The university of New Orleans (UNO), US, has received a $3.6m grant from the defence advanced research projects agency to develop automated tools for programming robots to weld ship components.

The grant is funded by the office of Naval research.

Robots are becoming an increasing substitute for humans in the world of shipyard welding. According to Jim Logan, associate dean of academics and administration for the UNO college of business, "There are some jobs that are better done by machines because the jobs present such hazardous working conditions for people."

As the shortage of flexible welders becomes more and more evident weldships are forced to provide robots to face this ongoing problem in the industry. There are many views facing the reality of robots being the industry\\$quot;s main ship welders such as robots being inflexible whereas humans are flexible. Others argue that the robots are programmed to be consistent and efficient with their weld and will not take time off work.

According to Frank Borledon, principle investigator for the grant, UNO expects to be doing demonstrations for the industry in about 10 months time, which means robotic welders in shipyards could be a reality within two to three years.