Using Subsea Bouyancy Foam for Next Generation Underwater Systems

Strategic Robotics Systems (SRS) was established in 2015 in reaction to the demand for underwater systems that utilize the functionality of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) with an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

SRS’ FUSION is an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), exclusive in its range for offering a complex sensor suite which comprises communication, imaging, and navigation sensors.

The sensors are flawlessly integrated and each one is positioned in the optimum location to provide the most precise data. Imaging sensors generate high-quality imagery and navigation sensors offer precious positional data with an accurate control system.

The company mostly offers its product to defense customers, but it is dynamic enough to be suited to commercial applications.

remotely operated vehicle

Image Credit: General Plastics Manufacturing

Material Challenge:

As the customer base is mainly defense-oriented, FUSION was created to be fully autonomous, highly automated, durable, and strong. The UUV has to operate under extreme conditions, for example, high current and rough seas.

Due to this environment, machined foam was required that could cope with the harsh treatment it would receive underwater while gathering data, and, in some examples, would be needed to neutralize sea mines. Buoyancy material to achieve the depth requirement of 1,000 ft was also a necessity.

One of the alternative materials considered was syntactic foam, which is normally employed in deeper water applications. Along with the non-essential capability of syntactic foam to cope with depth, the issue of affordability was also considered because SRS required a material that was reasonably inexpensive.

Key Requirements:

  • Durable and strong material
  • Machinable and inexpensive
  • Depth requirement of 1000 ft

Solution:

The owner and president of SRS, Jesse Rodocker, established and sold a similar company that produced ROVs for commercial applications.

In this role, he came to understand the characteristics and advantages of LAST-A-FOAM® subsea buoyancy foam.

As it had proven its abilities in previous applications, this was a helpful starting point. To Rodocker’s understanding, only a selection of the available materials achieve the machinability, manufacturability and cost requirements of SRS.

remotely operated underwater vehicle

Image Credit: General Plastics Manufacturing

General Plastics’ LAST-A-FOAM® R-3300 buoyancy foam is a closed-cell, hydrostatic, pressure-resistant polyurethane foam that is available in various densities that meet a range of depth requirements.

R-3318, with a density of 18 pounds per cubic foot, was chosen in the end because it can be utilized in depths of up to 1000 ft once coated. The material is engineered to avoid water penetration and can be conveniently machined.

As SRS is a small company, it had to outsource as much of the manufacturing process as possible.

SRS received fully machined parts by General Plastics, which afforded them the optimal cost-efficiency that they required. General Plastics has thorough machining capabilities, which made this a possibility.

A local and experienced customer service team that is always eager to assist customers proved to be a benefit to SRS as they worked through a range of iterations of the product in the phase of development.

Strategic Robotics Systems to date has contracts with a range of defense customers, such as the Coast Guard, the Royal Navy, and the US Navy.

R-3300 Benefits:

  • Offers buoyancy with depths of up to 1200 ft, uncoated
  • Four products that provide various depth and density performance
  • Simple to coat, paint, and machine
  • Outstanding compressive properties
  • Available in big blocks and alternative custom sizes
  • Operates in saltwater or freshwater

Low-Density Foam for Subsea Applications

As the requirement for subsea-related equipment continues to increase, so does the demand for construction materials that are tailored to a range of subsea applications.

Composite materials, such as polyurethane foam, have proven to be affordable and beneficial for use in mid-water and shallow applications.

General Plastics offers hydrostatic, pressure-resistant subsea foam for use in semi-submersible craft, subsea mooring buoyancy, underwater robotics, pipeline flotation, ROV/AUVs, and more. When uncoated, this closed-cell polyurethane foam has been validated to depths of 1200 ft.

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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