Page 40 - Australian Defence Magazine Aug 2019
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“The development of additive manufacturing would soon raise the possibility of sending a ship or submarine to sea with a 3D metal printer and a bag of feedstock.”
submarine design and we certainly have a lot of experience in the way those systems perform on Collins in our unique environ- ments, we are well-placed with the expertise that we’ve got in the Future Submarine pro- gram to assess what Naval Group is advising us and making informed decisions about their recommendations.
“We can be confident that the design choices we end up with are going to best suit our requirements given our understanding of the environment in which our subma- rines operate and the expertise we have in our team.”
The possibility of DST developing uniquely-Australian enhancements for the Future Submarine is, understandably, not a subject Dr Kershaw wishes to pursue in a public forum. But he acknowledges the in- country development of anechoic tiles for the Collins-class after the US and UK de- clined to share their IP with Australia was one example of DST producing the world’s best technology.
The warm water environment in which Australia’s submarines generally operate creates some unique environmental pres- sures on maritime platforms.
“Paints and coatings and fabrics behave
The anechoic tiles on the front of the Collins class were developed in Australia when international partners would not share technology.
very differently in tropical waters and tropi- cal conditions,” Dr Kershaw said.
“Our approach in looking at whether we need to invest in the capability for in- dependent certification has three consid- erations. One is whether we need to main- tain that scientific capability in order to assist with the certification of the design or material.
“The next consideration is whether we re- ally have to have a very solid understanding of those Australian operating conditions, and biofouling is one example.
“And then we have another consideration where we have niche world-class expertise and we can work in those areas to either insert into our programs where we can, or we work with our partners transferring that technology into their programs.”
One such example is a three-year collabora- tion program signed by DST in May with universities and industry for research into potential new acoustic materials.
A team comprising researchers from DST, the University of Melbourne and RMIT, and industry partners QinetiQ and
Matrix Compos- ites and Engineer- ing will develop prototype stealth materials.
The $1.5 mil- lion program is supported by the DST-managed Next Generation Technologies Fund with an investment
of $730,000, a miniscule amount in the con- text of the naval shipbuilding program but a pointer to the Fund’s intention to broaden seed funding countrywide for acoustic and materials sciences, engineering and techno- logical innovation to develop new defence technology solutions.
Looking into the not-too-distant future, Dr Kershaw envisages the development of multi-functional coatings in which the skin of an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) could also act as its sonar sensor while also providing dynamic adaptive camouflage.
The emerging area of integrated compu- tational materials engineering (ICME) was highly promising in terms of what could be done with metallic and polymeric materials.
“As we use our computers to design very advanced lightweight but strong structures
we can have some confidence they will have the properties that we expect them to have because of our knowledge of the base mate- rial,” Dr Kershaw explained to ADM.
“So this starts raising all sorts of ques- tions for surface ships and for submarines. Can I now start to build parts of my vessel to have the same strength as a more tradi- tional material if they’re very much lighter? Obviously that has huge attractions for sur- face ships with masts and what you’re put- ting up high.”
The development of additive manufac- turing would soon raise the possibility of sending a ship or submarine to sea with a 3D metal printer and a bag of feedstock, allowing a part to be printed to order. But how would that part be certified?
“Today, if I had a non-safety-critical part and I was reasonably confident about how the printer could operate, I might use it. But if I was printing an elbow and a joiner for a high-pressure hydraulic line or a high-pres- sure steam line, would I actually want to use a 3D printer part in that environment?”
As an example of where modern materials can lead, Dr Kershaw points to an increase in very small-scale demonstrations of meta- materials – actually designed structures rather than a material – some of which can bend electromagnetic radiation, including light, around an object, ‘cloaking it’ and rendering it seemingly invisible.
Technology futures
And for a futuristic view of submarine design, materials and capabilities, the Royal Navy recently tasked UKNEST, a forum founded in 2005 to promote the
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