Feb 1, 2017 | By Tess

We’ve seen 3D printing used for space exploration, and now the technology could help with another type of exploration altogether, in a Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea kind of way. International Submarine Engineering, Ltd. (ISE) has enlisted the help of metal 3D printing company Sciaky, Inc. and its innovative Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology to manufacture a titanium Variable Ballast (VB) for ISE’s Arctic Explorer Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV).

ISE Arctic Explorer AUV

ISE approached Sciaky, Inc. after its original VB supplier, a forging facility that manufactured propellant tanks for Russia’s space program, closed down. After learning that Sciaky had already worked with Lockheed Martin Space Systems to 3D print titanium propellant tanks (while notably cutting back on production time and cost), ISE realized the EBAM manufacturing method could be the perfect fit for its own manufacturing needs.

Sciaky, a subsidiary of Phillips Service Industries, Inc., mobilized a project management team and a number of engineers, who worked on determining the best course of action for additively manufacturing the titanium Variable Ballast tank for ISE. Using EBAM technology, which maintains the title of most widely scalable metal 3D printing solution (with a range from 8” to 19’ in length) and fastest deposition process for metal 3D printing (with rates from 7 to 20 lbs per hour), Sciaky was able to deliver.

3D printed Titanium Variable Ballast (VB) Tank

In the end, Sciaky’s metal 3D printing technology helped reduce production times by half (from 16 weeks to only 8) and significantly reduced the cost of production, especially compared to traditional manufacturing methods. In terms of quality, the VB tank met all of the qualification tests and performed reliably. According to a press release, ISE expects it will be 3D printing more critical titanium parts in the future.

As mentioned, the 3D printed titanium VB tank will be used as a sub-system for ISE’s Arctic Explorer Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) class of vehicle. Specifically, the 3D printed VB will be installed onboard ISE’s new Arctic Explorer AUV, which will be brought to the University of Tasmania this spring and deployed in Antarctica.

Sciaky, Inc.'s EBAM system

Arctic Explorers are the largest type of AUV, measuring more than 23’ (7 meters) in length and weighing in at over 4409 lbs (2000 kg). ISE has already built two Arctic Explorers, one Natural Resources Canada/Defense Research, and one for Development Canada (DRDC). The AUVs, which are launched from a ship or through an ice hole, are designed to station themselves on the sea floor or under the ice between missions, and can remain underwater for long period of time. An ROV can be deployed for charging and servicing the AUV.

Bob Philips, vice president of marketing for Sciaky, Inc., said of the project: “Sciaky is proud to help ISE cut production time by 50 percent and reduce costs by 3D printing their titanium VB tank with our one-of-a-kind EBAM process. Our industry-leading EBAM technology is the world's only industrial-scale metal 3D printing solution with approved parts for land, sea, air, and space applications."



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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