EVERYONE involved with building Australia’s new $89 billion fleet of defence ships will be on the same page — a digital page. Technology that allows ships to be designed, fitted out, built, maintained and monitored in the virtual world is coming to Adelaide in the form of at least one, if not two, digital shipyards.

Get ready for a world full of 3D experiences, automation, augmented reality, simulation, cyber-physical systems, smart factories, the internet of everything and robotics. BAE Systems Australia, one of three short-listed bidders for the $35 billion Future Frigates program, says a digital shipyard in Adelaide would transform the nation’s shipbuilding industry, when it comes to pass.

Spain’s Navantia and Italy’s Fincantieri are the other two companies vying for the frigates job — part of Australia’s $89 billion rolling shipbuilding program for 12 offshore patrol boats ($3-4 billion) and 12 submarines ($50 billion) in the next few decades. Most of the work will flow through to SA and WA.

BAE Systems uses a digital shipyard as part of its operations in the UK. “A digital shipyard is more than just visualisation and 3D walk-throughs. That is just one element. It’s actually a workforce enabler, connecting various people at work in different locations, from designers to planners to builders and support crew,” says BAE Systems’ UK production manager and digital shipyard expert David Crawford.

Australia’s Anzac class frigates, which will be replaced by the future frigates, were designed on paper, and every compartment on every one of the frigates is different. “Having digital capability will change that (for future frigates). Shipbuilding activity, because of its size and complexity, has been a bit slow to adopt technology already in use by other manufacturing industries worldwide, but that’s because it has taken that long for technology to get to this scale and for secure networks to be formed,” Mr Crawford says.

“Every part of the new ship will have an acoustic signature, so every contractor involved with the project will have access to the digital shipyard to get the exact specifications, etc.

Mr Crawford predicts the use of technology will foster a new “culture of collaboration” within diverse teams. “There are no more pages and pages of documents, no room for error, everyone has access to portals and web-based applications and there is greater accountability given everyone has a single accurate view of where we are”.

BAE Systems has also promised to transfer to Australia all intellectual property, and technical data, including the digital ship design optimised for the production of its Global Combat Ship — Australia (its frigates design), together with all naval shipbuilding processes tailored to the requirements of the Adelaide shipyard.

The design authority transfer will start in 2018, leveraging an investment of more than $1.5 billion in design and engineering effort to date to develop the world’s most advanced warship. To support the transfer, $100 million will be invested in an information and technology system to digitise the shipyard.

Dassault Systems, which is working with the Future Submarines project designer Naval Group (formerly DCNS), is also building Australia’s first virtual shipyard in Adelaide.

In October, nine companies will participate in the first round of a virtual shipyard training project. The 3D technology will be an invaluable source for training as the state gears up for the submarines project, the government says. A second round of training is slated for April next year.

Small to medium enterprises participating in the Virtual Shipyard Training Project will be provided with 12 months training and support to develop their digital environments and industry processes to support the next generation of naval shipbuilding.

Naval Group uses Dassault Systèmes’ 3DExperience software to manage the entire life cycle of their ships — from concept to build, maintenance and operations and project planning with full traceability. “This is an excellent opportunity for the SMEs not only to gain an edge in the local and global marketplace, this also presents a potential to diversify to other high-value industries,” says Dassault Systèmes executive vice-president Philippe Forestier.

Premier Jay Weatherill says the digital shipyard is one of the new ways to leverage the advanced technologies defining a new era in naval shipbuilding, to gain an edge in the local and international marketplace. “Companies participating in this training project will improve international competitiveness, not only in defence, but across a variety of sectors.”

In May, ASC said it would upgrade to Dassault’s 3DExperience system — moving on from the decade-old Enovia system — to support the submarine build. ASC has been using Enovia to manage data related to the Collins Class submarine maintenance work. The 3DExperience platform is used across 12 industries including by defence company US manufacturer Boeing and Germany’s cruise ship builder Meyer Werft.

Italy’s Fincantieri, also a frigates project contender, says it makes use of many technologies to design and build ships across the 20 shipyards it operates globally. “For over a generation now 3D computer aided design tools have been used to design ships in Fincantieri,” says corporate vice-president Antonio Autorino. “Our production systems use robots and automation much like the car industry and our engineers simulate everything from how missiles leave the ship to how thousands of people move around a cruise ship. “Fincantieri is wholly committed to maximising Australian industry involvement in the project,” he says.

The purr of a Rolls-Royce engine is synonymous with quality and now the international company is looking for South Australian industries to support the manufacture of its marine products.

Rolls-Royce has been chosen to provide a wide range of its marine products for BAE Systems’ Type 26 Global Combat Ship project.

The Type 26 GCS is under construction for Britain’s Royal Navy and forms the basis of BAE System’s bid to build Australia’s Future Frigates.

Rolls-Royce Australia director Rob Madders says the T26 Frigate is a vessel designed for anti-submarine warfare and has a hull form and propulsion system that operate with exceptionally low underwater-radiated noise, providing the best platform to detect and avoid detection in submarine warfare.

