A virtual reality research has been conducted on COMRA's deep ocean poly-metallic nodule pilot mining sea trial system. According to the conceptual design of this mining system and operational environment of coming sea trial of 1000-m water depth, the virtual prototypes of some subsystem, such as launching, retrieval and heave compensation subsystem, collector subsystem and lift pipe subsystem, have been modeled. Operation process has been simulated, and kinematic and dynamic characters has been investigated and evaluated by using finite element method (FEM) and computational dynamics method of multibody system. This paper introduces some recent stride and preliminary research results of this virtual reality research.
The research for deep ocean Poly-metallic nodule exploitation has been active for more than thirty years. Several mining system have been proposed and developed, and a few sea trials based on these mining system have been carried out since the last seventies. The first sea trial was executed by OMCO (Ocean Minerals Company) in 1976 and 1978 at its North Pacific Ocean site with the "Hughes Glomar Explorer" ship, 5,000-m long, 15-in outer diameter pipe, buffer and a self-propelled miner at 5,000-m depth (Chung, JS, 1999). OMI (Ocean Management Inc.) tested in 1978, which included a drill ship, a lift pipe subsystem with a 5500m long pipe string and a towed collector. The same year OMA (Ocean Mining Associates) performed two more poly-metallic nodule-mining tests. Japan carried out a 2200-m water depth deep-sea mining trial of tow-sled collector in 1997. Then NIOT (National Institute of Ocean Technology, India) and IKS (Institute for Design Engineering and Materials Handling of the University of Siegen, Germany) developed a mining system using flexible riser concept and carried out sea sand mining tests at 410-m water depth (Deepak, CR et al, 2001).