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Waterjet Cutting

Ship shape

By Colin Linneweber

Above: Bollinger Shipyard has built countless patrol vessels for the United States Coast Guard.

A water jet machine improves shipyard’s heavy-duty fabrication process

March 2017 - Executives at Bollinger Shipyards LLC—a Lockport, Louisiana-based manufacturer and distributor of products and services for military and commercial ships, workboats and patrol vessels—decided against attempting to find an outside supplier for watertight doors and hatches. Rather than struggling to locate qualified vendors, Bollinger Shipyard wanted to fabricate these particular items in house. 

Alongside his colleagues, Dennis Fanguy, vice president of quality management systems, “realized our high-definition plasma cutting machine would not meet our needs in order to facilitate the transition to fabricate watertight doors and hatches.” 

To help determine what type of equipment would enable in-house fabrication, Fanguy contacted Koike Aronson Inc. Founded in Tokyo in 1918, Koike Aronson designs and builds metal cutting machinery, welding positioning equipment, portable cutting/welding machines and gas apparatuses. Its North American factory in Arcade, New York, spans 167,000 sq. ft. Koike Aronson caters to, among others, companies in the energy, shipbuilding, pipe and vessel, transportation, education and construction industries.

FFJ 0317 waterjet image1

The Koike Jet 612 water jet is a high-pressure, heavy-duty machine that can cut a variety of products and materials to size and shape. It takes roughly one week to fabricate watertight doors and hatches.

After hearing what Bollinger wanted, Jeff Gates, sales trainer and waterjet specialist, deduced that the shipbuilder needed a Koike Jet 612 water jet cutting system. This high-pressure, heavy-duty machine cuts a variety of materials and forms up to 8 in. thick. According to Fanguy, raw plates arrive in 6-ft. by 12-ft. sections and are comprised of grade 5456 aluminum and grade AH36 carbon steel. Aluminum 5456 is a molded, aluminum-magnesium alloy and grade AH36 is high-tensile grade that’s designed for shipbuilding and platforms. 

“Bollinger Shipyard was looking for a non-heat affected cut area that would allow them to accurately cut different materials with minimal setup time,” says Gates.

Installed last year, the Jet 612 line included a 6-ft. by 12-ft. cutting table, Hypertherm Hy-Precision 50 intensifier pump and Flash Cut CNC with Hypertherm Pronest software and initial height control. Hypertherm product software, as well as ShipConstructor software, an AutoCAD based CAD/CAM product, is used during this fabrication process. These features allow Bollinger Shipyard to design all of its doors and hatches in-house. With the Jet 612, Gates says Bollinger “can now cut mild steel, aluminum, plastics, and gasket materials and rubber products all on the same table, using the same consumables, with little to no setup time.”

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“As competitive pressures increase,” Fanguy says, “shipyards must invest in new technology and process improvement products to reduce the cost of shipbuilding and ship repair. This investment facilitates the efficiency, cost effectiveness, and quality of our CNC cutting and small component fabrication operations for assemblies and sub-assemblies of vessels.”

The system, he continues, “also reduces rework common with traditional methods, increased productivity associated with production and repair activities, and allowed us to complete jobs much more quickly and precisely the first time around.” 

From raw materials to a finished product, Fanguy says it takes roughly one week to fabricate watertight doors and hatches when all materials are available.  

Established by Donald Bollinger in 1946, the company has experienced exponential growth and today operates 10 shipyards and a fleet of 18 dry docks across south Louisiana and Texas with access to the Gulf of Mexico. Bollinger has built numerous patrol ships for the U.S. Coast Guard, and many high-profile, heavy-duty work vessels. 

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Bollinger Shipyards wanted to fabricate its own watertight doors and hatches.

Fanguy revealed which Coast Guard vessels will have watertight doors and hatches installed and when the project should be completed. 

“The first set of doors and hatches will be installed on the USCG FRC-B vessels with the first set going on the FRC 33,” he says. “The doors and hatches will be fabricated and then delivered for installation around April. We expect the Coast Guard to receive their first vessel delivery by January 2019.”

Thanks to a willingness to improve all facets of their operation, Fanguy is confident that Bollinger will remain at the forefront of vessel fabrication and assembly.

“Bollinger Shipyards is proud of its long-established reputation for integrity and as a leader in the shipbuilding industry,” he says. “This reputation emanates from the efforts of our management team and their dedication to continuously improve. For example, we continue our drive to improve our small prefab components, mitigate resource shortages and enhance efficiency on CNC cutting.”

Due to strategic investments in fabrication equipment, Fanguy expects the company is poised to “remain the premier patrol vessel builder in the United States while also increasing our market share worldwide.” FFJ

Sources

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