Umeco prepreg used on DEEPSEA CHALLENGER

Umeco's carbon fiber prepregs were used to manufacture the internal lining of the Pilot Sphere in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, a one-person submersible piloted by filmmaker James Cameron to bottom of the Mariana Trench in March.

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Umeco (Heanor, U.K.) reported on June 19 that its prepregs have been used by Australian composites parts manufacturer LSM Advanced Composites Pty Ltd. (LSM) on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, a submersible that completed a record-breaking solo dive to the deepest part of the ocean — the Mariana Trench — on March 26, 2012.

This DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition is part of a joint scientific project from explorer and filmmaker James Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research and exploration.

Built and designed in Sydney, Australia, by research and design company Acheron Project Pty Ltd. and the design technicians at Design + Industry respectively, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER was purpose-built to reach the Pacific Ocean’s deepest point, after roughly two hours of descent.

LSM was approached by the design and build team to manufacture the carbon fiber internal lining of the Pilot Sphere, the pilot’s home in the submersible. This "home," which measures 43 inches in diameter, is filled with electronics and life-support equipment. It is so small that the pilot’s legs are tightly bent and he can barely move his arms. In comparison, the overall length of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER is similar to that of a stretched limousine.

Umeco’s prepregs, sourced to a tight delivery schedule through Umeco’s Australian agent Lavender CE Pty Ltd., were chosen because of the company’s ability to supply specialised prepregs, and to tight lead-times. Customised, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved civil aircraft interiors pregregs were chosen because of their low fire/smoke/toxicity and low heat release characteristics, a requirement that formed part of the designer’s safety specification.

Lavender supplied more than just prepreg. It assisted LSM in its tooling design and developed the flat patterns of the component plies for CNC cutting using its in-house 3-D laminate software.

This impressive craft was piloted by Cameron in his voyage down to the Mariana Trench, in the western Pacific Ocean near the Philippines. The voyage, the first of its kind in more than 50 years, and ensuing scientific sample analysis hope give mankind a better understanding of the least explored environment on Earth.

LSM says, “Meeting the stringent delivery schedule was facilitated with valuable assistance from Umeco Structural materials and their agent, Lavender CE. We valued Umeco’s and Lavender’s knowledge of materials, both of which were particularly helpful with customising and supplying the specialised carbon fibre prepregs needed for this job. This was required to meet strict specifications for Mr. Cameron’s safety within the Pilot Sphere.”