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 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:








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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MAPC completes electric tram upgrade for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Baltimore, Maryland:  Maritime Applied Physics Corporation (MAPC) just returned the Patuxent Research Refuge’s National Wildlife Visitor Center tram to the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife Service with an updated electrical system, just in time for the busy season! MAPC has kept the Patuxent Wildlife all-electric tram up and running since 2000 and has a long history with building electric vehicles, beginning in 1997.
TramPicMAPC
The National Wildlife Visitor Center tram leaves MAPC in Baltimore this week with updated electrical systems.

Jim Cerulli, Engineering Manager at MAPC said: “the tram is a fun project for us. It keeps our electric vehicle engineering knowledge current and we like knowing that the general public will get to experience our technology.”

Established in 1936, the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland is the only national wildlife refuge specifically created to support wildlife research in the United States. The South Tract of the refuge is where the National Wildlife Visitor Center, the Tram, and its trails are located.

Cerulli continued; “while electric vehicles are just now starting to become popular in the United States, the Patuxent National Wildlife tram has been operational for over 20 years.” MAPC hopes to keep the tram moving for another 20 years.

For more information on the Patuxent Research Refuge, please visit their website:
http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Patuxent/about.html

For a pdf version of this press-release, click here.

Photo Credit: USFWS
Photo Credit: USFWS