How Automated Welding Systems for Shipbuilding Simplify Construction


Have you ever been on a cruise or seen a cruise ship up close? If so, you can imagine the extraordinary effort required for the ship’s construction. Commercial and naval ships we see on the waters today offer comforts far beyond basic electrical, water, steam, and fuel service lines. The magnitude of today’s shipbuilding projects can necessitate up to three years of work, with considerable time and effort dedicated to machining and welding piping systems and other metallic assemblies.

However, due to issues like cracking, it wasn’t until WWI that welding was even considered for the job. Decades of advanced research and development in new and improved welding processes have allowed welding to become an integral part of the maritime industry. Still, the intricacies of welding in the shipyard continue to present new challenges when welding specialized systems. 

When welding complicated piping systems or fuel tankers, welders often must perform welds in cramped conditions. This not only increases welding process difficulty but also poses safety hazard. To achieve the highest weld quality and meet industry standards—such as the standards designated by OSHA for welding—manufacturers can apply automated welding systems for shipbuilding.

Existing Challenges in Welding Shipboard Systems

Ship integrity depends on weld quality. Preparing an impermeable weld with a smooth structure requires the correct welding process. While quality control measures may be taken when an arc welding, gas welding, or resistance welding process is employed, welding challenges persist.

Here are a few common difficulties that shipbuilders must face during the welding and installation of the shipboard system.

Welding in confined spaces

Due to a ship’s structure and range of amenities, shipyard welders often must perform welding in confined or enclosed spaces—especially for components such as steam or fuel lines and fuel tankers. As a result, welders are exposed to increased fumes and hazards such as falling sparks and fire. Additionally, the risk of welding error due to fatigue is heightened.

Weld defects

The welding process generally produces a much smoother finish than when bolts and rivets are applied. However, the process is not free of flaws. Typical welding flaws can include cracking, overlaps, undercuts, and lamellar tearing. Similarly, lack of penetration, insufficient weld depth, inclusions in the weld pool, and weld distortion from the use of localized heat sources represent a few other significant potential problems. Because these issues can degrade the quality of the weld and compromise its strength, defects must be addressed before the ship enters service.

Lack of welders

Shipbuilding requires welders with training, experience, and certification. Today, the welding industry is experiencing a deficit in the number of skilled welders versed in modern technologies and able to weld critical applications, including shipboard systems.

One solution that addresses these welding challenges in shipbuilding is the automated orbital welding system. 

Why Use an Automated Orbital GTAW Welding System?

Welding in shipbuilding is unique because welders must perform both terrestrial and in-water assembly in the shipyard. As a result, the choice of the welding process plays a key role. While various arc welding, gas welding, and resistance welding processes are all utilized for a wide range of welding needs, GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding) is preferred.

Instead of metals like steel, rare and exotic materials like titanium—known for their strength and resistance to corrosion from fuel, seawater, and steam—are favored for shipbuilding. Performing pure and strong welds with these materials requires the precision offered by GTAW’s weld parameter control and shielding.

Additionally, welding in ships typically includes critical systems like complicated shipboard bilge, fire protection systems, steam and fuel systems, ballast systems, and engine cooling systems, which are integral to proper ship functioning. When these critical systems and unique metals are welded in spaces with minimum clearance, orbital GTAW may provide the only reliable solution for shipbuilders.

Advantages of Using an Orbital Welding System in Shipbuilding

Orbital welding is often used to facilitate tube and pipe welding. An automated orbital welding process allows operators to leverage several advantages for shipbuilding. These advantages include:

  • Process control for high-spec welding
  • Consistency and repeatability
  • Increased weld speed
  • Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Remote monitoring

In addition to reducing the risks and hazards associated with manual welding, orbital welding provides increased consistency and unparalleled weld quality.

Can Automated Orbital Systems Solve Welding Problems in Shipbuilding?

The automated orbital welding process offers many advantages over manual welding, including speed, efficiency, and quality enhancements. Advanced orbital weld heads, such as Model 15, are utilized for a range of pipe sizes, even in low clearance. Remote monitoring systems provide further operator safety benefits by enabling operators to identify weld defects and ensure weld quality.

Shipbuilding is a complicated process that can expose welders to significant risks. Welding for critical petrochemical, cargo, passenger, or nuclear vessels requires the right welding processes with optimal equipment, material, and weld parameters. For instance, tube to tube sheet welding should be the ideal selection when welding for power systems or heat exchangers. To ensure the optimal process with the best results, consider automated welding systems for shipbuilding that can foster productivity, profitability, and enhanced quality in shipyards. 


For the best-in-industry orbital welding equipment, materials, and service, you can rely on Arc Machines, Inc.  Since its founding by former NASA engineers in 1976, AMI has continually advanced the technology utilized for automated welding systems for shipbuilding projects. For inquiries regarding products, contact For service inquiries, contact Arc Machines welcomes the opportunity to discuss your specific needs. Contact us to arrange a meeting.