Damen Galati embraces modern technologies in micro-panel welding

As the shipbuilding industry continues to evolve and adapt to meet the demands of a changing market, automation has emerged as a key driver of innovation and success. In this article, we explore the story of Damen Galati Shipyard and how it has embraced automation to stay competitive in a globalized market.

Damen Galati Shipyard, located in the South-East of Romania in Galati, is one of the largest production sites of the Dutch Damen Group. With a long and storied history, the shipyard was established in 1893, and over the years it has evolved into a full-fledged shipyard. ln 1999, Damen took over the shipyard, and since then the company has continued to invest heavily in its development.

“We work mainly in shipbuilding but lately we have also extended to pipes and aluminum structures for the AC/DC offshore wind energy plat­forms. Our specialty is to be able to build ships in a very wide selection. Almost any kind of vessel from tugs to icebreakers and yachts. That is one of our strengths, to be so versatile and able to build almost everything from harbor and military to leisure,” starts Doru Gaibar, Managing Director at Damen Shipyards Galati, who has been for the shipyard since 2000.

To date, the company has invested over 140 million euros in the ship­yard, helping to modernize its facilities and equipment and to expand its range of services. These investments have allowed Damen to remain at the forefront of the industry.

“On average we manufacture 20 ships per year. Our latest investment in the robotized PEMA micropanel fabrication line is one of our biggest invest­ments in automation,” says Doru.

Automating micro-panel manufacturing

When Damen Galati started to consider investing in automation, the ship­yard wanted to ensure that it would meet their specific needs and require­ments for micro-panels, Doru continues:

“We build fully outfitted blocks. For the main panels, we have a panel line, but for micro-panels, everything is manufactured by hand.”

Damen’s motivation to explore welding automation was driven by several factors, including the need to enhance efficiency and address the lack of welders. Additionally, the pursuit of more accurate welding quality was an­ another important consideration.

“Currently, we need more welders than there are currently available. Another aspect of the investment is ensuring very high-quality welding, and this is something that PEMA automation equipment can offer,” Doru adds.

PEMA Vision Robot Welding Portal VRWP-C is equipped with one robot arm and patented programming system.

With extensive expertise in shipyard automation, Pemamek’s offering for automated micro-panel fabrication consisted of PEMA Stiffener Assembly Station (SAM), Vision Robot Welding Portal (VRWP-C), Service Portal (SP), and welding floor with chain for panel transportation. PEMA Micro Panel Line is designed to fabricate flat bulkheads and webs with varying stiffener direc­tions.

The core of the line is PEMA VRWP-C equipped with one robot arm and a patented programming system, WeldControl 200 Visio. The software is based on camera scanning enabling fast and easy weld path creation for the operator.

ln the discussion phase, Pemamek conducted extensive welding tests with Damen’s workpieces.

“Human nature is so that you have to see it before believing in it. The test welds and seeing Pemamek’s factory facilities finally convinced us,” explains Doru.

ln addition to the test welding, the shipyard also attended a shipbuilding event organized by Pemamek. The event provided an opportunity for the shipyard to learn from other companies and hear their stories and experi­ences.

“I always ask this question, why are there companies who are already incorporating automation, but we are not? Developing ourselves and pro­ cesses has been one of the drivers,” says Doru.

I always ask this question, why are there companies who are already incorporating automation, but we are not? Developing ourselves and our processes has been one of the drivers

Doru Gaibar, Managing Director at Damen Shipyards Galati

Evolving customer expectations

The PEMA Micro Panel Line will be delivered to Galati and ready for full pro­duction in autumn 2023. ln addition to reinforcing efficiency, Damen sees investments in automation as having a bigger meaning.

”The more global­ized we are, the more we need to consider overall competitiveness,” notes Doru.  “Customers are now more discerning, expecting not only quality but aisa sustainability, health, and safety. Through investments, companies can aisa present what they value and find important.”

Reflecting on Damen’s experience, Doru offers a tip to others considering automation:  “Don’t hesitate, because automation is the future. ln the future, shipyards can leverage the benefits that automation brings to businesses, from increased productivity to improved quality and safety.

Damen's team visiting Pemamek for acceptance test before the machinery delivery to the shipyard.

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