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S. Korea: Shipbuilding industry turns to robots to overcome shortage of workers

The domestic shipbuilding industry is introducing robots to cope with a shortage of workers and prevent safety accidents, according to industry officials, Tuesday.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) developed a carbon steel pipe welding robot that it says can improve the working environment and productivity and has been using it since earlier this month.

Previously, workers would operate a welding torch which weighs more than 30 kg. After dozens of revisions since 2019, the robot was introduced at the shipyard.

HD Hyundai, which started research on production automation back in 1987, is striving to improve quality and productivity through cutting-edge technology. It has developed around 100 different types of robots, including automatic recognition robots for small parts.

In 2018, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) introduced collaborative robots for the first time in the industry. Collaborative robots are capable of working together with humans by being equipped with safety functions that detect abnormal currents or collisions.

The improved collaborative robot has reduced its weight by more than half, making it easier to be transported, and can torch and weld in a zigzag pattern vertically as well as horizontally.

In October of last year, Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries took the first step to fully automate the subassembly welding process, with robots it researched together with Hyundai Robotics. Six industrial robots are involved in simultaneous welding, automatically providing a trajectory of welding lines with state-of-the-art image processing technology. In addition, welding in all directions became possible, and quality has improved by minimizing slag generation through a special digital welding technique called gas metal arc welding (GMAW).

Samsung Heavy Industries is also using robots for welding and assembly processes. At its Geoje shipyard, robots are in charge of the welding process. In addition, collaborative robots are being used in other heavy assembly processes that require robot power.

Industry officials believe the scope of robot utilization, which is currently applied only to some fields such as welding and assembly, will expand further in the future. Cooperative robots can be an alternative to the workforce requiring technical skills as it is decreasing. Another advantage is that serious accidents can be prevented by using robots for dangerous tasks.

Source: The Korea Times

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