Equipping Remotely Operated Vehicles with Subsea Polyurethane to Increase Dive Depth

Outland Technology specializes in developing underwater systems, lights, and video cameras for military operations and diving companies. It has been at the forefront of this business for over three decades.

R-3315 foam

Figure 1. The R-3315 foam could go to depths up to 700ft uncoated and 1,400ft when coated. Image Credit: General Plastics

Approximately 16 years ago, the company started building ROVs for underwater applications, such as collegiate research, oil rig and pipeline inspections, and military applications.

The full-featured ROVs from Outland Technology is integrated with multiple cameras, in addition to a forward camera with a 360° range of motion. These ROVs continue to provide immense benefits for subsea applications.

The Challenge

When Outland Technology expanded its product portfolio a while ago, they encountered a problem. The syntactic foam was considered as a suitable flotation material for the ROV as it can tolerate depths of up to 500ft.

However, a major drawback of this foam is that it had a minimum density of 30lbs, which means it is quite heavy for a compact vehicle. Ultimately, Outland Technology opted for the polyurethane foam, which served as a suitable option for the syntactic foam, and started working with a supplier. However, in order to obtain the preferred thickness, 1” sheets needed to be joined together.

Following extensive research, Outland Technology finally found out about the 15-pound density submersible foam series supplied by General Plastics. The company also recognized the capability of General Plastics to deliver customized solutions. It required a low-density foam in custom sizes with the ability to provide underwater buoyancy for depths of 500ft.

The Solution

Outland Technology selected the LAST-A-FOAM® R-3300 series from General Plastics to provide underwater buoyancy for its ROVs. The R-3315 foam product, which was finally selected, can withstand depths up to 1,400ft when coated and 700ft when uncoated (Figure 1).

Given that the R-3315 foam is available in customized sizes and can be easily machined, Outland Technology worked directly with General Plastics and modified the foam to suit specific applications, with respect to thickness and size.

Outland Technology was well aware of the fact that as the vehicles become heavier, General Plastics would easily machine the foam to its preferred thickness. As Outland Technology went on to develop its ROV, the R-3315 foam continued to provide significant benefits.

Buddy Mayfield, the founder of Outland Technology, explained that the company initially developed the ROV to withstand 500ft, mainly because the power supplies, electronics, and copper inside the cable limited it from going even deeper.

However, with the development of better cables and higher voltages, depths of up to 1,000ft could be reached easily with the right buoyancy to maintain the ROVs. Moreover, when the outside of the foam was fiber-glassed, Outland Technology was able to increase the depth rating to create a product capable of meeting the growing needs of customers.

Benefits of R-3300 Foam

The R-3300 foam offers the following benefits:

  • Excellent compressive properties
  • Offers buoyancy with depths to 2,400ft when coated or 1,200ft when uncoated
  • Four products for varied weight/depth performances
  • Performs well in both saltwater and freshwater
  • Easy to machine, paint and coat
  • Comes in huge blocks and other custom-made sizes

The R-3300 submersible series products are summarized in the following table:

Products Density
Tested Depth
(ft.) (uncoated)
Tested Depth
R-3312 12 10 24 100 300 600
R-3312 12 14 18 100 300 600
R-3315 15 10 24 100 700 1,400
R-3315 15 14 18 100 700 1,400
R-3318 18 10 24 100 800 1,600
R-3318 18 14 18 100 800 1,600
R-3325 25 10 24 100 1,200 2,400
R-3325 25 14 18 100 1,200 2,400

General Plastics

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by General Plastics Manufacturing.

For more information on this source, please visit General Plastics Manufacturing.


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