“The propulsion system chosen for the Type 26 is hybrid electric, a combination of electric and mechanical propulsion drive made possible by the most power dense gas turbine in the world, the Rolls-Royces MT30,” Mr Madders says.

“When at cruising speed or engaged in submarine operations, the GCS relies on four Rolls-Royce MTU diesel generators (which eliminate) main gearbox noise.

“We have been actively working with South Australian industry and government to identify and engage with local South Australian companies for the manufacture of Rolls-Royce products for GCS-A.”

Work associated with the project includes the MT30 GT enclosure and auxiliary systems, stabilisers and steering gear, propellers, mission bay handling equipment and movable high points.

Mr Madders says SA companies have previously worked with Rolls-Royce technology to build the stabilisers for the ANZAC Class Frigate fleet and the largest ship lift in the Southern Hemisphere at the Osborne shipyards.

He says selected SA companies will join the Rolls-Royce supply chain, helping to ensure a sovereign support capability for the vessel, through life maintenance requirements and opening up export opportunities.

WA shipbuilder Austal’s designer Mark Easter is working closely with partner Fassmer’s team in Germany in preparation for the transfer of world-class digital and design skills to Australia. The transfer will happen if the partners succeed in their bid to build a new fleet of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs). “We are using Siemens NX 3D modelling software that allows us to create a whole vessel in an AutoCAD style package that takes into account modelling of everything — right from a valve to a light fitting that gets put into vessel,” says Mr Easter, an ex-Australian Navy submariner.

“At the end of it, you have something to walk through as well as the attributes of each part, including the weight, dimensions, etc. We’ll even be modelling humans as part of the engineering design to get room arrangements, configurations right.

“I have been working closely with Fassmer designer team from the start of the tender process. As Fassmer start refining their design further, I am looking at what technology can be transitioned to Australia — getting an intimate knowledge of the design so we can work in Henderson (WA ship yard) to a digital ship.”

The design work usually starts with the hull form then the ship structure gets tied in. “The model is broken into individual units and inside those units we model electricals, engines, etc,” Mr Easter says. “The digital ship will be an exact replica that will also allow (other) workers to interact with the design.” US shipyard Newport News is undergoing a digital transformation, using Siemens NX software.

South Australian companies need to start building on their cyber attack resilience as the defence industry embraces hi-tech manufacturing, says BAE’s industry strategy head Sharon Wilson.

“This is not a choice any more, simply a requirement for anyone that will partner on the upcoming shipbuilding projects given the amount of technology transfer involved,” she says.

“Some of our existing suppliers have been good at this, but for companies keen to get involved, the best time to start thinking about this aspect is now.”

A cyber attack or hacking event is when individuals or whole organisations target computer information systems, infrastructures, computer networks, and/or personal computer devices by malicious acts.

A recent example would be the malicious ransomware virus in June that affected computer systems and services across the globe, including a chocolate factory in Hobart. This week, the UK government issued a code of practice on maritime cyber security, warning cyber terrorists could sink ships.

“Ships are becoming increasingly complex and dependent on the extensive use of digital and communications technologies throughout their operational life,” the document states.

Poor security could lead to significant loss of customer and/or industry confidence, reputational damage, potentially severe financial losses or penalties, and litigation affecting the companies involved.”

The compromise of the systems could lead to unwanted outcomes, including loss of commercially sensitive or personal data and “in the worst case scenario, lead to a risk of life and/or the loss of the ship.”

While the defence industry has long valued and guarded information security, major projects are using advanced digital technologies as global partnerships and collaboration become more commonplace, extending the information flow across parties. “No one’s talking about the issue seriously. But with so much of data and information, it is going to become a key factor,” says Ms Wilson.

Minister for Defence Industries Martin Hamilton-Smith says “cybercrime will cost Australia an estimated $16 billion over the next decade and US$294 billion globally. In an increasingly technologically-advanced society, it is important our companies are armed with cyber-ready capabilities to give themselves a competitive edge to win supply chain work for upcoming defence programs,” he says.

The World Economic Forum estimates a US$445 billion per year hit to the global economy from cyber crime. “Companies need to have a strategy in place to prepare for when, not if, they are hit by a cyber-attack,” it says.

Google Australia engineering director Alan Noble says small and medium businesses in SA have the agility — a huge advantage over large organisations — to bring in more automation with the right security nets in place.

“They can, and should move quickly to take advantage of new opportunities (and challenges). With cloud-based services and systems, many capabilities that were once only accessible to large organisations, are affordably accessible to start-ups and SMEs,” Mr Noble says.

Technology around the world is developing at an incredible pace with life-changing advances in artificial intelligence, in new materials that will reshape our future, in virtual reality and cyber technologies.

The naval forces of tomorrow will also benefit from these advances. Military navies around the world will have greatly enhanced sensing capabilities, be super-connected, have increased reach and endurance — and be vastly more lethal.

