Composite materials have been gaining legitimacy in the marine industry for the better part of two decades because they resist corrosion better than metals and behave better structurally than wood. In fact, composites are found in key structural applications throughout the recreational, commercial and naval industries. They have been used to reduce the radar signature of military ship superstructures, eliminate magnetism in minesweeper hulls (still made out of wood prior to composites), reduce weight and improve stability.
Despite the increasing use of composites, until recently the industry had shown scant interest in adopting the composite engineering software tools that have been developed in other industries, such as aerospace, automotive and wind energy.
A Class 212A submarine being built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsch Werft (HDW) of Kiel, Germany. Photo: HDW
That may be the case, at least in part, because the typical design and manufacturing process is set up differently in the marine world than, for example, the aerospace industry. The naval architect and the manufacturing outfit directly interact and share responsibility for the composite design specifications. There is often not a person or team in the design office that has been schooled in detailed composite design. Many composite marine components are considered simple enough to develop without the use of a sophisticated 3D CAD based composite design approach.
However, as shipbuilders have recognized that composites can be used to significantly streamline and lighten a vessel, they have demonstrated a growing interest in adopting a more dynamic and advanced composites engineering process. Consequently, they have begun to evaluate software tools that have proved successful in other industries.
A good example of how shipbuilders can take advantage of composites is being provided by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), the German submarine builder. HDW has been building vessels for over a century and is a recognized leader in the field. The company supplies submarines to 17 navies around the globe. By using sophisticated design tools – such as the Fibersim™ portfolio of software for composites engineering from Siemens PLM Software - HDW has been able to increase the amount of composites being used on its submarines by 10 percent a year. To learn more, please read the HDW case study .