By J.G. Wallace
Posted June 7, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.
VERO BEACH — Piper's airplanes soar through the skies, while Triton's submarines explore the ocean's depths.
While the two Vero Beach-based manufacturing companies' products deal in opposite but equally challenging environments, through a recent business arrangement they have partnered their expertise — and kept jobs in Indian River County.
Triton Submarines LLC in March awarded Piper Aircraft Inc.'s newly created division, Piper Aircraft Services-Manufacturing, a $90,000 contract for manufacturing parts for its submarines.
Since then, Piper has been providing Triton with complex multi-axis machined parts destined for Triton's submersibles, as well as other services. Triton has also been taking advantage of Piper's 3-D printing capabilities to create intricate models of Triton's submersibles for display at trade shows, said Marc Deppe, Triton's vice president of sales and marketing.
Piper spokesperson Jackie Carlon said Piper Aircraft Services-Manufacturing was created after Piper shelved the Altaire single-engine jet program, as a means of retaining engineering jobs and talent. While the division has worked on other engineering support contracts since it was created, the Triton contract was its first major non-aviation-related project.
"This contract with Triton has helped us retain engineering talent and made the division more diverse," Carlon said. "We continue to recruit engineering talent and some people are surprised at how we support businesses outside of aviation."
Deppe said Piper has been making machined aluminum components for hatch mechanisms and the sub's battery pods. Triton is exploring other areas where Piper's expertise can be applied, including making the entire battery pod assemblies.
"It's been a fantastic arrangement and we're having a great time working with Piper," Deppe said. "They have proven themselves to be very capable."
Deppe said Piper's engineering staff communicates very well with its peers at Triton. Parts produced by Piper have been manufactured to extremely high tolerances, which is critical in the demanding conditions and high pressures where Triton's subs operate.
Mike Dow, manager of Piper Aircraft Services-Manufacturing said the benefits of working with a client so closely have been evident to both companies.
"It's been very beneficial in terms of knowing their expectations," Dow said, adding Piper has benefitted by augmenting its factory and engineering capacity through the Triton contract. "We're looking to develop a larger relationship with Triton. Both sides were interested in where this relationship could go in the long term."
Deppe confirmed exploring the possible partnership expansion to other areas of the company.
"It's wonderful to have a vendor that is so local. It's great to be able to drive across town and take a look at how a part is progressing." Deppe said, adding prior to contracting with Piper many of these parts would have been built overseas.
"Even though (the companies) are at opposite sides of the spectrum, there are a lot of similarities between their submarines and our aircraft," Dow said.
One difference, according to Dow, is in terms of weight. Aircraft parts have to be as light as possible to save fuel, but submarine parts are not weight sensitive.
ABOUT THE COMPANIES
Triton Submarines LLC of Vero Beach was established in 2007 to manufacture manned submersibles designed exclusively for yacht-based deployment. Triton is a subsidiary of US Submarines Inc., a company engaged in the design and manufacture of manned submersibles since 1993.
Piper Aircraft Inc. is headquartered in Vero Beach. Piper is an investment of the Ministry of Finance of the Government of Brunei. The company offers a wide product range of single-engine and twin-engine aircraft, for personal or business applications.