Research on Mechanical & Industrial Design for Aalto Explorer (Part 1)

A brief overview

Aalto Explorer (AE) envisions a remote vehicle and a network application – the so-called expedition platform – to be controlled by the community and be made available to any ocean-enthusiasts, casual explorers and life-long learners, sending them on exciting journeys of oceanic exploration on their own terms and at their own pace. The community and/or experts can organise and book an expedition on one of the AE units deployed around the world.  

FIND-X units are composed of three main elements: a Floating Module, a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) and a Graphic User Interface (GUI), known as the Expedition Platform. The communication between users and the floating module is enabled by 4G technology. The floating module connects to the ROV via an umbilical cord that supplies energy and allows the communication with the cameras and the control of the ROV unit.

The Research on Mechanics and Industrial Design for Aalto Explorer

It’s important to have an in-depth understanding of the work environment that the Aalto Explorer will operate in. In this article, besides our preliminary research on 3D printing technology - considered one of the most important resources of a mechanical project, we will introduce to you our groundwork regarding the work environment including sea soil to give you better insights into the project. The information in this blog post will benefit your comprehension of the next post on our design of the ROV.


A Brief History:

Although 3D printing is commonly thought of as a novel ‘futuristic’ concept, it has actually been around for more than 30 years. The first 3D Printer, the SLA-1, was invented by Chuck Hull in 1983. He was also credited for the invention of the first 3D printing process called ‘stereolithographic’ in the same year. Until 2009, 3D printing was mostly limited to industrial uses until the patent for fused deposition modeling (FDM) – one of the most common 3D printing technologies – expired.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

3D Printing is an additive manufacturing process that creates a physical object from a digital design. Every 3D print starts with a digital 3D design file – like a blueprint – for a physical object. This design file is sliced into thin layers which are then sent to the 3D printer. From here on, the printing process varies by technology, starting from desktop printers that melt a plastic material and lay it down onto a print platform to large industrial machines that use a laser to selectively melt metal powder at high temperatures. Available materials also vary by printer type, ranging from plastics to rubber, sandstone, metals and alloys.


  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): The most common technology for desktop 3D printing; great for quick and low-cost prototyping.
  • Stereolithography and Digital Light Processing (SLA & DLP): liquid resin selectively cured by light; mostly used for high-detail prototyping, sculptures and jewelry.
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): high-strength laser-sintered plastic, suitable for functional prototypes and parts with complex design.
  • Material Jetting (PolyJet and MultiJet Modeling): The most precise technologies for realistic prototypes with fine details and smooth surfaces.
  • Binder Jetting: Full-color printing from sandstone, widely used for lifelike sculptures and (scale) models.
  • Metal Printing (Selective Laser Melting and Electron Beam Melting): industrial 3D printing processes for functional prototypes and final parts from various metals and alloys.


  • Selecting the right 3D printing material for your project is very important. Which material is most suitable is largely dependent on your specific use case.
  • Prototyping Plastic - Rigid plastics for fast and cost-effective prototyping. Tolerances of +/- 1m
  • High Detail Resin - Intricate designs and sculptures with a smooth surface finish.
  • SLS Nylon - Functional prototypes and end-use parts from laser-sintered nylon.
  • Fiber-Reinforced Nylon - Engineering parts as strong as aluminum for the price of plastic
  • Rigid Opaque Plastic - Realistic prototypes with excellent details and high accuracy.
  • Rubber-Like Plastic - Simulate rubber with various levels of elasticity.
  • Transparent Plastic - See-through parts and prototypes.
  • Simulated ABS - High precision functional (injection) molds with the toughness of ABS.
  • Full-Color Sandstone - Photo-realistic full color (scale) models and sculptures.
  • Industrial Metals - Industrial metals and alloys for prototypes and end-use parts.

3D printing also has some certain pro & cons:


  • Create complex designs.
  • Customize each and every item.
  • No need for tools and molds, lower fixed costs
  • Speed and ease of prototyping, faster and less risky route to market.
  • Less waste.


  • Higher cost for large production run.
  • Fewer material choices of colors and finish.
  • Limited strength and endurance.
  • Lower precision.


The details on work environment and sea soil will be updated in the next article. Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletters or join our pioneer group for further updates!

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