Innovative underwater welding technology developed in Cumbria

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Engineers from across Europe met in Flimby last month to demonstrate revolutionary welding technology that will transform the way repairs are carried out in the shipping industry.

Forth Engineering, Cumbria-based leaders in engineering solutions, invited 12 partners from across Europe to showcase RESURGAM (Robotic Survey, Repair, and Agile Manufacturing), a project that combines in-water Friction Stir Welding (FSW) technology with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics.

On Tuesday, 16 January 16, and Wednesday, 17 January, Forth, the technical manager of the project, hosted partners from across the continent at its Flimby headquarters for the first demonstrations of the RESURGAM technology, accumulating almost three years of hard work.

Partners from Belgium, The Netherlands, Ireland, Turkey, France, Spain, France, Poland, and the UK witnessed the new technology in action for the first time, showcasing Forth’s part in the project, and bringing together expertise from across the continent.

The new technology will ultimately allow ship owners to repair vessels in the water, cutting out the need for a dry dock. This innovative approach will be utilised by shipyards and naval architects across Europe and beyond.

Once rolled out across shipyards, RESURGAM will offer significant benefits to specialised repairs - improving safety, cutting costs, and saving time when compared with the existing approach to hull repairs.

Mark Telford, managing director at Forth Engineering, said: “Hosting our Europe-wide partners here in Flimby has been excellent, this is a world-first happening right here in West Cumbria and a real showcase of what we’re capable of in this region.

“This milestone not only showcases our abilities at Forth, but also puts a spotlight on the effectiveness of the partnership in shaping processes that will ultimately benefit people globally.”

The successful demonstration marked a critical step forward in the journey toward implementing this cutting-edge technology across the shipping industry, bringing forward a new era of efficiency and innovation in maritime repairs.

The first of the demonstrations offered visitors an opportunity to see Forth’s FSW equipment in action out of the water - with a clear view of the welding site. On Wednesday, the European consortium watched the process take place underwater - affirming its abilities for commercialisation in industry.

Numerous smaller and medium-sized shipyards and shipbuilders in Europe face challenges in manufacturing and maintaining large ships due to insufficient resources and capabilities, including finding appropriately sized dry docks.

Robert Sneesby, operations manager at Forth Engineering’s Barrow site, and project manager on RESURGAM, said: “This has been a collaborative effort from start to finish, it’s been fantastic to see everyone in person and show them the progress we’ve made using the FSW technology.

“The opportunity to demonstrate the detailed prototype underwater in front of the people who helped make it possible has been a great success. It's a testament to the collective dedication and expertise that has fueled this project.

“We do the work we do to find solutions. We hope that these developments will provide a cost effective solution to problems that are faced globally.”

The consortium is coordinated by the European Federation For Welding Joining And Cutting (EWF), based in Belgium, and includes: Technische Universiteit Delft, Netherlands, TWI Limited, UK, University Of Limerick, Ireland, University Of Lancaster, UK, Element Six (UK) Limited, UK, Turkiye Gemi Insa Sanayicileri Birligi Dernegi, Turkey, Engitec Systems International Limited, Cyprus, Aislamientos Termicos De Galicia Sa, Spain, STIRWELD, France, Forth Engineering, UK, Asociacion Cluster Del Naval Gallego, Spain, and the NED-Project Sp Z Oo, Poland.

Sara Fernandes, project manager of the EWF and RESURGAM, said: “The benefits of a Europe-wide collaboration have been vast, though the distance between partners proved to be challenging at times - it has certainly been an invaluable partnership.”

“We’re very happy with the developments that have been made at Forth - it’s been wonderful to see the technology in action alongside our partners - this is a very exciting step.”

Forth will share outcomes of the demonstration with the consortium, and continue to work towards a solution that will be rolled out across Europe and beyond.