Composite Materials

Proven expertise: Composite materials for submarines "made in Kiel"

One idea – numerous advantages

The basic idea behind the use of composite materials resulted from the corrosion sensitivity of steel-made upper superstructures of submarines. Within the different development steps several other advantages were identified.

These benefits are e.g.:

  • Weight reduction
  • High weight-related strength and stiffness
  • Load orientated design
  • Acoustic transparency
  • Damping
  • Thermal insulation
  • No magnetic signatures.

The technological evolution

The first application of composites for german submarines dates back to the use of Fibre Reinforced Plastics (FRP) on board the German Navy HDW Class 206 submarines. For these boats and the later designs of the HDW Class 209 family parts of the upper superstructure and sail as well as sonar windows were first made in solid, later in sandwich designs.

Constant evolution of the boat allowed for the intensified application of composites. Today for both HDW Class 212A and HDW Class 214 designs beside the traditional Glass-fibre Reinforced Plastics (GRP) also Carbon-Fibre Reinforced Plastics (CFRP) are used. These are used in particular when it comes to the design of large three-dimensional shapes or when outstanding transparency is required, e.g. to cover specific sonar windows.

The use of composite materials must not be limited to the design of new vessels. Of course also steel made structures of existing ships and submarines can be replaced by composite structures.

Research and Development

Within the broad variety of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems' R&D activities the intensified use of composites in both the improvement of already existing products and expansion into other design areas has been investigated.

Today life raft containers, TCM launching tubes, rudders or shafts and even submarine propellers are made of composite materials. Of course low weight composite materials are ideally suited to meet the requirements of ballistic of the crew in the submarine cockpit during surface transit.

Composite materials for versatile applications in civil and military sectors

Naturally the capabilities gained in the submarine business also allowed ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems to engage in sophisticated military and civil shipbuilding activities. Components of sonar domes for surface combatants and decorative elements for passenger vessels and mega-yachts have been designed, manufactured and installed.