VT Halter Marine unveils new plasma cutting machine

As Halter Marine prepares for construction of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter, the company is acquiring new technologies such as robotic welding machines and the PythonX plasma cutter. Halter Marine unveiled the PythonX at a recent ceremony.

The PythonX will replace the traditional hand-cut method of cutting steel. Now, those parts will be cut via computerized numeric control; the CNC process is driven by 3D production design models. Bringing in high-tech tools such as these ensures that Halter Marine will be ready when construction on the PSC begins next year, Bob Merchent, president and CEO of Halter Marine, said in a statement announcing the shipyard’s new piece of equipment.

“Halter Marine is known for our capability to fabricate and assemble steel vessels extremely efficiently,” he said. “The Polar Security Cutter will enable us to add yet another unique and specialized capability to our shipyard — the ability to cut and form extremely thick and high tensile steel into units that will ultimately become the finished vessel.”

The machine will be used to cut sheets of steel used for the PSC’s inner bottom, which must be strong enough to withstand polar temperatures and breaking through tons of ice.

“To have this machine in the yard and functioning represents a year’s worth of effort by our engineering, production, facilities, supply chain management, project management office and administration departments all joined as a coherent team,” said Kevin Amis, executive vice president of operations. “I appreciate their hard work and dedication because this investment will pay for itself in man-hour savings on the first ship.”

Previously, cuts were made manually by shipbuilders with acetylene torches. “Today kicks off the first of many new capital improvements partially funded by the Polar Security Cutter program,” said James Jordan, SupShip’s deputy program management representative for the PSC. “PythonX will perform the profile cuts of the specialized type of steel, able to withstand colder temperatures without getting brittle.”

In addition to the equipment and facilities, Halter Marine is also investing in its workforce. To help develop the shipyard’s future workforce, the company has implemented a U.S. Department of Labor-approved, four-year apprenticeship program. The first group consists of 50 people across five crafts.

“As a multi-year program, the PSC makes us more attractive to future employees and equally important, it will help us retain the highly trained workforce we have today,” Merchent said. “It’s truly an exciting time at Halter Marine. We are expanding our capabilities and our workforce.”

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