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Wednesday, April 21, 2021 

A European consortium of 13 companies, including Forth of the UK as technical manager, is developing in-water Friction Stir Welding (FSW) technology, which is said to revolutionise the way ships can be maintained and 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. Forth has already worked on an FSWBot for pipelines, and says that the  anticipated portable Underwater Friction Stir Welding robot will make shiprepair safer, faster and more cost-efficient than conventional welding. The new technology will combine 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 the 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 is thought to offer benefits to modular, multi-site construction of new build ships as well as mid-life retrofitting and modifications. It will allow welding to be performed effectively and efficiently in confined spaces.

According to Forth, smaller and medium sized shipyards and shipbuilders in Europe 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, so Resurgam will create global market opportunities for European yards 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, UK; University Of Limerick, Ireland; University Of Lancaster, UK; Element Six (UK); Turkiye Gemi Insa Sanayicileri Birligi Dernegi, Turkey; Engitec Systems International, Cyprus; Aislamientos Termicos De Galicia, Spain;  Stirweld, France;  Forth, UK;  Asociacion Cluster Del Naval Gallego, Spain;  NED-Project, Poland. The project has attracted €5m of EU funding. Work is due to complete by the end of January 2024.

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