Automated thin panel fabrication for shipbuilding

Sep 3, 2019 | Discover, News, Shipbuilding

Usage of thin panels is constantly increasing in shipbuilding since it provides better performance with lower fuel consumption, faster speed and agility for ships. Even though deformation and productivity challenges are common in thin panel fabrication, they can be solved with dedicated automated production.

Towards thin panel production

In modern shipbuilding, ships are built lighter to increase the speed and agility while still appreciating the green values, such as better fuel economy. Moreover, ship-owners are looking for faster delivery times with reduced investment and the same ship functions and functional constructions should be maintained. This requires ship designers to figure out ways to meet the demands and e.g. reducing plate thickness even down to 3mm everywhere that is possible.

Reduced plate thicknesses are not only a big challenge for ship engineering but also for automated manufacturing. In order to answer the demands on today’s shipbuilding, it’s needed to make a shift from traditional methods and processes to modern automated shipbuilding.

Welded panels with minimum deformation on the way to stiffener assembly.

Thin plates and stiffeners

In special ships like navy, cruise, ropax and ferries, the main amount of interior panels can be built from thin plates – target being 3-4 mm. By decreasing of material thickness the length of welds is increasing – more stiffeners and more butt welds. Preparation for weld edges must achieve machining tolerances to able the success in welding – poor edge preparation cannot be corrected by welding. Welding process must be controlled on-line to keep the heat input on the optimum level to avoid deformations. For secondary elements like T-beams and Bulkheads the same laws apply – dimension tolerances must be under control all the time.

The production from the cutting to the block assembly must be under good dimensional control and all work phases must be predictable. Interfaces to and from MES system, even up to the 3D design system, thanks to digitalization are available. By digitalization it is possible to run panel lines nearly fully automated and also to gain high level of productivity with on-line feedback.

Advanced T-beam manufacturing line.

Automation enables high level of productivity

During past years Pemamek has developed and made full set of machinery and HMI to support the thin material steel production together with world’s leading yards in navy and cruise shipbuilding. Fast material handling with minimum operator interfering, material preparation, automatic material dimension control, WPS process control, operation free welding processes, quality control and communications with superior MES systems.

Modular and proven panel line machinery is always done by listening customer wishes and with modern welding processes combined with the PEMA ideology.

To ensure productivity and quality also in the end of production line, T-beam assembly and T-beam welding stations need to be established and automated. This is something that differs from the existing traditional panel lines.

Especially in cruise ship building the ratio of transversal and longitudinal Tees is quite high compared to the traditional tanker or bulk carrier manufacturing.

PEMA has facilities and resources to test advanced welding methods – customer’s WPQR under development. 

Research & Development in LHAW and GMAW

The latest research and development have been the integration of Lincoln Electric high-end welding processes together with PEMA’s high quality welding technology. For plates one-sided butt welding with single pass, PEMA has developed a process library for laser-hybrid welding to cover plate thicknesses from 4 mm up to 25 mm for high strength steel. Nominal workcycle for normal thin panels within 20-25 m plate length is around 30 minutes.

For stiffener fillet welding, the high quality is achievable with LHAW or advanced MAG process. With LHAW process the welding speed ~2-3 m/min and with advanced MAG ~1.5-2 m/min can be achieved. According to chosen profile handling configuration and amount of welding heads, the cycle time in this process per profile is changing from 6 to 15 minutes.

Using the high speed Lincoln welding GMAW/MCAW process for secondary elements together with PEMA WeldControl 200 robot on-line programming and controlling software, we are again step ahead to control the productivity and quality of thin panel production.

To support efficient thin panel production, PEMA is also offering other production lines:


Profile processing lines, with ideology – from storage to welding station without operator interference.


T-Beam fabrication stations to support special T-beam fabrication for thin panel production.


Flat panel robotic stations and assembly manipulators.


Micro panel lines utilizing robots with special PEMA WeldControl 200 VISION system.

For thin panel manufacturing, PEMA is the “One Stop Shop“; engineering, experience, machinery, productivity, quality – we will help you to make more.

Want to read more about T-beam fabrication for shipbuilding?

Discover automated T-Beam production line to improve shipbuilding efficiency:



PEMA Team at your service. Contact us and we will help you with any questions you may have.