Welding Gantry for Fabricating Ships & Barges

March 30, 2017

Welding Automation Systems

Welding Gantry-SAW-SubArc Plate Welding for shipbuilding3-IRCO Automation
IRCO’s featured system is a SAW Gantry, designed to perform the butt welding of plates used for building ship and barges. The client required a welding system that would improve safety, productivity and weld quality. After multiple site visits and consultations, IRCO identified several opportunities to improve the customer’s processes and work flows. The final system was created in partnership with the client; with IRCO designing, building and integrating all the components and controls.


Key features of the gantry welding system:

  • All axes are servo driven, allowing the system to perform: longitudinal, transverse and angle welds
  • Laser Seam Tracking
  • Dual carriages, each equipped with Tandem SAW + Flux Recovery
  • Rolling Induction Heating for pre-heating the part
  • Conductor Bar provides “cable free” power supply to the Gantry
  • Remote viewing & operator station
  • Parts & welding parameters can be pre-programmed into the system
  • Automated Air Carbon Arc Gouging


What is a Welding Gantry?

Welding Gantry-SAW-SubArc Plate Welding for shipbuilding-IRCO Automation
A gantry is a movable bridge-like structure with an overhead platform to support equipment. A welding gantry is a hard automation solution designed to weld large & long fabrications, usually performing straight longitudinal welds. Welding gantry systems are most often used in Oil & Gas, Infrastructure, Shipbuilding & Railcar Manufacturing. They are ideal for welding steel beams (flanges/stiffeners), large plates, or any other application that requires long straight welds of heavy and/or wide workpieces.


IRCO Gantry – Bridge & Controls

This custom gantry features two welding carriages (arms) each with two axes of servo driven control. The entire gantry is also controlled via servo driven wheels which run on rails and can be coordinated to move with the welding carriages. Unlike most non-robotic gantries, which can only perform long linear welds, the IRCO Gantry can deliver: longitudinal, transverse and angle welds.

Welding Gantry Control Station-Close up-IRCO Automation
The system can be run in manual, semi-automatic or as a fully automated welding system. The welding parameters/parts can be preloaded before fixturing and allows the operator to push a button and walk away. The system includes an operator station & platform attached to the side of the frame which travels with the gantry while it is performing the welds.

Welding Gantry Long View of Plant-IRCO Automation
The gantry is 36 feet wide and can travel up to 150 feet. To accommodate these long distances IRCO designed a live “Conductor Bar” to provide power to the Gantry. Like the powered rail you would find on a subway system; this design removes the need for cable management, eliminates the risk of cables being snagged by overhead cranes, and provides a more durable and easier to maintain system.
The elevated “bridge” on the gantry carries the power supplies, wire barrels and other consumables. The wire barrels are mounted on a shuttle system that allows each barrel to travel with the weld carriages/heads. This add-on ensures that the distance between the wire supply and the feeders remains constant, regardless of where the weld is being performed.


IRCO Gantry – Weld Heads & Carriages

The gantry features two independent welding carriages (arms). Each carriage has integrated weld heads which run tandem wire Submerged Arc. IRCO integrated a Laser Seam tracking system which can follow a butt seam with little to no preparation or beveling of the edges.
Welding Gantry System-SAW_SubArc Welding System w Laser Seam Tracking_IRCO Automation
The flux recovery head is designed to remain in a safe and protected position for the start of welds, lowering into the correct trailing position once it has cleared the initial edge of the welded plates. This prevents the Flux Recovery nozzle from “catching” on the edge of the run off tabs.
The client’s manufacturing facility is a semi open environment. During the winter months this could cause issues with the weld quality and/or require additional workers to pre-heat the workpiece. To address this, IRCO integrated rolling induction heating “heads” onto the welding carriages. These heads pre-heat the part while the machine is welding and: speed up production, improve weld consistency/quality and virtually eliminate pre-heating time.

Custom Designed Welding Solution

The IRCO Gantry replaced an existing system which was no longer capable of meeting the customer’s production requirements. IRCO worked closely with the client to create a solution that met both their throughput and budget requirements. This included factoring in the ROI of specific features, aligning it with current production processes and getting the maximum return from the available floor space. In addition, the client specifically requested that certain components from the previous system be transferred to the IRCO Gantry. IRCO was able to take the client’s existing Arc Gouging equipment and integrate the components and controls onto one of the welding carriages.
If you are interested in learning more about this system or have any other questions, contact an IRCO representative today to learn how you can improve your production efficiency.