Aluminum metallurgy as a science and an art

Aluminum is a fickle material, appealing to most welders because of the challenge of taming its quirks to maintain its unique performance qualities. Aluminum becomes the metric by which to gauge one’s skill precisely because it is so unforgiving. The same traits that make aluminum valuable to our customers make it a challenge to work with, so our ability to do so is a point of great pride for us at Maritime Applied Physics Corporation.

In-house training is key to maintaining our position as industry leaders in aluminum welding.
Aluminum is ductile and malleable, so it is formable, thus reducing seams, but its softness comes with a lower melting point. For welders, this means that you need skill, knowledge of your machine, a deep understanding of your material, and acute attention to detail to produce a strong weld.

When aluminum is in contact with air, it naturally and immediately begins to produce a thin protective layer of aluminum oxide that is rustproof and corrosion resistant. This is wonderful for maritime vessels, but terrible for welding. That layer of aluminum oxide melts at 2500° F greater than aluminum. The heat discrepancy between a clean surface and an oxidized surface means that If the weld area has not been properly prepared by wire brushing the aluminum oxide film from the material, the base material can get scorched in an effort to produce a “puddle.” Furthermore, if oxygen enters the molten aluminum, the air bubbles begin the oxidation process. So aluminum TIG and MIG welding is performed inside of an artificial and pure atmosphere achieved by releasing inert or semi-inert gas from the torch to force outside contaminants such as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor from the weld area.

The mechanics of aluminum welding are not significantly more difficult than those for steel, but there is a narrower margin of error. “Metallurgy is a science and an art,” comments Mark Dziwulski, MAPC’s lead welder and Certified Weld Inspector (CWI). Aluminum welding demands finesse. MAPC has the experience and expertise to produce consistent and structurally sound aluminum welds, and we have become a leader in aluminum welding in the Mid-Atlantic region. “Welding aluminum, especially Gas Metal Arc Welding (MIG), is a challenging skill. Even in the Southern United States, where the bulk of this fabrication is done, good aluminum welders are hard to find. MAPC has them. We continue to hone our skill and train our team in new procedures and methods,” says Dziwulski.
Mark Dziwulski aka “Diz” TIG welding


Staying current is critical in the field of maritime welding, where aluminum is often the best material and MIG welding the best method. Many factors, especially material and thickness, determine the optimal welding method. MIG welding is best for thick material. Electrically charged wire is pushed into a weld joint. As the electric arc from the wire is tries to pass through the base metal, both the wire and the metal it is in contact with melt, creating a puddle of molten metal where both sides of the joint and the introduced filler wire become one.

Welders in our area do not often come in contact with aluminum material thick enough to warrant MIG, so it is rarely covered in regional trade schools or on the job. At MAPC, in-house training is key to our success as a leader in aluminum fabrication, and it creates a culture of improvement and cooperation. Investing in our employees allows us to tailor our skillset to industry needs and demonstrate to our talented workforce that we appreciate their abilities and want them to develop professionally. MAPC’s MIG team welding aluminum deck plates of the new Baltimore Water Taxis Our field is always advancing. We have the dynamic craftsmen with an aptitude for advanced technology and an appetite for new skills to drive innovation and stay ahead of the curve.

-Written by Abbey Hallock, MAPC employee and welder. Hallock has 8 years of experience in industrial and ornamental stainless steel and aluminum welding. She has worked in stick and MIG welding, but has placed emphasis on TIG throughout her career. She was instrumental in the first builds of the Baltimore Water Taxi.

MAPC Completes Global Wind Organization (GWO) Training for Offshore Wind Field Team

A team of engineers and technicians from Maritime Applied Physics Corporation (MAPC) recently completed Global Wind Organization (GWO) Basic Safety Training with Sea Survival and Transfer modules at RelyOn Nutec in Teesside, United Kingdom.

This GWO training is the accepted industry standard for accessing offshore wind turbines, met masts, transformers, and buoys. It includes tower climbing, advanced first aid training, and fire suppression training.

Maryland’s Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) Maryland Business Works training assistance program provided 50% matching funds to assist MAPC in providing this training to its employees. MAPC has won a Maryland wind energy area met mast outfitting contract with US Wind, Inc., one of Maryland’s two offshore wind developers, and plans to use this training in order to support the contract. 

Mark Rice, President and Founder of MAPC: “Global Wind Organization training is not currently available in the United States, so leveraging the lessons learned from Europe ensures our personnel are well prepared to handle the unique demands of offshore wind tower climbing.” With a track record of innovative and challenging projects in the maritime sector, MAPC is well equipped to support the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry.

