Brussels, 13 Oct 2004
An EU funded research initiative has identified a new process for joining lightweight materials in shipbuilding, which its inventors say will make shipyards in Europe more competitive and environmentally friendly.
It is currently standard practice in shipbuilding to apply welding techniques to joint lightweight materials such as aluminium. However, by moving to adhesive bonding methods, researchers believe that the cost of producing and operating ships can be significantly reduced, while also delivering welcome environmental benefits.
The three-year BONDSHIP project received funding of 4.6 million euro under the Growth programme of the EU's Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). The main result of the initiative has been the creation of detailed guidelines for the production, assembly, testing and repair of adhesive joints in shipbuilding. Before achieving these results, however, the 13 project partners carried out studies aimed at confirming their technique's potential for savings.
These studies estimated that adhesive bonding of supports, stiffeners, and other attachments could provide cost savings of at least 20 per cent in the construction of large passenger ships compared with welding, and 25 to 30 per cent for large patrol craft. In fast passenger ferries, another benefit of adhesive bonding is an overall weight reduction of between 4.5 and 9 tonnes, which over a period of 20 years could save between 8,000 and 16,000 tonnes of diesel fuel.
'Adhesive bonding will have a significant impact on current shipbuilding practice of passenger ships,' believes Ajay Kapadia, from project coordinators VT Composite technology Centre. 'It will trigger considerable future development far beyond the scope of the project by opening up new possibilities for all types of modular construction.'
Mr Kapadia also expects the environmental benefits to be substantial: 'It has been estimated that a medium sized shipyard produces about 60 tonnes per year of welding slag - considered special waste for which a controlled disposal is required.' The replacement of welding by adhesive bonding would remove this source of environmental pollution.
Additionally, the widespread uptake of the practice would lead to an improvement in working conditions as it removes the need for many tedious and repetitive tasks associated with welding, such as filing and sanding, thereby minimising health hazards caused by airborne particles. Welding fumes and the potential fire hazard caused by welding heat would also be removed.
Having achieved the results they were aiming for, the BONDSHIP partners say that they intend to apply them in their daily work, and use them as the basis for new or improved products and services.
'BONDSHIP is the perfect example of how Framework [Programme] funding is being used to bring together expertise from across the EU to help make our industries more competitive,' said the UK national contact point (NCP) for maritime surface transport, Cliff Funnell. 'The project brought together 13 partners from seven Member and Associated States, and the results will be of benefit to shipbuilders and businesses in other construction sectors.'
For further information, please consult the following web address: