Newport News Orders Largest All-Electric Pipe Bender
- Newport News Shipbuilding's 1,050-metric ton gantry crane lifts the forward end of one of aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) catapults into place, bringing more than three years of structural erection work to a close. Photo courtesy of Huntingdon Ingalls Industries
- The flight deck of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) was completed on April 9, 2013, with the addition of the upper bow. The bow weighs 787 metric tons and brings Ford to 96 percent structural completion. Photo courtesy of Huntingdon Ingalls Industries.
Unison has received an order from Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), the supplier of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and one of two shipbuilders of nuclear-powered submarines for the U.S. Navy, for an all-electric CNC machine capable of bending large-bore tubing and piping up to eight inches in diameter (219mm OD). The machine will be the first of its type ever built, extending the shipbuilder’s range of precision software-controlled bending facilities to include fabrication of larger diameter pipes that previously could only be bent on very high torque hydraulic machines. Unison believes that it will be the largest and most sophisticated all-electric pipe bender ever designed.
NNS, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), has more than six years of experience using Unison’s all-electric tube benders. The shipbuilder first began using this technology in 2007, when it took delivery of three Unison machines to help fabricate tubing and piping systems for the Ford-class aircraft carriers that were then about to enter production. The first of this new generation of carriers – Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) – is nearing structural completion.
All-electric benders offer numerous advantages over the type of hydraulically powered machines traditionally used in heavy industries such as shipbuilding. Their precision servomotor-based motion control means that they can be configured automatically using parts data downloaded from the design database over a network, and are easy to operate and very quiet.
The machine's bending axes are driven by closed-loop servomotors under software control to facilitate fast setup and to provide accurate and repeatable bending performance. This automated approach eliminates operator error and the need to produce trial parts, and minimizes creation of expensive scrap material. It also contributes significantly to manufacturing flexibility and rapid changeover; this is especially important in the shipyard working environment where many of the tube/pipe components are fabricated as needed and often in batch sizes of just one.
Under the terms of the order from NNS, the new machine will be equipped with Unison’s unique laser-controlled spring-back measurement and correction system. This ensures bending precision by automatically compensating for the natural tendency of metal pipes and tubes to spring back slightly after being bent – providing a tool that delivers right-first-time manufacturing even when fabricating just one part.
According to Jim Saynor of Unison, “This latest order from Newport News Shipbuilding highlights the flexibility of our bending machine control technology. Through collaboration and the support of our partners in the USA, Horn Machine Tools, we have gained a thorough understanding of the needs of this prestigious shipbuilder, and have helped and advised them on numerous aspects of pipe and tube fabrication. Our software-based approach to bending control provides a fully scalable solution that can easily be extended to large diameter pipes, such as this order for an eight-inch machine.”
The new Unison eight-inch machine is scheduled to be completed in Q4, 2013.