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Research and education vital for the Naval Shipbuilding Plan

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Associate Professor Jonathan Binns

Comment by Associate Professor Jonathan Binns, Director of the ARC Research Training Center for Naval Design and Manufacturing (RTCNDM).

As the director of the ARC Research Training Centre for Naval Design and Manufacturing (RTCNDM), Associate Professor Jonathan Binns oversees researchers focused on solving problems aligned with the manufacture, design and sustainment of naval vessels spread across Australia.  

A/Professor Binns welcomes the Department of Defence's recently released Naval Shipbuilding Plan as providing vital detail for executing Australia’s defence strategy, which was communicated in 2016's Defence White Paper.

With at least 5,000 extra skilled engineers, scientists, naval architects, specialists and tradespeople needed by 2026 to support, modify and tailor the future warships and submarines, A/Professor Binns sees research and education as critical to fulfilling the plan.

More than half of the man hours that go into the production of a ship are needed to design the ship and facilitate the production. The need for more professional naval architects is therefore important for the success of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan and will secure the life-long careers for many graduate naval architects.  

The research A/Professor Binns oversees at RTCNDM is also a critical for the innovation demanded by the Plan.

“PhD education forms only one part of the training and education system demanded by the Naval Shipbuilding Plan,” Associate Professor Binns said.

“But it is a vital component for producing research engineers who can address the most advanced challenges. No other education programs can actually tackle real problems whilst fulfilling the education requirements of future researchers.

No other education programs can actually tackle real problems while fulfilling the education requirements of future researchers.

He says that work-integrated learning is a hallmark of industry-relevant education and has been rightly emphasised in the National Shipbuilding Plan.  

“The key to the ARC Research Training Centre is to bring our PhD programs even closer to industry and defence. Each student must do a 12-month internship placement, bringing all the benefits of work integrated learning to our PhDs.”

“The value of these work placements is two way. First, our students get the best education in terms of how industry can actually use research, which is something that can be discussed in the classroom, but until you live and breathe it, you won’t understand.  

“Second, the industry-driven research that our PhD students are completing is translated directly to the final innovative applications it was always designed for.”

The industry-driven research that our PhD students are completing is translated directly to the final innovative applications it was always designed for

RTCNDM is a collaboration between the University of Tasmania, the University of Wollongong and Flinders University, alongside industry partners ASC Pty Ltd, Babcock Pty Ltd, Defence Science and Technology Group, Defence Materials Technology Centre, Thales Australia Ltd, PMB Defence Engineering Pty Ltd, Serco Defence and Austal.

The RTCNDM supports 13 RTC researchers, based at the three universities, who are working with industry on research including:

  • improving the energy devices critical to submarine operation.
  • controlling flow induced vibrations and noise;
  • minimising the build-up of organic matter on acoustic sensors;
  • using robots to efficiently inspect confined spaces;
  • optimising maintenance procedures;
  • allowing greater re-welding of complex submarine structures;
  • modelling the response of underwater structures; and
  • improving the energy devices critical to submarine operation.

What do the students say?

My project was created from discussions between industry and academia where an alignment in industry needs and academic research capabilities was identified. The desire to determine the fundamental excitation spectra of control surfaces on maritime vessels is driving this research to assist in developing quieter and more efficient designs. Through consistent engagement with our industry partners in ASC and DST, the project is being continuously tailored to develop outcomes that will have significant impact on the naval shipbuilding industry. Furthermore, by bringing together the knowledge and experience of both industry and research, improved methodologies have been developed, along with new ways of interpreting the experimental data. - Sam Smith

As a second year PhD student, I have had the opportunity to undertake an industry placement with Serco Defence Asia-Pacific at Garden Island Naval Base in Potts Point, Sydney. The outcomes of my PhD research on improving maintenance practice for ships and naval vessels aim to directly influence future sustainment practices in the industry. I believe that sustainment can inform design. My vessel of study is the Elwing, a key vessel involved in the ongoing operations of the navy at Garden Island. A highlight has been the fantastic location and getting involved with the operations of this vessel. – Jane Cullum 

ASC has been an excellent place to undertake my placement. The placement enables us to work directly on the application problem using the ASC test facility with the assistance of ASC staff, and this, in turn, gives us a better understanding of all the complexities involved in our research application. Sustainment is an integral part in the lifetime of a vessel. However, some maintenance tasks do pose risk to workers. The research we are undertaking takes those steps towards reducing these risks. By looking into the feasibility of an autonomous robotic solution for inspection tasks in confined spaces, the results would allow minimal human access into these hazardous environments. – Rowan Pivetta

The RTCNDM has provided the opportunity for me to conduct my research across academia and industry. This relationship fosters the potential for direct application of my research in industry, bridging the gap so often seen in the technical readiness levels of applying research. I am also able to work directly with local and international experts in what can be a constrictive field of research. The timing of the research training centre means I will be ready to work with the future acquisition and build programs from their onset.  My work on modelling of structures in response to shock loads has formed partnerships between academia, government organisations and industry that will continue after I have completed my work and will be crucial to future advancement and success of the naval ship building program. – Steven de Candia

Published on: 29 May 2017