Buoyancy modules are widely used ancillary equipment aiming to shape riser systems to resist harsh offshore environments. Due to their thermoset polymeric nature, they are sensitive to the manufacturing parameters as well as subject to water absorption along their service life. To overcome the challenges of polymer-based buoyancy module, this paper explores the design of metallic buoyancy modules that can be 3-D metal printed.

An initial material selection is performed to identify suitable material candidates for the optimization algorithm. Steel and aluminum materials are considered and evaluated on a representative case combining density, mechanical stress and buckling criterion.

Then a topology optimization algorithm called ‘Adaptative Bone Mineralization’ is applied on the best candidate material, adapting their modulus of elasticity at each iteration according to the current stress distribution, load case definition and boundary conditions. The optimized design incorporates additional requirements related to additive manufacturing processes.

Results of the optimization algorithm are presented in a progressive order of complexity starting from the optimization of an angular section of 11.25 degrees opening with symmetrical boundary conditions up to a quarter of half-shell buoyancy module fully optimized in 3D. The optimization process log, capturing the volume fraction and the maximum stress at each iteration, is presented and compared with the selected set of criteria. Impact of the manual reconstruction process of the buoyancy module is assessed and the buckling stability is evaluated as a post-treatment. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional topologically optimized buoyancy modules are presented and comply with the strict mass requirement, stress criterion and buckling stability achieving deep water depth.

This novel design approach to create deep water metallic buoyancy modules achieves the tailoring of the buoyancy module's internal structure to maximize the buoyancy performance while ensuring its structural integrity.

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