LSM Advanced Composites – facilitating ocean exploration

First published June 2012:The dictionary defines an opportunity as an “advantageous combination of circumstances”, and that’s exactly what evolved for LSM Advanced Composites when the project design and management teams for James Cameron’s submersible DEEPSEA CHALLENGER approached the Toowoomba based company to manufacture the carbon fibre internal lining of the Pilot Sphere.

Built and designed in Sydney by the research and design company Acheron Project Pty Ltd and the design technicians at Design + Industry (D+I,) respectively, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER was purpose-built to reach the ocean’s deepest point, the Mariana Trench, after roughly two hours of descent from the surface.

The craft is a showcase of engineering innovation designed to withstand conditions at the deepest point of the ocean in darkness and in near freezing conditions.

The Mariana Trench, about 320km southwest of the Pacific island of Guam, is 120 times larger than the Grand Canyon and more than 1.6 kilometres deeper than Mount Everest is tall. LSM’s expertise and equipment were applied to the manufacturing challenge of producing the sphere designed to protect the life of Mr. Cameron, with an internal diameter of 109 centimetres and an interior filled with electronics and life-support equipment. Other elements of Acheron and D+I’s specification required the internal lining to be light enough to not add any significant weight.

Ron Allum and John Garvin of Acheron initially approached LSM in August 2011 with a delivery schedule of five weeks within which a number of test prototypes were to be completed and a subsequent six weeks to deliver the final lining set. Liam Mahoney, Managing Director of LSM commented that “Working with the professional operators from Acheron and D+I made production planning and processing much easier for us to deliver the precise components on schedule”.

LSM carbon fibre Deepsea Challenger sphere

Meeting the stringent delivery schedule was facilitated with valuable assistance from Advanced Composites Group (“ACG”) and Lavender CE – LSM’s suppliers of carbon fibre materials. LSM valued ACG’s and Lavender’s knowledge of materials, which was particularly helpful with supplying the specialised carbon fibre prepeg materials needed for this job. This was required to meet strict specifications for Mr Cameron’s safety within the Pilot Sphere.

A long term and active member of Composites Australia, LSM is a leading Australian manufacturer of precision carbon fibre components using pre-preg materials that are autoclave-cured for a myriad of local and international applications.

Launching James Cameron Deepsea Challenger onboard