Unison Supplies World’s Largest All Electric Pipe Bender to Norwegian Shipyard

The Norwegian offshore and maritime services company Westcon Yard AS, has placed an order with Unison for an exceptionally powerful all-electric bending machine that is capable of bending tubes and pipes up to 10 inches (273 mm) in diameter. This custom-designed machine will be both the largest and most powerful that Unison has ever built – and sets a new world record for all-electric tube bending technology.

Norwegian shipyard orders world’s largest and most powerful all-electric pipe bender.

The order was placed through P Meidell AS, the specialist machine tool company that acts as Unison’s representative in Norway, and calls for Unison to supply two bending machines and associated CAD support software. The first machine – a 90 mm single-stack model from Unison’s Breeze range – was installed at Westcon Yard’s facility in Ølensvåg at the beginning of 2015, with the larger 273 mm custom machine scheduled for delivery in Q4.

Westcon specialises in building and repairing ships for the offshore and fishing sectors, and in servicing, maintaining and repairing semi-submersible and jack-up rigs used by the offshore oil and gas industries. It operates four shipyards in Norway, with its headquarters and pipe production operations forming part of a modern and well-equipped yard near Ølensvåg. This enjoys a unique sheltered position on the Ølensfjord with deepwater access to the North Sea. The yard’s facilities include two floating docks, deepwater quays for three drilling rigs and a number of high payload cranes.

In recent years, Westcon has invested heavily in its pipe fabrication operations for ship outfitting, with the intention of becoming a world leader in this industry. The Ølensvåg site now has a large 3,650 square metre purpose-built engineering workshop, with more than 1,500 square metres allocated to pipe production. The new facilities include a fully automated materials handling system – based on 9-metre high pipe storage racks and robotic feeders – together with an automatic pipe cutting machine and the Unison CNC-controlled all-electric tube benders.

Most of the pipes that Westcon produces are one-off items for new systems, rerouting and maintenance purposes. They are typically manufactured from carbon steel, with each pipe stool normally being up to 6 metres in length. The pipes usually form part of fresh or sea water systems, hydraulic systems, diesel fuel distribution networks or other special systems. They often involve very tight radius bends, to as little as 1.5 times outside diameter, and need to be constructed to millimetre accuracy.

Until a few months ago, Westcon fabricated all pipes in the traditional manner, using multiple cut-to-length straight sections and bought-in preformed bent parts. The individual sections and necessary connection flanges were then welded together to create the final assembly – with each weld requiring cleaning, inspection and non-destructive X-ray testing. This was an expensive and time-consuming process that was also heavily reliant on outside suppliers meeting tight delivery schedules. Rapid turnaround time is critical for repair organizations like Westcon, where the out-of-service costs of ships and rigs can be astronomical.

Since taking delivery of its first Unison bending machine, Westcon has produced all pipes up to 60.3 mm in diameter in-house, from straight piping stock. This has eliminated the need to buy-in preformed bent part shapes for these pipe sizes, and reduced the number of cutting, welding and testing operations needed for each assembly significantly. The pipes are currently cut slightly over-length before bending, to allow for any changes introduced by the process. After bending, they are re-measured, cut to length and welded to the necessary flanges. The company intends further improving the process by cutting the pipes to length prior to bending, as its expertise develops.

As Tommy Nilsen, Manager of Piping Prefabrication at Westcon’s Ølensvåg facility, explains, “We have only been using the Unison machine for a couple of months and are still on a learning curve. Despite this, we are already achieving superb bend accuracy and repeatability with good throughput – and we are confident of increasing this even further when we change the process sequence. In fact, based on our experience so far, when we take delivery of the larger bending machine, we expect to substantially reduce production times for all pipe sizes.”

Unison all-electric tube bending machines feature servomotor-driven motion axes and fully automated software-controlled setup. Simplicity of operation and the fact that Unison was prepared to develop custom pipe bending solutions were two of the key reasons behind Westcon’s order. Both the 90 mm machine and the 273 mm model that is currently being built are fitted with Unison’s innovative laser springback system, which automatically measures and adjusts bend angles to compensate for the tendency of tubular parts to spring back slightly after being bent. The machines also feature quick-change tooling, which is a major advantage for applications that involve bespoke, one-off manufacturing.

The material storage/retrieval system, automatic cutting machine and tube benders at the Ølensvåg facility are fully networked. The engineering department creates the necessary machine control programs from customer-supplied drawings or CAD files, or from data derived directly from a physical pipe using a laser-based coordinate measuring machine (CMM). To help simplify the process, Unison is supplying Westcon with Advanced Tubular Technologies’ powerful VTube software. This generates production-ready programs for tube benders direct from CAD data, and also translates CMM data for reverse engineering purposes.

About Westcon Yard
Westcon Yard AS (Wescon) is based near Ølensvåg, on the west coast of Norway. The company was founded in 1981 and over the past decade has developed one of the most modern and successful offshore and maritime service facilities in the industry. During the 60’s and 70’s, the yard focused mainly on the conversion of coastal fishing and cargo vessels, with an element of shipbuilding. In 1983 it acquired its first dock, which opened up the yard for the maintenance of 80 metre vessels, followed in 1997 with a second and much larger dock, capable of accommodating up to 150 metre vessels. In 1994, Westcon entered the rig services market and it is now a leading yard in this field – more than 80 semi-submersible rigs have undergone service at the facility. The company is specifically structured to focus on shipping, offshore and industrial projects that demand consistent and cost-effective service. http://en.westconyard.no/

For more information, please contact Bjørn Garvik at:

P. Meidell AS avd. Bergen
Office: +47 22 20 20 25
Mobile: +47 414 47 263

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