By printing all parts, the start-up can go from planning to a finished robot submarine in a few weeks. The design without a pressure hull must withstand depths of more than 6,000 meters.
There are already a number of autonomous submarines that independently collect data for research purposes – for this, of course, the armaments industry is also interested in the technology area robot submarines, developed by companies such as Boston-based startup Dive Technologies
What distinguishes their solution from others is, among other things, how the craft is manufactured. Dive Technologies’ robot submarine is printed with large 3D printers. The method provides low manufacturing costs and fast production, where in principle any design can be realized from ear to loaf within the course of a few weeks. It writes Popular Mechanics.
Additive manufacturing provides benefits
Traditionally, they start by building the submarine’s pressure hull, from welded thick steel plates – and to this is added the outer form hull. But without a crew and the opportunity to print the submarine, you can skip many steps. For example, it is possible to skip ballast tanks and instead let the water flow into the interior of the vessel to even out the pressure.
The entire submarine is made of ABS plastic. Dive Technologies’ design is not based on a hard shell that protects against the pressure, but the submarine is built around an inner skeleton that catches the load on the outer bearing. The design must be good for depths of more than 6,000 meters.
The only parts that are surrounded by a small pressure hull are the motors and electronics with software for autonomy from Metron. In total, the submarine consists of 94 parts. The outer “skin” is printed in 121 x 121 cm pieces, which takes less than 36 hours.
The current 6 kW engine gives the prototype a top speed of six knots DIVE-LD can travel for ten days and has a range of more than 965 km. Future versions will be equipped with a robot arm and given the ability to “hover” in the water.
The prototype has a length of just under 5.8 meters and a diameter of 1.2 meters – but according to Dive Technologies, it could easily be scaled up to a diameter over two meters and the length required. And there are benefits to going up in size. Instead of having to be transported out by boat as small vessels, larger robot submarines can be launched in port and get where they are going on their own. They also become more weather resistant.
DIVE-LD has been developed with support from the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), and in addition Dive Technologies has two contracts with the federal agency DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).