Modern lightweight designs for ships, vehicles, and aircraft often pose significant new challenges in construction due to extensive local buckling distortions during construction. Dimensional accuracy control throughout assembly welding is a critical issue for all major manufacturing industries in order to ensure product quality and final structural integrity. While modeling tools for welding distortion currently exist, they are typically used for parts with high production runs and small enough sizes to justify fabrication optimization.

In the shipbuilding industry, individual deck panels are nearly unique parts that can be as large as 3,600 ft2 and weigh over 50,000 lbs depending on the location of these panels in the final erected location on the ship. Current available tools are either inadequate or ineffective for analysis on that scale. Another obstacle to effective distortion control is that both the redesigning of structural panels and the process changes to reduce distortion create new costs. In the absence of cost models that can predict the cost avoidance potential of optimization, these upfront costs present an unacceptable risk potential for budget overruns and schedule delays.

This investigation aims to address these issues by developing an Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) toolset for distortion prediction and an accompanying cost model to estimate cost changes due to greater or lesser distortion. When used in conjunction, the ICME toolset and cost model will allow for optimized fabrication designs and processes to improve quality and reduce total acquisition costs.

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