Home Knowledge center Classic line heating in shipbuilding

Line heating technology

An alternative for cold forming, is line heating technology. This is the classical shaping process for double curved panels. It is a laborious and complex process with questionable quality aspects. The process comprises rapid heating of material to red and orange, immediately followed by cooling down with water (quenching) thus shrinking certain areas.

As the line heater is controlling the heating process only by observed colour of the material there is lack of consistency and control. Often hardening of the material due to too high a temperature occurs, which can destroy the materials properties.

IACS (International Association of Classification Societies Ltd) standard No.47 publication gives a mandatory maximum steel surface temperature of 650 ºC when cooling down with water. However, heating above 727°C with subsequent quenching causes the forming of Martensite which in turn makes the material brittle and have a low ductility.

An additional benefit in switching from line heating to cold forming, is the production efficiency. For example, a saddle-shaped panel requires 1.5 hours for cold forming on a Nieland press but takes two days at least with line heating.

Moreover, training a line heater will take 5-10 years whereas cold forming takes an initial 3 months, followed by 1-2 years of practice. To be short, the ROI for cold forming in itself will enable Nieland to surpass line heating in the next decennium.

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The cold forming process

An interesting side effect is that the cold forming process is so predictable in terms of total elongation after stretching that the first cut of the panel can include bevelling and can be final. In most countries, it is quite common to add “Green“ on the panel (overlength) which will be cut and bevelled during block building. This takes serious time and effort. The advantage of cold forming “first cut is final cut” will be quantified in additional research in favour of a very short ROI.

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