The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is the United Kingdom’s centre of excellence for oceanographic sciences.

A key piece of apparatus that they use for marine expeditions are Gliders – a type of robotic underwater vehicle used for measuring oceanographic parameters such as chlorophyll levels, temperature and salinity, which are then transmitted back to the shore. They are very effective tools for gathering data from the ocean and carry a great variety of instruments.

NOC required a model version of a sea glider to use as a training and visualisation aid, which would help illustrate the function of the glider, what it does, and the capabilities of its parts.

This project demonstrates our rapid prototyping facilities and illustrates the capabilities at Sensor City to make things far larger than the normal scope of a 3D printer.
We look forward to working with NOC again on additional projects in the future."

Daniel Watson, Laboratory Manager, Sensor City

Approaching Sensor City

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The engineers at Sensor City were initially provided with NOC’s manufacturer CAD data, but modified and revised it to allow the design to be 3D printed and assembled in sections.

The 1.5m glider model was then 3D printed in environmentally sound materials, with a steel reinforced centre section added for strength. Engineers also laser-cut a set of acrylic wings and assembled all sections and parts in house.

Working into the future

The sea glider model will be used for internal training at NOC, as well as external demonstrations in schools. It is also planned to be used as static display piece to showcase the electric sea glider.


Thanks to the mixed technology used in its manufacture, combining digital additive manufacturing with traditional engineering, the replica model can now be used at exhibitions and demonstrations across the country.

It can be split into sections for easy carriage and storage and will be easy to replace any damaged components. Additionally, its modular design and assembly will allow for sectional upgrades and evolution of design – exactly as per the real glider.

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