Novafast International – Robotics and GRE a solution for Naval piping

The acquisition and installation of state-of-the-art filament winding technology to lightweight piping in naval ship building programs

Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc.

Based just south of the Osborne Naval Shipyards in Adelaide, Novafast International specialises in glass reinforce epoxy (GRE), glass reinforced vinyl ester epoxy (GRVE) and glass reinforced plastic (GRP) pipes and fittings, tanks and processing equipment for the energy, resources, water infrastructure and defence sectors.

The company was recently awarded close to $1.4million under the Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority Grants program which assists local businesses improve their manufacturing capabilities to enable the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to maintain its leading edge. The grant is to support the acquisition and installation of new robotics equipment for a GRE filament winding production line to supply piping for the naval ship building programs, particularly the Hunter Class Frigate Program.

Ship’s piping systems are a complex labyrinth of piping networks that service and perform an array of crucial functions in corrosive and aggressive conditions. Bilge, ballast, potable water, sewer and scrubbing piping systems as well as firefighting piping systems, engine cooling systems and hydraulic and steam piping systems can all snake through a hull and are expected to operate at extremely high and low temperatures. These systems have conventionally been made from steel or CuNi (copper-nickel alloy) which contribute significantly to the total weight of a vessel. Both materials are also known to fail internally from abrasive or fluidic corrosion, fatigue and galvanic action as well as externally from atmospheric conditions.

Brothers Paul and David Figallo, Business Directors at Novafast International say; “Our Defence and Marine industries are becoming more open to non-conventional materials and innovative engineering technologies to achieve their aims for low maintenance, weight-savings and installation efficiency. There is a slow realisation that while the acquisition cost of GRE pipes is greater than their metallic counterpart, the properties such as corrosion resistance improves overall usage reliability and leads to reduce through-services expenses. We’ve developed our NovaFlo 2000M series as a lighter replacement option for conventional steel piping or CuNi seawater piping given its ease of installation.”

David Figallo from Novafast in front of their newly installed seven axis robot

Novafast GRE Pipes range from 50mm to 1 metre and consist of a synthetic or carbon tissue layer followed by an E glass structural layer and can also be finished with external coating for UV and fire protection. The design life of the pipes can range from 20 – 50 years based on long term test data with international standards.

The NovaFlo 2000M series has been developed for use across ballast and cooling water pipework, potable water and sewer services as well as on-ship gas scrubbing systems. “Scrubbers on marine vessels are exhaust gas cleaning systems designed as an environmental solution to reduce sulphur oxide emissions. Our pipes are a customized solution for this corrosive environment,” advised David.

David maintains that, “Epoxy resins are much more suited to extremely strenuous tasks such as enduring vibrational loads, fire resistance and environmentally stable than either vinyl ester or polyester resins, whilst providing higher mechanical strength and thermal stability. They form a much more complex structure than the other resins, without the use of styrene making it more environmentally friendly and safer to manufacture.”

Novafast has developed its own proprietary amine cured epoxy resin system specifically for their Novaflo 2000m product range. “We develop our own chemistry in-house which allows us to formulate in, or out, the required physical, thermal and mechanical properties of the materials,” said David. In parallel Novafast is also developing the filament winding robots in-house using Fanuc technology from Japan

Novafast Holdings is an Australian-owned business that specialises in engineering, manufacturing and construction of industrial composites. The vertically integrated group includes the advanced engineering firm and long term Composites Australia member, Dennis Southam & Associates; the composites manufacturing firm, Novafast International; and Basetec Services, which provides project management and construction and  installation services specialising in GRE/GRVE/GRP pipes and fittings, tanks and processing equipment for the energy, resources, water infrastructure and defence sectors.

Novafast International manufactures pipes to ISO 14692-1:2017 for the petroleum and natural gas industries; BSI – BS 7159 which is the code of practice for design and construction of glass reinforced plastics (GRP) piping systems for individual plants or sites; ASTM D2992 – 18 which is the Standard Practice for Obtaining Hydrostatic or Pressure Design Basis for “Fibreglass” (Glass-fibre-reinforced thermosetting-Resin) Pipe and Fittings; and AS 3571.1-2009, the standard for plastics piping systems – Glass reinforced thermoplastics (GRP) systems based on unsaturated polyester (UP) resin.