How Metal Technology Drives the Shipbuilding Industry

USS Freedom, a littoral combat ship which utilizes aluminum construction of the deck and superstructure. One of the competing designs for the FFG(X) program.

The shipbuilding industry has always been relevant, evolving from days of wooden vessels to the metal age, including the use of aluminum alloys. Vessels used both above and below the water’s surface have been vital for construction, trade, exploration, and military endeavors since humanity first grasped the concept of buoyancy.

Despite the long history of naval development, the biggest strides in naval technology have taken place within the last 200 years. Specifically, naval technology as we know it, took a huge leap in 1862 when two ironclad warships traded blows for the first time during the American Civil War. The outcome of the battle may have been ambiguous (neither vessel was sunk, yet both sides claimed victory), but the effect on naval technology was crystal clear.

Several Union wood-hulled vessels had been sunk by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia, which escaped the battle in pristine condition. It was not until the intervention of the Union ironclad USS Monitor that the attack on the Union fleet was stopped. Ironclad warships had increased survivability compared to their wooden hulled predecessors, and so the war on the seas would, from then on, be governed by whoever had the best materials and the construction techniques to properly apply them.

This trend continued with increasingly strong steel alloys being used to create armor of incredible durability. This brings us to the modern day, where the battlefield is evolving quicker than ever. There will always be a place in the Navy for destroyers and cruisers, but the need has arisen for a new breed of warship with increased speed, agility, and stealth. Fortunately, there is a material to match this need.

Just as the development of iron and steel allowed vessels to be made tougher than before, now aluminum alloys and fabrication processes will allow the development of the new class of vessels centered around evading the enemy’s strikes before retaliating.

At one-third the density of steel, aluminum allows vessels to be made lighter and therefore faster. The corrosion resistance and strength of new alloys, specifically the 5xxx series of aluminum alloys, make it an ideal choice for the construction of sea-going vessels. In addition, the development of new metal forming processes such as CNC machining, extrusion, and new welding processes (friction stir welding chief among them) have made aluminum one of the most versatile materials, able to be formed to shapes impossible for other materials. Already in use with the littoral combat ships, aluminum construction of the decks, superstructure, and even hull sections are key to making the vessels lighter, faster, and more maneuverable. In fact, these vessels are capable of speeds of more than 45 knots (51 mph), an impressive speed for vessels which weigh 3500 tons.

Now, the Navy is considering designs for the FFG(X) program, developing a new fast warship to complement their current fleet. The vessel must be able to support carrier groups at speeds in excess of 30 knots (34 mph), hunt submarines, add an additional layer of security to carrier groups and convoys through networked sensors, engage enemy surface ships at both long ranges and short ranges, and operate with the fleet or independently depending on the situation. Speed and flexibility will be necessary to accomplish this mixture of hunter and guardian in a single vessel. No matter what design is selected, it will rely on aluminum construction and fabrication techniques to obtain the performance necessary to neutralize whatever situation it faces.

Military-influenced design backdrop with navy and gold accents with the words “from sea to space” in the forefront, along with the Taber Extrusions company gold triangle logo on top.

MORE ON TABER EXTRUSIONS – FROM SEA TO SPACE

Taber Extrusions LLC, a pioneering manufacturer of complex aluminum extrusions, has earned the distinction as the only U.S. domestic aluminum extruder using a rectangular container and billet configuration to produce wide aluminum extrusions with superior tolerances for military and marine applications.

This distinction has garnered Taber Extrusions the position as the preferred supplier for custom defense-related applications using ultra-wide multi-void hollow extrusions in thicknesses from .75 up to 3.4 inches and widths up to 29 inches. Our customers include the U.S. military as well as various government prime defense contractors.

Our ultra-wide aluminum extrusions typically result in a considerable reduction in fabrication cost of the end product, plus we process materials domestically to ensure adherence to the “Buy American” requirements for U.S. military applications. In many cases, multiple-part assemblies can be replaced by a one-piece extrusion that is mechanically superior. Wide multi-void extrusions are ideal for platforms and structure constructions that need to be lightweight yet strong.

Taber is the largest supplier of 5xxx series extrusions in the USA. Our extrusions can be used in a wide variety of applications from armor-grade paneling to oil rig crew boats and equipment. Taber’s 5xxx high corrosion resistant and weldable extrusions can also be found on US Naval vessels in flight decking, superstructure supports and hull stiffeners.

Visit Taber Extrusions at https://taberextrusions.com or call us at 888-984-3217.

2018-12-30T22:34:24+00:00December 8th, 2018|