Running a tight ship

Advancements in multi-process welders help contractors address shipyard challenges


Big ship - rear view with propeller under repair.

In the welding industry, companies are always looking for ways to create a more efficient operation and maintain – or better yet, increase – profitability. Welding operations in shipyards are no different.

Contractors serving this industry, as well as shipbuilders themselves, face many challenges that can play a role in reaching those goals. These can range from the drive to meet deadlines as well as quality and code requirements to power or space limitations. The need for durable equipment and a versatile power source that can address the demands of different applications is also important for some shipbuilding operations.

Gaining the best results is all about having the right equipment for the job, so it’s important to assess the application and choose accordingly. In certain cases, a single-process power source is enough to meet the job’s requirements. However, many companies in the shipbuilding industry have operations with varying process needs.

For them, a multi-process power source can offer significant benefits in terms of quality, productivity and cost by providing the capacity for gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW), flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) and carbon arc gouging (CAC-A).

Recent advancements in multi-process technologies are helping to improve performance and durability and maximize space savings of this equipment for the shipbuilding industry and more.

Improving performance

In the past, the older technology associated with multi-process power sources may have meant compromising the quality of one welding process in order to maximize a different welding process. That is no longer the case with newer power sources.

Improved and reliable current technology ensures that employing SMAW welding capabilities does not mean giving up something in GMAW (wire) welding capabilities, or vice versa, for example. That’s exceptionally important considering the strict codes dictating weld quality for shipbuilding applications.

Dimension 650
Miller Electric’s Dimension 650 was developed for harsh environmental conditions and output requirements that range from power-intensive to precise.

Having a power source that is capable of multiple welding processes as well as carbon arc gouging provides the ability to complete a variety of jobs without the purchase of additional equipment, which can also result in cost savings for shipyards.

Multi-process capabilities can further help those in the shipbuilding industry be more competitive by completing jobs faster – there is less downtime for changing over power sources to address a new application. In the case of a weld defect that could compromise the ability to meet quality standards, having the versatility to remove the weldment via carbon arc gouging by the same machine can save time, too.

Space in shipyards is at a premium and portability is a must as welding operators complete one task and prepare for the next. Newer multi-process power sources address those challenges by offering a much smaller footprint than ones based on older technology. Technology advancements have reduced the internal components, so some are as much as 40 percent smaller than the previous models and significantly lighter.

Even with the reduced size and weight, newer multi-process power sources still provide plenty of power when applications require it for shipbuilding applications. Some offer up to 800 amps of usable power for heavy carbon arc gouging and as much as 650 amps of welding power at 100 percent duty cycle, as an example.

While offering enough power to weld and gouge thick metals, many new multi-process power sources still provide a precise enough arc to weld thin materials, so welding operators have the ability to meet multiple welding needs for many different types of jobs – from small to large.

Withstanding harsh environments

In addition to consistent and reliable arc performance, newer multi-process power sources are designed to face the harsh environments common to shipyards. They can withstand not only inclement weather and extreme temperatures, but also the power limitations that companies in this industry typically face.

Ship 1
Many of the challenges found on jobsites and in fabrication shops – including space and power restrictions and the need for durable equipment to withstand harsh environments – can be addressed by the technology advancements in newer multiprocess welding machines.

Shipyards are no stranger to rain, dirt and mud and, therefore, require a rugged power source that is also corrosion resistant and can maintain its durability under these circumstances. Internal airflow technology in newer power sources further protects electrical components from dirt, dust and debris on these jobsites, greatly helping to improve reliability.

Power is also a precious commodity in shipyards. For that reason, it’s important to have a welding power source that ensures the majority of energy consumed is being used to heat the arc. That helps save energy and costs and also maximizes the limited power that may be available on the site. Technology advancements in newer multi-process power sources help address these issues, since they are engineered to be very power-efficient, ensuring there isn’t wasted energy in the welding process or that the power source is drawing more current than necessary.

The bottom line is the ability to get more welding done using less energy.

Problems with “dirty power” common to shipbuilding applications are also addressed by the technology in newer multi-process power sources. Dirty input power refers to the spikes in power that can be generated when multiple loads are on the same line, such as when motors, compressors, heaters and chillers turn on and off. When this happens, power may spike very high or drop very low.

Newer multi-process power sources include technology that is similar to a shock absorber, which lets these spikes go by without harming the electronics of the machine. With power sources that don’t have this technology, power spikes can sometimes exceed the voltage limits of the components inside, negatively impacting performance and reliability on shipbuilding applications.

Lower energy consumption

In addition to utilizing the available power in shipyards and addressing dirty power, having a more power-efficient power source can also lower energy consumption for contractors and shipbuilders. In turn, that

Ingalls Shipbuidling welder utilizes the WCC system.
For operations that have a need for multiple welding processes such as TIG, MIG and Stick in various applications, multiprocess machines offer versatility and can have significant benefits for quality, productivity and efficiency in industries including shipbuilding, construction and heavy fabrication.

means lower energy costs, which is important for any company.

Another benefit of having a power source that uses less power is that it keeps the equipment cooler inside because they generate less waste heat, which can help prevent problems with overheating or shutdowns.

There are technologies in some of today’s multi-process power sources that regulate the fan that cools the equipment internally, so the fan operates only when needed. This operation reduces noise, power consumption and the amount of airborne contaminants pulled through the power source, creating cleaner and better performance.

Well-versed in versatility

While some shipyard operations can meet their needs with a power source that offers a single welding process, there are many others where multiple welding processes are necessary to complete the variety of jobs. In these situations, today’s newer multi-process power sources provide the additional versatility needed and can help reduce costs for additional equipment and downtime for machine changeover.

Furthermore, technology advancements in newer multi-process power sources also make them more durable and energy-efficient, while simultaneously reducing the footprint to save valuable space in shipyards.

Miller Electric Mfg. Co.

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