Robotics & Automation News

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Comau and Fincantieri unveil ‘first’ mobile robot shipbuilding system

Industrial automation specialist Comau and shipbuilder Fincantieri, two of Italy’s largest and most well-known industrial companies, have unveiled the first result of their joint collaboration: the MR4Weld (Mobile Robot for Welding) mobile robot.

The companies describe the robotic system as “an innovative outdoor automation solution to improve quality, performance and well-being during labor-intensive welding activities”.

The companies have also renewed their strategic agreement to apply technology, digitalization, and innovation within cutting-edge, mobile robotic solutions that will increase production speed and worker well-being, by automating traditionally manual processes.

Having first signed a letter of intent in 2021, which was aimed at developing robotized steel welding solution prototypes and the resulting construction of a series of machines – after successful completion of production tests of the prototypes which are currently undergoing, Comau CEO, Pietro Gorlier, and Fincantieri CEO, Pierroberto Folgiero, have signed a renewed agreement which foresees the development of additional mobile robotized machines and solutions for unstructured environments.

Considered a new paradigm in bringing automation beyond the factory floor, the MR4Weld mobile robot is being tested and will be subsequently used within Fincantieri shipyards to autonomously weld steel structures, with a possible 3-fold increase compared to a manual process.

It features a high-payload, 6-axis articulated robot fitted with a welding torch that is installed on a tracked undercarriage and equipped with an integrated vision system to autonomously identify welding joints.

More importantly, it guarantees better welding quality while reducing ergonomic risks, helping the transformation of the shipbuilding production process by ensuring greater flexibility and improved safety in addition to lower overall costs.

Designed to be able to move in any environment and to collaborate with workers, MR4Weld can be easily managed by a single operator during the transfer and welding activities.

The system also employs digital tools to collect welding and production data that can be used to record the welded joints. Since MR4Weld is in complete compliance with current safety regulations, it can be used without fences on each of the multiple decks that a vessel is made up of.

Fincantieri and Comau have jointly filed a European patent application for specific MR4Weld technological features. The cutting-edge solution can also be seamlessly integrated within Comau’s digital infrastructure, further safeguarding the robotic system’s productivity and profitability.

As part of the renewed collaboration, the companies will develop advanced and mobile robotics to automate other repetitive activities of the shipbuilding processes including those characterized by vertical and non-linear surfaces as well as unstructured environments, in addition to the testing of Comau’s exoskeletons for further improving the operators’ ergonomic conditions and well-being.

Fincantieri will also work with Comau to strengthen and upgrade the technical skills of its operators in terms of using and programming the robotized mobile systems, by adapting to the shipbuilding operators’ dedicated advanced training formats, which are already developed by Comau.

In fact, implementing automated solutions for highly repetitive and non-high value-added production activities represents one of the pillars of Fincantieri’s strategy.

Comau will also take yet another step toward differentiating its core business and expanding into new segments beyond the factory floor.

Furthermore, the companies will begin industrializing their unique MR4Weld robotics solution which can be applied not only to the shipbuilding industry but also for industries that require the production of large steel infrastructures, among others.

Within the LoI, the companies will study and evaluate the ways and relevant agreements for further facilitating the prompt development of the identified technological solutions.

Pietro Gorlier, CEO of Comau, says: “In addition to the opportunity to work with a leader such as Fincantieri, and explore groundbreaking robotized mobile systems for unstructured environments, the extension of our collaboration reflects Comau’s determination to deliver cutting-edge, highly flexible solutions for complex production scenarios.

“We also believe the significant market potential for the MR4Weld mobile robot extends beyond shipbuilding. Especially given that the mobile robotics market is estimated to see a five-year CAGR of 15 per cent (2022 to 2027) according to internal estimates and supporting market research.”

Pierroberto Folgiero, CEO of Fincantieri, says: “MR4Weld is a project that meets multiple directions of our development: automation and digitization, two driving forces of our business plan as well as the corporate responsibility, which finds an answer in the achievement of five of the UN sustainable development goals, also with reference to safety and training.

“The partnership with Comau has produced a unicum in our sector, a result of great industrial value which confirms Fincantieri’s commitment to the pursuit of excellence.”

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