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Eye on Innovation: New Submerged Arc Welder Machine Boosts Efficiency at Norfolk Naval Shipyard

29 October 2021

From Kristi R. Britt, Norfolk Naval Shipyard

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) recently added a valuable tool to its arsenal of equipment, a new Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) Submerged Arc Welder (SAW). This machine was delivered to the Welding Shop (Shop 26) ready for action and brings with it new capabilities to the workforce, including producing cleaner welds on shafts.

“Unlike other welding machines that require the use of gases to accomplish the welds, the SAW machine drops a physical flux on top of the weld and its arc is submerged underneath,” said Equipment Engineering Branch (Code 981) Engineering Technician Kamau Adams. “With this device, there are no possibilities of arc flashes visible and it doesn’t require shielding when in use, providing a safer option for welders performing the work.”

“It’s been a long journey for our team to get the SAW delivered to America’s Shipyard and we’re excited to hit the ground running, getting all the processes in place, so our team can utilize this great piece of machinery,” said Welding Department (Code 926) Surface Craft Director Jeff Griffin. In the past when performing welds, operations within the shop would have to be halted due to the possibilities of arc flash – a light or heat discharge within an electrical system.

With the SAW, crane operators and other mechanics will be able to perform their duties more quickly and safely. “Not only is it going to be safer for our welders, it will also provide a much cleaner weld in a fraction of the time, cutting off days of operation to complete a job with reduced rework. It’s a vital tool as we prepare for the Virginia Class.”

The road to acquiring the SAW took years and required teamwork to ensure everything was in place to get it delivered to America’s Shipyard. Code 981 handled the project management piece, originating the project and passing it on to the spec writers who worked it through the contracting process. Once funding was achieved and the team was built to ensure the right folks were in place to assist, plans were put in place for location of the machine to best fit the layout of the shops.

“We coordinated with Shop 31 and Mechanical Group (Code 930) Inside Shop Director Justin Hayden to find the best placement and ensure it flowed with the work within the shop,” said Adams. “Griffin and his team also ensured the SAW was set up as needed once installed in the shop so that everything was ready to go so we could begin developing the processes and procedures to utilize the machine.”

“We’re building our procedures from the ground up with the help of the Welding and Non-Destructive Test Engineering Department (Code 138), who will be working hand-in-hand with us during the entire process,” said Griffin. “We have a procedure developed by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that we are using as a starting point, guiding us as we build our own within the perimeters needed for us to complete our work. We’ve still got a way to go but this will not only help us improve our welds for the future and protect our workforce, it will also strengthen our relationships with Code 138. We’re coming together to get the job done so we can perform our mission to service the Fleet.”


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