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Top Australian Design Award goes to Deepsea Challenger submersible

LEAP Australia wishes to congratulate Finite Elements Pty Ltd on their impressive use of ANSYS simulation technology during the design and testing of James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge submersible vehicle, which successfully completed its historic expedition to the Mariana Trench’s lowest point, the Challenger Deep, on March 25, 2012.


The Deepsea Challenger submersible became the first single occupant research vessel to safely reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench, which at 11kms below the surface is the deepest part of the world's oceans.  The Deepsea Challenger was constructed in a factory in Sydney, and the design involved a 6 year collaboration between James Cameron, Ron Allum and Phil Durbin with his team at Finite Elements Pty Ltd.


Following his safe return to the surface, James Cameron commented "When you are actually on the dive, you have to trust the engineering was done right."  At LEAP Australia, we couldn't agree more and we are proud to provide and support the ANSYS software that enables such ground-breaking feats of engineering & science.


Recently, these design achievements by Finite Elements, in conjunction with James Cameron, Ron Allum's Acheron Project Pty Ltd, Design + Industry and McConaghy Boats, were honoured with receipt of first prize in the 2012 Australian International Design Awards.   The judges for the 2012 Australian International Design Awards recognised the Deepsea Challenger design for the high level of innovation & design ingenuity involved, along with the obvious safety considerations and thorough attention to detail which allowed the Deepsea Challenger to successfully complete it's mission and provide hours of footage which will be used in a future 3D feature film by James Cameron.  They noted that the Deepsea Challenger was the standout winner in a field of 105 Finalists, all of which showcase the best in design, creativity and innovation from both local Australian and international designers.



For more information on the Deepsea Challenger design and expedition, please visit Finite Elements website and the DeepSea Challenge homepage, sponsored by National Geographic and Rolex.   Phil Durbin has also discussed this work in the ANSYS Advantage magazine, please click here for the link to the full article.


In the meantime: Have you also been involved in groundbreaking design using ANSYS CFD technology?  Let us know in the comments section below.  What technical problems and challenges did you overcome using CFD simulations?



Images are copyright National Geographic and Acheron Project Pty Ltd.


  • From our perspective at Finite Elements, the engineering design success on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER project was in:

    . how we approached problems,
    . our ability to harness engineering knowledge and cross industry experience; and
    . our ability to apply simulation techniques using ANSYS software, at the right time and at the right level of detail in the project development life cycle.

    The application of engineering simulation to support key design development milestones was essential, providing engineering feedback that was impossible by any other means.

    A physical test can tell you that something failed, but it does not always reveal exactly why. Also a physical test that succeeds cannot tell you "why" or "by what margin". And when the team asks the question "where can we save weight or why can't we do this........?" you need to answer with the benefit of engineering experience and with computer simulations of the best ideas.

    On the DEEPSEA ChALLENGER Project there were two major design components that could not be fully tested to full ocean depth, with a margin for safety. The structural beam of the sub was too big for any test facility on the planet, and the pilot capsule could only be tested to a few percent shy of full ocean depth. We relied on rigorous computer simulation to develop and ultimately assure the structural integrity of the beam design and the pilot capsule.

    The other significant reason for the success of this project was that Finite Elements were engaged very early in the design development process and had the opportunity to influence all major design decisions before blind alleys became costly to the project. Computer simulation really set us free when it came to "out of the box" thinking. We can't emphasize enough that the project was a huge race against Richard Branson's team, who were also gunning to be the first to solo dive the deepest part of the planet, in the Mariana Trench. You can only begin to imagine the pressure on the engineers to get on to the right track and fast. At the end of the day James Cameron had to be happy to be bolted inside this thing and to hurtle to the bottom of the world as fast as our engineers could design it to happen for him and to know that he would come back alive, to know that he would come back at all! And what a bonus to have successfully captured high definition 3D film footage from cameras that were external to the craft. The design development that also went in to the miniaturization and pressure proofing of those cameras and other external equipment cannot be understated.

    At the recent Australian International Design Awards, where Finite Elements received the outright overall design award (along with 3 other Aussie companies Acheron Project, McConaghy Boats and Design + Industry) for the design, manufacture and construction of the Deepsea Submersible, James Cameron said

    "Its an incredible honor" " They came up with incredibly innovative solutions..., sought new techniques; things that have never been done before". "I owe my safety in their hands and I trusted them...it was well designed and well executed...I could not be prouder of this team, they have made history".

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