Leirvik is a Norwegian company that engineers, procures, and constructs aluminum projects and related services for customers operating both on- and offshore. Although founded on boat repairs, Leirvik has been a global frontrunner in deliveries of turnkey aluminum living quarters to the offshore oil and gas industry for more than 40 years.
As an EPC supplier, Leirvik usually takes charge of the entire project from detailed engineering design and procurement of all the equipment and necessary materials, and then construction to deliver a functioning facility or asset to their clients. To achieve this, Leirvik has a design department and a shipyard capable of assembling the largest aluminum structures in the world.
An interview with Morten Bjelland, Head of Technology & Digitalization at Leirvik.
A changing industry
Morten Bjelland explains, “We have the world’s leading expertise in welding aluminum, and we have now started to work on a project called ARoW (Automatic Robot Welding) where we will work with automated and robotic welding. In other words,
customers operating both on- and offshore.
"We want to turn the cutting-edge expertise we have today into tomorrow’s digital expertise."
Leirvik wants to automate certain welding processes for many reasons, one of the most important being the potential for improving efficiency. Streamlining is also necessary to ensure that Leirvik remains competitive in the future, both in existing and in new markets.
“When a welder is handed a drawing today, the person knows what to do and starts welding. How can his or her knowledge be turned into standard program code that enables a robot to do the same job? We aim to find some answers to such problems in this project“, states Morten Bjelland, Head of Technology & Digitalization at Leirvik.
Automatic generation of welds in 3d
Leirvik’s production processes consists mainly of customizations for a tailor-fit, and only a few standardized products.
“But if we break the products down into the various aluminum profiles we use in several parts of our production, then there are repetitive processes that can be well suited for automation. Hence, we believe that it is possible to create a profitable automation method, but to make it happen, we must look more closely at some of the elements that must be in place to succeed. This is where Digitread becomes a key partner for us“, he explains.
To explain in simple terms, Digitread creates a digital representation of the robot cell, place the product in the digital twin and program the tasks that the robot performs. If the simulation is accurate, the process is saved as a robot code. The robot code is then uploaded as a job package which, in turn, becomes the robot’s job description. It enables the robot to repeat the job to be done continually.
“When the project began its validation phase in January 2020, we tasked Digitread with generating welds in 3D automatically based on standardized rules. We also challenged them to make fully automatic cutting sketches for the parts to be cut out and put together, reports Bjelland.
Laser sensor data form knowledge base
In a pilot project such as ARoW, many different challenges must be solved so that the robot performs correctly. One such example is a laser sensor being used to help auto-correct the welding.
“When a welding job is simulated in the digital world, everything is perfect – but that’s not the reality in the real world. Hence, we use data from the laser sensor as a knowledge base to adjust any sources of error that may occur in real life. The laser sensor scans the object, establishes if it is positioned correctly, and if it is not, it adjusts the robot according to reality. We start with the simplest welds, and if we manage to weld the simple ones properly, this covers the majority of welds encountered. But even if the welds themselves are simple, the process is more complex and involves a lot of trial and error. Thus, a lot of mockups are required to identify and remedy any errors and repeat the process before everything is entirely correct“, he adds.
The pilot project was completed in November 2020 and showed promising results prompting Leirvik to proceed with ARoW phase 2, where they will continue the work and develop the solution further along with CLEVR,” Bjelland concludes.