Pemamek Oy, which is based in Loimaa, Finland and specialises in industrial automation systems, has developed a vision-based robotic automation system that is unique in the world today. Delivery of the first systems to Kvaerner Masa-Yards’ shipyard in Helsinki has been agreed. The technology will significantly improve the efficiency of shipbuilding.
Pemamek’s new system will be used in the welding, grinding and cutting of ship sections. The conventional off-line programming of robots is replaced in the new system by a vision system that identifies the required workpiece using a high-resolution camera. All the welding operator has to do is approve the movement tracks and welding programmes proposed by the computer, and leave the robots to do the work.
According to the agreement with Kvaerner Masa-Yards, Pemamek will supply the Helsinki shipyard with two welding robot systems as well as one T-beam plasma cutting and grinding system.
The welding robot system is a track-mounted travelling welding gantry. The horizontal motion track of both the welding robot and the high-resolution camera are mounted on the gantry’s horizontal beam. The system’s control panel is also mounted on the gantry. The system is programmed with the aid of a VIP vision system supplied by RTS Cheos. The operation of the equipment is automatic, but manual operation can also be selected using the robot’s remote control.
In the robotised profile cutting and grinding system the beam to be ground passes through a fixed station on a roller conveyor. The vision system identifies the workpiece and in conjunction with the cell controller sends instructions to the robot’s work rotation programmes.
“Offline programming is conventionally used in shipbuilding. However, it is expensive and awkward to use. The programming is done from a remote workstation and does not give people any sense of “creative satisfaction”. Such systems have often been left unused,” says the Managing Director of Pemamek Oy, Pekka Heikonen.
“The operation of this new technology’s online system takes place on the spot. The programming is simple and practical. The welder’s work gets a new and rewarding dimension when he becomes an operator working in front of a computer.”
The new system also significantly improves the efficiency of shipbuilding and is clearly cheaper than offline automation. Pemamek has developed the system in collaboration with Kvaerner Masa-Yards, RTS Cheos and Lappeenranta University of Technology. Negotiations with other shipyards concerning the delivery of similar systems are already under way.
“The smart robot system is connected to a shipyard development project in which the existing degree of automation is to be doubled to a high international level. Introduction of the new technology will significantly improve not only productivity and quality but also the work environment and work ergonomy. We want to ensure that our present and future employees have interesting and safe jobs at the cutting edge of development in our industry,” says Production Manager Jukka Gustafsson of Masa-Yards.
For Pemamek, the vision-based robot systems are an important new export product. The company’s strategy is to develop and manufacture the kind of systems for which there are global markets. In June, Pemamek won a major contract to deliver automation systems to India’s biggest power plant equipment manufacturer.