Fire-resistant ship cladding builds up safety
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, has developed a lightweight, fire-resistant cladding that can withstand temperatures of more than 1000°C. The cladding could create advanced manufacturing jobs in Tasmania and reduce carbon emissions. Developed in collaboration with Tasmanian small business CBG Systems, the material has been installed on two new ships and used to replace cladding on another. The prototype panelling, called ‘Rapid Access Composite (RAC) Plus’, uses a thermal protective coating that can withstand high temperatures and remain structurally stronger than conventional fire protection coatings.
The panels are also reversible and can repel water, potentially doubling their service life. The panels are currently designed for high-speed aluminium ships, but the composite has the potential to be modified for construction products. Weighing about half as much as traditional metal cladding, the resulting reduction in fuel consumption should lower carbon emissions, leading to greener ships as well as enhancing overall operational efficiencies. The technology was supported through several federal government programs and has created new jobs and increased international trade to Hobart.
“By working side by side with industry, innovative science and technology creates new value and growth for Australian businesses to grow our way back from the current crisis,” CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said. “This homegrown Aussie innovation has enabled CBG Systems to become an advanced manufacturer of globally competitive marine insulation products and services, which is now bringing in valuable export dollars from around the world.”
CSIRO Senior Experimental Scientist Mel Dell’Olio spent four months at CBG Systems in Hobart, training employees in advanced manufacturing techniques and assisting with the commercialisation process. During that time, the team manufactured 2500 insulation panels, which are being built into new ships to supply international customers. The panels meet the relevant fire standard tests for the marine industry and offer at least 60 minutes of fire protection. The Managing Director of CGB Systems, Javier Herbon, confirmed that three ships have been ordered and two completed, with CGB Systems hiring six new roles and partners and suppliers also increasing their staff as a result.
“To be filling production orders within two years of the first project meeting demonstrates how Australian SME manufacturers can benefit from positive research partnerships,” said Dell-Olio. Herbon added, “Being able to access the wealth of scientific knowledge and innovation within CSIRO has been an incredibly enriching experience for everyone at CBG Systems. This project shows how innovations from CSIRO can help Australian businesses create manufacturing jobs.”
CBG Systems has lodged its own patent on RAC Plus, with recent fire tests indicating that the new panels can be used on steel ships and aluminium high-speed crafts. There are also potential applications in aerospace, such as for battery enclosures, and the civil construction industry, enabling CBG Systems to expand into new markets.
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