How Laser Cutting Technology Changed the Shipbuilding Industry

By March 22, 2016 Article No Comments
laser machine

^ By Steve Brown Photography (Retro Systems LLC (www.retrosystems.com)) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 In the 1990’s, the bridge building industry began using a 3kW gantry style CO2 laser cutting machine. By 1995, laser cutting machines were used in shipyards. Eventually, 6kW CO2 laser systems were used in various shipyards across the world. Laser cutting in shipyards has a typical process flow when it comes to marking the plate, followed by cutting the hull and internal structure, and lastly the ship-block construction.

Due to the popularity of laser cutting machines, the shipbuilding industry has reduced labor costs, and most especially the time it took on both small and large projects. Of all the equipment used in shipbuilding, CO2 laser cutting machines such as laser bevel cutting machine were proven to provide higher accuracies and more reduced time and costs in post-cutting processes.

Can you imagine what it was like in the past without laser cutting machines? Cutting is any shipyard’s major operation. Back in the 1950’s the best equipment available to cut metals was through a flame cutting machine. The flame cutting machine was a main equipment in European and Japanese shipyards. By 1955 to 1960, EMP or electro photo marking equipment was used in shipyards to mark cutting lines, fitting lines, base lines, and serialization of work orders. In 1966 Japan’s Koike developed the first CNC cutting machine.

From 1960 to 1965 software for shipyards was developed introduced by a Norwegian company. They also developed a CNC controller. Since then cutting machine manufacturers from Japan, England, Germany and France made CNC cutting machines. Powder marking processes were introduced in 1970. Air plasma systems were developed in Eastern Germany and utilized by shipyards in 1975.

In 1983, the first CNC oxygen-plasma bevel cutting machine was introduced and used in 1983. Fast forward to the ‘90s, a laser bevel cutting machine was installed in a shipyard in Italy. By 2005, shipyards started using CNC in-jet marking machines.

Why has laser cutting created a huge change in the shipbuilding industry?

  • Laser cutting machines achieve precision levels and edge quality incomparable to other cutting processes.
  • The laser beam does not wear during the laser cutting processes.
  • The technology is capable of cutting complex shapes.
  • Cutting methods are faster.
  • Contamination on the cut material is minimized.