MAPC has obtained a sublicense from Blount Boats to build South Boats’ licensed Crew Transfer Vessels, and seeks to provide outfitting, commissioning and O&M services for site assessments, turbine transition, and balance-of-plant systems.  MAPC’s supplier network and capabilities include instrumentation and data acquisition systems, solar and wind power systems, collision avoidance lighting and signals, davits, and fall and fire safety systems.

MAPC will be presenting TALONS at MACC on Thursday, July 19th! Will we see you there?

MAPC is honored to have our white paper on the TALONS tethered parafoil system accepted into ASNE’s Multi-Agency Craft Conference. TALONS Program Manager, Kevin Silbert, will be presenting the TALONS system for extension of Unmanned Surface Vessel command and control on Thursday at 11a.m. at the Boats and Crafts Port Tent! We look forward to seeing you there. Here’s a sneak peak at one of MAPC’s presentation slides:








Designing Sikorsky’s MH-60R Life Raft Pod

Brunswick, Maine
November, 2017

Sikorsky was tasked by an international naval customer to provide an External Life Raft Pod (ELRP) for its MH-60R helicopters that could manually or automatically deploy under the toughest weather conditions, and to be easily operated with limited dexterity in a thick survival suit and gloves in cold water conditions. Maritime Applied Physics Corporation (MAPC) designed and manufactured the ELRPs to meet those engineering challenges. After a rigorous testing program, Sikorsky’s ELRP is now available as an option for the international customer’s MH-60R and can be qualified for other H-60 helicopters.

The ELRP can be jettisoned from up to 50 feet altitude at 60 knots of forward velocity, and deploys a TSO C70a Type 1 compliant cold weather six-person life raft and survival kit. In an aircraft ditching scenario, the ELRP automatically deploys and floats to the surface for access by survivors. The pod remains sealed until manual actuation of large orange manual release handles, and is buoyant both before and after deployment. Automatically activated LED strobe locator lights are visible for over three miles and are designed to strobe continuously for 12 hours.

To perform in this aerospace program, MAPC’s Brunswick, Maine office became AS9100 compliant. Please see Specification Sheet for more information.

TALONS: “Exceeding Expectations” on the USS Zephyr

August 15, 2017:  DARPA released a new press release and video about TALONS’ recent demonstration on the USS Zephyr.  For more information about MAPC’s work on the TALONS system, please visit our site!

From the DARPA Press Release:

TALONS Tested on Commissioned U.S. Navy Vessel for First Time

Prototype of low-cost, elevated sensor mast improves ship’s communication range and ability to detect, track, and classify contacts of interest

Image Caption: DARPA’s Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) research effort recently demonstrated its prototype of a low-cost, elevated sensor mast aboard a commissioned U.S. Navy vessel for the first time. The crew of USS Zephyr, a Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship, evaluated the technology demonstration system over three days near Naval Station Mayport, Florida. Click below for high-resolution image.

DARPA’s Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) research effort recently demonstrated its prototype of a low-cost, elevated sensor mast aboard a commissioned U.S. Navy vessel for the first time. The crew of USS Zephyr, a 174-foot (53-meter) Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship, evaluated the technology demonstration system over three days near Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

TALONS demonstrated safe and routine operation from the ship’s deck under a variety of sea states and wind conditions without adversely affecting the ship’s operational capability. In tests, the system significantly improved the ship’s ability to detect, track, and classify contacts of interest. It also increased communications range between the ship and remote platforms such as the Zephyr’s rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

Towed behind boats or ships, TALONS could persistently suspend intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) instruments and communications payloads of up to 150 pounds at altitudes between 500 and 1,500 feet above sea level—many times higher than current ships’ masts—greatly extending the equipment’s range and effectiveness.

“We’re very pleased with the USS Zephyr testing, which showed that a future system based on TALONS could provide operational benefits for even small Navy vessels,” said Scott Littlefield, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “In the next year, we will continue our cooperative relationship with the U.S. Navy and work toward fully automating launch and recovery, which would make the system even easier to use on manned vessels and compatible with unmanned surface vessels.”

“Expectations were really exceeded with the ease of not only deployment, but the recovery of the system,” said Lt. Cmdr. Cameron Ingram, commanding officer of the Zephyr. “Beyond the initial launch, it immediately stabilized, and it had a very smooth transition all the way up to altitude. I was very impressed with how stable it was.”

The TALONS test on USS Zephyr built upon a successful joint test last year with DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program. ACTUV’s technology demonstration vessel set sail with TALONS as its first payload as part of open-water testing off the coast of California.

TALONS is part of DARPA’s Phase 1 research for Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Image Caption: DARPA’s Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) research effort recently demonstrated its prototype of a low-cost, elevated sensor mast aboard a commissioned U.S. Navy vessel for the first time. The crew of USS Zephyr, a Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship, evaluated the technology demonstration system over three days near Naval Station Mayport, Florida. Click below for high-resolution image.
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