Mechanical engineers in the marine industry require a diligent approach for subsea projects to design, install, and maintain underwater structures. With our recent acquisition of a mechanical engineering firm, we sat down with Derek Puzzuoli, our senior mechanical engineer, to understand the challenges of engineering below the sea.
Can you provide us with an overview of your expertise?
Derek: I’ve been a designer since before I can remember and it led me to build expertise in all areas of product development with a heavy focus on 3D modeling and Finite Element Analysis (FEA). I’ve applied this in themed attractions, automotive, and subsea, so I guess you can say I’ve worked on everything from roller coasters to submarines.
Briefly describe the key characteristics that are important for a person to succeed in this line of work?
Derek: Creativity, persistence, and genuine interest in what you are building.
What are some challenges involved with designing subsea projects?
Derek: The wide variance in environmental conditions from ocean to ocean and from surface to seabed often drive application-specific requirements for every project. Two seemingly similar projects can have wildly different requirements, forcing engineers to “reinvent the wheel” very often. Furthermore, the high cost of deploying any subsea product always drives a need for flawless operations. These two challenges, combined with traditionally low-volume deployments, essentially mean subsea engineers have to design, build, and test “perfect prototypes”.
How can we improve sustainability in the marine industry?
Derek: We primarily get involved in projects that push the boundaries of uncrewed autonomous vehicles, tools, or installations, whether they operate subsea, on the surface, or in air. The newest wave of vehicles will reduce reliance on large ships for transport and deployment and therefore lower fuel consumption, GHG emissions, and contact with sensitive habitats. We’re excited for the latest examples of our work to demonstrate these results.
What technologies are you excited about that will benefit the subsea industry?
Derek: Like in many industries, advancements in machine learning and autonomy will continue to push boundaries for the foreseeable future and beyond. As an example, I’ve recently become involved in aerial manipulation studies which look at using drones offshore to physically interface with above water installations. Future marine robots will be capable of full perception and interaction with their environments—and do it much safer, faster, and cheaper than humans ever could.
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