Many repetitive processes in shipbuilding are still carried out manually to the detriment of working conditions. This also undermines the competitive position of numerous ‘Small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) that provide fit-out services to shipyards. Against this backdrop, researchers initiated the CARLOS (Cooperative robot for large spaces manufacturing) project to develop adaptable robotic solutions. With EU support, the researchers achieved a breakthrough through CARLOS — the application of recent advances in cooperative mobile robotics to a representative scenario for shipyards. Using commercial off-the-shelf components and a modular approach, the CARLOS team developed a robot co-worker. This robot can perform specific operations and semi-autonomous navigation inside blocks of ship superstructures. Specifically, the robot can automatically carry out stud welding by means of a mobile manipulator and a welding gun attached to the wrist. In addition, using information from a computer-aided design file, it can mark information on cabin walls to help with fit-out operations. Preliminary trials with the final prototype have shown positive results. CARLOS technology will enable a critical increase in productivity for European shipbuilders, at the same time reducing manufacturing faults. The new robot also has potential applications in industrial manufacturing and civil construction where metallic structures are used. This would strengthen the market position of SMEs that develop and supply electronic and mechatronic technologies for industrial applications. Not surprisingly, the CARLOS robot system has already received industry recognition, winning first place in the FreeBots competition held during the 2015 Festival Nacional de Robótica — a Portuguese national robotics competition.
Robot, shipyards, SMEs, CARLOS, cooperative mobile robotics, commercial off-the-shelf, stud welding