For 18 years South Australian companies Cresta Plastics and PMB Defence have been working together to produce some of the most sophisticated technology for Australia’s Defence industry.
In 1997 Cresta Plastics, a company which specialises in the moulding of plastics and rubber components joined forces with PMB Defence, a company which supplies submarine battery systems.
PMB Defence are at the forefront of the latest battery design and manufacturing technology used to power the Collins-Class submarines.
The battery truly is at the heart of the submarine and it’s the dedication of the team at PMB Defence, which enables the submarines to be submerged and undetected for long periods of time.
Chief Executive Officer of PMB Defence, Stephen Faulkner said Cresta Plastics has been a supplier of high quality components for PMB’s battery system. “We have very high expectations of our suppliers as battery systems are arguably more important to the Australian submarine capability than any other nation,” he said.
PMB Defence, who employs 60 staff, has been able to build a key relationship with Cresta Plastics. Mr Faulkner believes working with another SA company has a distinct advantage. “PMB is not a large company in our own right, and dealing with a local fellow SME has advantages when it comes to collaboration and responsiveness,” he said.
Established in 1968, Cresta Plastics has extensive experience in Defence contracts. Their custom injection plastics technology meets Australian and international standards.
The Main Storage Battery (MSB) has been manufactured in SA since early 1990 and takes around 15 months to manufacture. It weighs in at around 430 tonnes which is approximately 14% of the displacement of the entire submarine.
Mr Faulkner believes that when it comes to producing a quality manufacturing product, SA is well equipped.
“The geographic location of suppliers here in Australia is of great importance to providing timely and high quality product and service.
“There is no doubt that the presence of such Defence work here in South Australia has a positive impact on the local economy,” Mr Faulkner said.
All engineers, trades and support crew have helped PMB Defence evolve into a world class supplier of engineering, battery change, testing, support and maintenance services.
Each battery lasts around six years and PMB Defence is dedicated to ensuring a seamless battery removal and installation process, whether it be performed by PMB or their close partner ASC.
PMB also focus on research, to strive for new ways to revolutionise the submarine industry.
In recent years the company has welcomed the birth of PMB’s little sister – PMB Defence Engineering. Along with support to the COLLINS program, the team conducts research and development on enhancing battery system performance on both lead-acid and lithium based submarine energy systems. They work closely on a variety of initiatives with teams at ASC, DSTO, CSIRO and various multi-national companies.
PMB Defence also supplies monitoring systems, as well as data analytics to ensure that the user can operate and maintain the batteries in a safe, efficient and optimal manner.
PMB Defence doesn’t rest on their laurels. They are always looking at new ways to adapt and evolve.
PMB Defence are searching for ways to make the battery lighter, improving monitoring systems, charge acceptance, cooling and designs that make the batteries perform better throughout their lives.
In 2014 PMB teamed with post-doctoral nanotechnology researchers from Flinders University to work on improving the life of and reduce maintenance of the massive rechargeable lead acid batteries, supplied to the Collins-Class submarines. The first stage of the program was about investigating the use of adding nanostructures to the materials that could lead to longer life of the battery or increased efficiency. Two specific nanotechnologies were identified as being most valuable and stage two feasibility studies have shown promising results.
As results driven companies, PMB Defence and Cresta Plastics have a commitment to the Australian Defence industry.
It’s this drive for excellence, which Mr Faulkner believes will spread throughout the manufacturing industry.
“The military-grade quality required has a positive flow-through effect on the local economy, which is completely consistent with the broader strategy of encouraging high value-adding Australian manufacturing capability.”
Written by Paul Bidmeade