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Composite materials were originally seen as an anti-corrosion solution for a submarine's steel upper superstructures. Now you can benefit from numerous additional advantages.
The benefits you gain from the use of composite materials include weight reduction, high weight-related strength and stiffness, load-orientated design possibilities, acoustic transparency, damping, thermal insulation, and the absence of magnetic signatures. The first application of composites in German submarines dates back to the use of fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) on board the German Navy's HDW Class 206A submarines. For these boats and the later designs of the HDW Class 209 family parts of the upper superstructure, sail and sonar windows were first made as solid and later as sandwich constructions. Nowadays, glass-fiber-reinforced plastics (GRP) and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) are used in HDW Class 212A and HDW Class 214 submarines, particularly in designing large 3-D shapes or when outstanding transparency is required, e.g. to cover specific sonar windows. However, the use of composite materials is not limited to the design of new vessels, as the steel structures of existing ships and submarines can also be replaced by composites.
At thyssenkrupp Marine Systems our R&D activities have focused on the intensified use of composites in improving existing products and expanding into other design areas. Nowadays, life raft containers, TCM launching tubes, rudders or shafts and submarine propellers are made of composite materials. Low-weight composite materials ideally suit a submarine crew's ballistic requirements in the cockpit during surface transit.
The capabilities gained in our submarine business have also allowed us to engage in sophisticated military and civil shipbuilding activities, including designing, manufacturing and installing sonar dome components for surface combatants and decorative elements for both passenger vessels and mega-yachts.