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SNAP PAC from Opto 22 helped to fulfill James Cameron´s dream of a deep dive
The famous filmmaker James Cameron, known from movies like Titanic or Avatar, had the dream to go down to the deepest point in the ocean – Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. To make this dream become reality he pulled together a project team with technical experts from all over the world. One of the members of the project team was Ben Orchard from industrial controls manufacturer Opto 22.
Ben´s role was to support the team with the design of the control system installed in Deepsea Challenger, a state-of-state-art submersible which was made to accommodate James Cameron on his way down to the deepest point of the ocean. Just imagine, nearly 11 km beneath the water surface with no light, temperatures just above freezing and 8 tons per square inch (25.4 mm2) of pressure. Quite a challenging framework to cope with.
New materials were invented to withstand the extreme conditions, special electronics designed to control the thruster via joysticks, a robust steel sphere built to protect the pilot and multiple methods developed for him to communicate with the surface crew.
Considering the above it is even more impressive that it was possible to use an off-the-shelf SNAP PAC system from Opto 22 to control and monitor the over 180 systems of the submersible, including depth sensors, thrusters, 3D cameras, lighting and life support equipment.
The devices from Opto 22 which were finally used in the sub were a SNAP-PAC-S2 programmable automation controller, combined with analogue and serial modules, plus high density digital I/O modules.