Subsea cable protection

Outsourced managed CNC engineering processes could be a game-changer for subsea companies

Deep water umbilicals are a core component of any subsea project. They create an essential connection between subsea infrastructure and surface facilities. In playing this part, they must withstand an extremely harsh environment and therefore require protection of the highest calibre. Is deep water umbilical protection an on-demand option?

CNC engineering is seen as a contributor to both product innovation and supply chain transformation by upstream equipment manufacturers.  State-of-the-art CNC technologies enable designers to flex designs, produce prototypes quickly, develop and modify tools for manufacture and achieve requisite quality levels at the manufacturing stage. Improvements in umbilical and power cable protection production will yield significant benefits to operators in future deep water and ultra-deep applications.

Deep Ocean Challenges

Given the harshness of the environment in which a subsea cable must survive, they must be developed with strength in mind. To support this crucial structure, a robust, corrosive-resistant protective layer is of great importance. It is reported that up to 40% of subsea cable failures can be accounted for by the loss of their protective layers due to corrosion and abrasion.

The protective layer needs to be lightweight to reduce installation and operating loads; and be heavy enough to withstand strong and frequently unpredictable seabed currents.

Given the size of the component parts of umbilical protection systems, one of the most cost-effective means of creating them is through the subtractive process of CNC engineering. Today’s technologies can create large, complex geometries from the toughest, abrasion- and impact-resistant materials whilst also delivering value through reducing time and production costs.

Polyurethane and Polypropylene Solutions

Popular umbilical protection materials include polyurethane and polypropylene. Both materials can be cut and shaped using CNC processes more efficiently than through more traditional moulding methods which rely on costly tool creation.

Industrial grade polyurethane (PU), is a popular choice of material for the manufacture of umbilical protection.  Industrial PU is semi-rigid and has integral hinge properties allowing for it to perform well in high flex-fatigue applications. As a result, it has high load capacity in both tension and compression. It is durable, tough, highly corrosion resistant and has excellent impact and abrasion resistance, meaning it has the potential to last many years in subsea applications. It can also be bonded to a wide range of materials during the manufacturing process, making it a highly adaptable material.

More recently, the common thermoplastic Polypropylene (PP) has gained popularity for umbilical protection. More durable, with greater corrosion and shock resistance, PP is slightly more expensive than PU. However, this seems to be a trade-off preferred by the industry for the longer life span.

Strengthening the Supply Chain as well as the Product

The offshore environment is ruthless. Testing is paramount and the durability of the end-product is essential. It’s not just materials that need to withstand environmental pressures – we believe experience, technologies and engineering skills are paramount in ensuring the right solution for each project.

Within these turbulent times, it is crucial to have full control of a projects supply chain. Or to ensure your production partner can do so. The key objective must be reducing risk without losing the goal of efficiency, whether that be orientated around sourcing raw materials and process suppliers, or assessing their commercial viability, and ensuring your requirements are met on every level.

CNC is a subtraction process, capable of tolerances of up to 0.13mm and typically capable of producing parts from 4mm to 1400mm in diameter (occasionally more), depending upon the scope of the machine. The process is usually quick, allowing for low run production numbers to be turned around with short lead times.

Paragon CNC Technologies offers an array of managed solutions for umbilical protection manufacture. From the sourcing of materials to the machining of parts, we can help you manage production of PU, PP and metal devices, including bend controllers, buoyancy aids, clamping solutions, grips, boots and towing accessories.

We have a long-standing knowledge of supply chain management and are committed to delivering outstanding quality and service.  Our CNC capability ranges from design and functionality assessment to 5 axis machining with extended gantry, and we’re committed to investing in technologies to enhance performance and delivery. We will do our very best to be flexible and keep costs down, making sure production of umbilical protection through our services is commercially viable.