Surveillance will be supreme. The use of drones to provide enhanced surveillance around naval task groups will become normal. Drone technology will offer sustained surveillance that is well beyond what is feasible today. And advanced machine learning, or artificial intelligence, will improve the ability of these drones to detect, identify and, where appropriate, respond to threats.

Underwater, new sensors will be able to detect tiny disturbances in the earth’s magnetic field, enabling continuous monitoring of strategic locations, such as naval ports, from below the surface.

New materials offer increased stealth and speed. Grapheme, for example, reduces drag and the ever-present problem for ocean-going vessels of bio-fouling.

Other materials will enable ship and submarine vessels to absorb acoustic energy more effectively. Weapons will also be revolutionised, with advances like electromagnetic railguns, which use electrical energy to fire projectiles with far greater range and firing velocities of over 7,000 km/hour.

These advances will not only change the way navies operate, they will also change the way they are built.

In the virtual shipyard, we will not only be building shipyards and ships, but also virtual shipyards and virtual ships, and virtual human operators.

All aspects of design will be testable in virtual environments before being built, thus finding design faults before they become real faults.

Add to this the ability to deploy a virtual ship and crew into a simulated war game, and we can explore operational vulnerabilities and response options, without risking life or equipment.

These technologies are well advanced in research groups around the world — the University of Adelaide, for example, undertakes research in many of these areas, often in close collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST). This developing technology promise exciting careers for those interested in working in the defence industry. South Australia has the largest concentration of defence industry in the country.

We are building the next evolution of the Royal Australian Navy here in Adelaide and there is no better time to pursue careers in defence industry than now.

Building submarines and naval frigates requires all kinds of skills: from trades in advanced welding and sophisticated electrical work, to various engineering disciplines including mechanical, electrical and electronic and software engineering.

There will also be need for skilled graduates in project management and commerce. At the University of Adelaide, we are working closely with the Defence industry to develop pathways for our students and graduates.

Professor Michael Webb, pictured, is director of Defence and Security at the University of Adelaide and board member of the Defence Teaming Centre.

■ Virginia’s Newport News Shipbuilding is America’s oldest and largest naval shipbuilder, owned by Huntington Ingalls Industries. NNS is using German engineering giant Siemens’ NX9 software to digitalise the entire process from design and manufacturing to operations and service of the next Ford class nuclear aircraft carrier (CVN80) — a 300 million-part water machine — for the US Navy. A digital replica, or twin, of the ship and all its millions of parts is being created — from design to simulation and testing phase in an integrated working environment.

■ BAE Systems has constructed a network of five visualisation suites at its UK shipyards using submersive 3D software — similar to those used in video games — to build the Type 26 Global Combat Ship for the Royal Navy. The suites help engineers and other stakeholders to walk through computer-generated versions of the ship to inspect different parts. BAE also set up a visualisation suite in Canberra as part of its future frigates bid.

■ thyssenkrupp Marine Systems has built more than 160 submarines for naval forces in various countries at its Kiel shipyard in Germany. It uses an advanced (digital) integrated product development and support environment to design and test collaboratively in a digital world before going anywhere near a prototype. Sophisticated 3D design/development/monitoring tools help monitor all processes and stages.

■ Dutch shipbuilding giant Damen Shipyards, which has teamed up with ASC to win the offshore patrol vessels bid, is using Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform, to create a ‘single digital environment’ to connects all stages of shipbuilding.

Skilled people working across the four stages and the integration of combat and platform systems. Also involves creation of highly complex computer programs and integrating them with other software systems; the manufacture of large hull structures and integration of powerful machinery and a multitude of equipment.

■ Design — Engineers and draftsmen create the warship’s engineering design, which covers all the systems, including the hull, propulsion, weapons, combat management system and communications. A key product from this stage will be a computer model of the ship from which two and three dimensional drawings and specifications can be extracted.

■ Production Engineering — Specialist engineering designers and experienced shipbuilders do the work of building the ship. Other professionals, such as project managers, safety managers, human resources staff, warehouse managers, purchasing officers and many others, set up and operate a shipyard. Outcomes of this stage include a detailed build strategy, usually involving modular construction and sometimes two or more block manufacturing shipyards.

Detailed work orders will then be written for each and every task to be completed, bills of material created, contracts with hundreds of suppliers drawn up and signed, extensive and complex schedules of work developed, inspection and test procedures written for all aspects of construction, workforce management plans and financial control systems put in place.

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■ Production — The face of shipbuilding that most people recognise with thousands of skilled trades people cutting and welding steel, installing pipes, electrical cable and ventilation trunking. These people work for years to build something so large it is on a scale rarely seen in industrial manufacturing. Also involves technicians installing computer systems, radar systems, missile launchers, large gunmounts, gas turbines, propulsion shafting and propellers.

■ Test and activation — Groups of specialist technicians come on board to check the installation, set to work equipment and put it through an extensive and rigorous range of tests. Before installation, testing is undertaken on the factory floor to ensure each piece of equipment performs according to specification. Once the equipment has been set to work correctly, the next step is to conduct thousands of tests to prove that each piece of equipment, both on its own and when integrated with other systems, performs to the design and contract specifications.

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