• Develop an adaptive point-of-manufacturing test cell demonstrator to demonstrate feasibility of robot delivered on-the-fly sensor-enabled welding for complex welding geometries those of nuclear box containers, independent of common CAD requirements
• Support basic technology transfer from the in sensor-enabled deployment into welding of the Type 31 frigates

Consequently, the project partner Babcock Rosyth seeks to integrate novel robotics research for automating manufacturing of shipbuilding for Type 31 and Nuclear Waste Containers, with an unprecedented need to overcome the current bottleneck in labour supply chain which reduces productivity and limits the in-place welding quality. These distinctive challenges increase the risk of deliverables and stagger the high integrity structure and schedule certainty of components with immediate exposure of the MOD defence programme and overalls UK’s security.
Effective start/end date1/08/231/08/24


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