Sciaky has used its electron beam additive manufacturing (EBAM) technology to produce a 3D printed titanium variable ballast (VB) tank for International Submarine Engineering (ISE), a Canadian manufacturer of subsea, land and space robotic systems.
The titanium VB tank is a critical part of ISE’s Arctic Explorer autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). The Arctic Explorer is designed for mapping the sea floor and is the largest of the company’s Explorer range of AUVs, at 7.4 meters (24.3 feet) in length and 2,200 kilograms (4,850 pounds) in weight. It is capable of missions lasting up to 80 hours and covering up to 280 miles (450 kilometers). The VB tank gives the Arctic Explorer stability, allowing it to park on the sea floor at depths of up to 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) and hold itself on the underside of ice.
ISE sought USA-based Sciaky’s assistance in producing the VB tank after the closure of its previous supplier, a titanium forging facility that manufactured propellant tanks for the Soviet space program. The company considered EBAM technology a possible way forward having learned of the titanium propellant tanks that Sciaky had 3D printed for Lockheed Martin Space Systems in 2015.
Sciaky devised a plan that allowed it to use its patented EBAM technology to produce the first 3D printed version of the VB tank. In so doing, Sciaky not only halved production time, from 16 to 8 weeks, but eliminated the costs incurred by retooling with a new forging supplier.
Furthermore, the new VB tank passed the same rigorous qualification tests as the original VB tank produced using the titanium forging process.
The 3D printed VB tank is to be installed on an Arctic Explorer AUV destined for the University of Tasmania in Spring 2017. The AUV will later be deployed in Antarctica following extensive trials and training operations.
Bob Phillips, vice president of marketing at Sciaky, said: ‘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.’
ISE is now looking to produce other titanium parts using Sciaky’s EBAM technology.