One day, we will use 3D printers to create everything from prototypes to warships. Until then, fortunately, we have some seriously skilled craftsmen to do the job.
Take the latest in the US Navy’s main set of warships, the R9,7 billion Arleigh Burke-class destroyer John Finn, which at the time of writing was due to set sail on its first sea trial after more than three years under construction at Ingalls Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Here are the types of craftsmen who have reason to be proud.
1. Shipfitters: These are the puzzle makers who figure out which piece of the ship, called an individual assembly, goes where. Shipfitters also begin connecting the assemblies with plasma cutters, plate rollers, drills and welding machines.
2. Riggers: Individual assemblies are constructed upside down by many of the trades, including
3. Inside machinists, who build pieces using such tools as lathes, drill presses and CNC machines, and
4. Boilermakers, who use techniques such as metal grinding and tack welding. Riggers flip these assemblies the right way up and connect them to transportersand cranes to move them into position.
5. Outside machinists: Experts in alignment, outside machinists install the toys:
propulsion machinery, steering gear, radars, antennas and weapons systems. They make sure each piece is placed properly on welded bases known as foundations.
6. Hull welders: After the shipfitters have made initial connections, hull welders use four kinds of welding (stick welding, MIG, flux-cored arc welding and submerged arc welding) to melt a filler material in with the base material, fully fusing the ship’s joints. The process creates a bond as strong as, or stronger than, a plate that hasn’t been welded at all.
7. Painters: These workers prep the ship by blasting it with abrasives or power sanders, then cover it in paints that provide protection from salt and sun exposure. They do this while standing on scaffolding built by
On the interior
9. Pipe welders and fitters connect pipes for sewage, water and machinery, using mirrors in tight spaces.
10. Marine Electricians lay out, install and test every electrical system.
11. Cable Pullers route 518 kilometres of cable throughout the entire ship.
12. Sheet-metal mechanics create air ducts for the ventilation system.
13. Joiner/insulators install living quarters, furniture and insulation.
This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.