Advanced Metalworking Solutions for
Naval Systems that Go in Harm's Way

Automated Thermal Plate Forming


The objective of this project was to develop a prototype automated thermal plate forming (ATPF) system to improve the accuracy of ship components and to reduce construction costs for the DDG 1000 surface combatant.


Building the next-generation destroyer requires cutting, forming, and welding steel plates into simple and complex curved shapes that can fit into a structure with the minimal number of plates and welds. These curved plates are formed by mechanical bending and rolling as well as various thermal forming methods. Thermal forming, as presently practiced in shipyards, is a manual line-heating process.

Technical Approach

The ATPF system uses induction heating, measurement, and sophisticated computer analysis to achieve repeatable, high-quality forming of steel plates.


Use of an automated thermal plate forming system was expected to increase quality, decrease costs, and reduce production time compared to current processes. Automating the thermal plate forming process produces a more accurate shape and reduces the overall manufacturing cost through increased hull plate forming productivity, diminished rework, and reduced skilled labor costs. Expected DD(X) implementation benefits include 100% increase in throughput, 80% reduction in rework, 50% reduction in direct labor costs, and 75% reduction in support labor costs. Based on a $1.5 million cost estimate to purchase and install an ATPF system, BIW’s preliminary economic analysis predicts 3.5 years to recover when applied solely for DD(X) application.


Under the original project plan, the prototype ATPF system was scheduled to be delivered to a shipyard specified by the Government. However, because of insufficient commitment to install an ATPF prototype system for plate forming of HSLA-80 plates for the DD(X) hull, the project is closed at the highest Manufacturing Readiness Level possible. The size of the prototype would be capable of producing plates that are 12-feet wide and 20-feet in length, the width would be full scale, and the length could be readily expanded to the full-scale size of 56 feet. The prototype was scheduled for DD(X) implementation in the fourth quarter of 2006. The technology developed under this project also can be applied to current and future U.S. Naval surface ship fabrication, (e.g., LHD, LPD-17, and CVN-21), which will result in additional cost avoidance for the Navy.




Mary T. Weiland
SSAI Coordinator/LIPT Chair
Naval Surface Warefare Center, Carderock Division