LIFT project optimizes use of lightweight metals

Aug. 13, 2018
An engineering path to lightweighting.

LIFT (Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow) a Manufacturing USA institute, announced the creation of a new process that enables shipbuilders to save production costs and improve build time, all while reducing distortion of lightweight materials.

The initiative developed computer modeling to better predict where distortion (or warping) will occur when steel plates are welded together, ultimately reconfiguring the welding sequence, according to LIFT. Using a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter unit as a test article, the project team demonstrated a 30 percent reduction in distortion and a 13 percent reduction in production costs compared to similar, previous cutter-production units.

“As naval ship designs have trended toward using thinner and higher-strength materials to reduce structural weight and add new combat capability, controlling the quality and cost of distortion has increasingly and adversely affected the shipbuilding industry,” said T.D. Huang, principal engineer, Huntington Ingalls Industries, who contributed to the project. “The LIFT project has provided an avenue to collaborate with world-class experts and systematically address thin steel distortion.”

The team took a four-pronged approach, conducted over a two-year period, which included:

  • Observing the baseline Coast Guard Cutter production assembly and collecting distortion data at each process step
  • Fabricating nineteen test panels featuring different variables and assembly sequences
  • Employing Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) modeling to establish recommended fitting, welding and assembly sequences for optimized distortion control
  • Recommending procedures to be employed on a full-scale mock-up unit
  • Detailing process flows to determine the change in cost due to improved technology and reduced distortion

“Developing better modeling to enable lightweight solutions is a big step forward for manufacturers across the country, and across industries,” said Alan Taub, LIFT CTO. “Lightweighting is more than just substituting materials. It can be achieved through optimal engineering too.”

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