A UK engineering firm known for its world-first innovations is part of a European consortium developing pioneering technology for the shipping industry.
Forth, based in Cumbria, is working with 12 other companies and organizations across Europe to develop in-water Friction Stir Welding (FSW) technology to revolutionize the way ships hulls are repaired.
Partners from the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and Cyprus have started work on the RESURGAM (Robotic Survey, Repair and Agile Manufacture) project which will introduce the benefits of high productivity FSW technology on steel to shipyards across Europe.
It is the first time in the 20-year-history of Forth, which with partners has already been praised for its pioneering work developing an FSWBot for the maintenance and repair of pipelines around the world, has worked on a European-wide project.
RESURGAM aims to change the way work and repairs on shipping across Europe is done by developing a portable Underwater Friction Stir Welding robot which will make processes safer, faster and more cost-efficient than conventional welding.
Forth, with its expertise in Friction Stir Welding, is the technical manager of the project and will be developing the Underwater Friction Stir Welding technology.
The new technology will combine the latest developments in robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and FSW techniques to offer low-cost retrofit systems for modular fabrication and AI-enabled robotic repair of ships with the ability to work underwater and through oil.
This will enable responsive, remote, at sea repair anywhere in the world, which will have major advantages in safety, time and money compared to a current labour-intensive survey and repair approach which requires expensive specialist divers often working in hazardous conditions or for ships to spend costly time out of the water in dry docks.
RESURGAM will bring benefits to modular, multi-site construction of new build ships as well as mid-life retrofitting and modifications. It will also allow repairs to be performed effectively and efficiently in confined spaces.
Digital connectivity is also at the heart of the project to enable stakeholders to cooperate on modular production of high-tech ships and on the planning and implementation of ship repair, modification and maintenance.
Many European smaller and medium sized shipyards and shipbuilders are currently not able to manufacture and maintain high-tech large ships due to the lack of adequate resources and capabilities including suitably sized dry docks.
RESURGAM will create global market opportunities for these European SMEs by delivering technologies that will enable them to be at the forefront of the industry.
Peter Routledge, Forth Project Manager, said: “This is another first for Forth to be working with so many partners from across Europe on a pan-European project.
“RESURGAM enables the team at Forth to build on the expertise and innovation we have demonstrated on a number of recent projects, including FSWBot, and apply that thinking to help solve a problem for an industry as big as the global shipping sector.
“It’s very exciting to think about the positive difference this technology will make, and we are fully focused, along with our partners across Europe, on delivering this transformational technological innovation.”
The consortium is coordinated by European Federation For Welding Joining And Cutting, based in Belgium, and includes: Technische Universiteit Delft, Netherlands; TWI Limited, UK; University Of Limerick, Ireland; University Of Lancaster, UK; Element Six (UK) Limited, UK; Turkiye Gemi Insa Sanayicileri Birligi Dernegi, Turkey; Engitec Systems International Limited, Cyprus; Aislamientos Termicos De Galicia Sa, Spain; STIRWELD, France; Forth, UK; Asociacion Cluster Del Naval Gallego, Spain; NED-Project Sp Z Oo, Poland.
The €6m H2020-EU project, which is being coordinated by the European Federation For Welding, Joining and Cutting, based in Belgium, has attracted €5m of EU funding. Work is due to complete by the end of January 2024.