Harland & Wolff Shipyard moves to robot age with Inrotech


The British shipyard Harland & Wolff, which specialising in ship repair, conversion, and offshore construction, is located in Belfast. The shipyard’s roots go all the way back to the mid-19th century, as its probably best known as the shipyard that built the Titanic. Now the honored shipyard is on its way into the robot age with a delivery from Inrotech, for a product named Inrotech-MicroTwin, which is a gantry with two robots – hence the twin name.

The robot initially scans the objects, then there are sensors that finds the start and end point of each welding string and then welding starts. It doesn’t require any CAD drawings, programming or anything else. That’s what Harland & Wolff have fallen for. Thus, they do not need backend engineers, and they do not need to transfer CAD drawings.

The robot is to be used for welding micro panels for shipbuilding. It can be panels of 15 meters in length and is usually 2-3 meters in width, which is assembled later in the shipbuilding. The customer has bought extra rails, so that they can all operate at 32 meters. Then they can weld in two zones – that is, weld in one zone and prepare in another and vice versa. This means that it can run non-stop.

Harland & Wolff was taken over by InfraStrata in 2019 and has since changed name to Harland & Wolff Group Holdings plc . The company is listed on London Stock Exchange and the company is in a rapid development.

Going according to plan, Inrotech’s robot system will be operational at the Belfast shipyard in early 2022.

“Usually, the customers come to us and see some demos, or we visit them and have to watch their production and so on,” says Sales Manager, Dan Kim Nielsen. “It has not been the case here due to all the restrictions imposed due to the COVID19 pandemic. Everything was run as online meetings. We have brought them online down to our workshop to see some things, and then we have a really good customer, a shipyard in Romania, and there we could take them down online and see an Inrotech-MicroTwin in live production”

Such an Inrotech-MicroTwin is equipped with 8 cameras for online support. All Inrotech robotic welding systems are equipped with cameras for online support. The customer, Harland & Wolff have installed the Inrotech-MicroTwin in their production themselves – this was possible as Inrotech was supporting online all the way.

“According to Dan Kim Nielsen,  “the Inrotech-MicroTwin has been delivered and implemented in production in various shipyards around the world.”

“The Inrotech-MicroTwin is mainly being used for welding of Micro Panels in the shipbuilding industry. Our unique technology used for this product – SensLogic – gives an extremely high welding quality and a fast scanning process which, for instance, only takes a few minutes with a scanning speed of 6m/min. That is typically one of the things that exceeds customer expectations,” says Dan Kim Nielsen.

No transfer of CAD drawings, and programming is needed as the unique SensLogic software automatically recognizes and determine what to weld.

With regards to challenges, Dan informs, “The major challenge was that it was not possible to go to the client for installing and optimizing the Inrotech-MicroTwin. We overcame this by supporting the client in installing the Inrotech-MicroTwin in their production themselves. After installation we were able to optimize and “run in” the Inrotech-MicroTwin via our online tools – i.e. direct access to the Inrotech-MicroTwin via the internet and being able to view everything via the 8 cameras.”

About Inrotech-MicroTwin:

The Inrotech-MicroTwin is a lightweight aluminium gantry with twin welding robots. It is designed mainly for the shipbuilding industry and specifically developed for the welding of micro panels, sub-assemblies, T-beams and similar parts and can be used in a wider range of applications, wherever feasible.

The robot system is delivered as a “plug-and-play” unit and is fully operational once the rails, safety curtain or fencing has been installed and the system has been connected to power, shielding gas and compressed air.

You simply place the items to be welded randomly within the workspace of the MicroTwin and press the start button   on the intuitive touch panel. It only takes a few minutes with a scanning speed of 8m/min. Once the scan is completed, the exact position of each profile is verified by the laser sensor, which is integrated in a housing also holding the welding gun.

The welding of the profiles now commence without any further input from the operators side. This means:

Place the panels and push the start button…that’s it! No transfer of CAD drawings, no off-line programming and no manual selection of objects to be welded. Therefore, no back-end engineers are required.

The Inrotech-MicroTwin is provided with Inrotech remote-access for online support.