R&D Machine Shop

The Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL) Research and Development (R&D) Shop was established in 1946 to support seagoing scientific groups with the design and fabrication of specialized oceanographic research equipment.

After almost 70 years, the MPL R&D Shop has significant experience in the design and fabrication of scientific devices in support of oceanographic projects including precision optical equipment, sonar housings, deep sea pressure cases, winches, heave compensators, research equipment deployment, boom fabrication and a variety of marine equipment support devices.

The Shop also performs repairs on winches, cranes, hydraulic controls and a variety of special valves used in marine applications, as well as experience in construction, outfitting, deployment and maintaining sea buoys from 10 meters to 3 meters in diameter. In addition to all the fabrication and maintenance capabilities, the MPL shop handles all mooring operations for R/P FLIP during its numerous research expeditions.

The Shop, consisting of 18,000 square feet of both inside and outside space, has a wide variety of equipment from small precision machines to large shipyard type machinery, as well as an environmental test chamber, and special facilities for conducting equipment pressure tests, circuit board fabrication, and plastic potting. We also have 3D CAD/CAM programming capabilities for mills and lathes utilizing Mastercam X9. Please see below for a complete list of our special capabilities at the MPL Shop.


Shop Superintendent: Frank Biegler
Tel: 858-822-2257
fbiegler at ucsd.edu


Milling Machines

  • 7 Bridgeport style mills with a two axis Proto Trac CNC controllers
  • Ajax Horizontal / Vertical Mill, 18" X 78" table
  • Lucas Model 42B-60 Boring Mill with a 40" X 86" table
  • HASS VF-5 three axis CNC milling machine. Table travel 25" x 50" x 26"
  • HASS VF-3 three axis CNC milling machine. Table travel 20" x 40" x 25"
  • 2 HAAS VF-2 three axis CNC milling centers, 20" X 30" X 20" work window
  • 2 HAAS fifth axis CNC rotary tables for the HAAS milling centers


  • Manual lathes from Hardinge tool room lathe up to a Le Blond 10"
  • LeBlond 8" Hollow Spindle Lathe
  • LeBlond Hollow Spindle lathe with a 12" hole thru the headstock. The bed is a crank back style which will turn a 5' diameter piece 5' long or a 2' diameter piece 14' long over the carriage.
  • Bullard Vertical Turret Lathe with a 50" table.
  • HAAS SL10B CNC lathe, 2" thru spindle, 11" max diameter cut (2006)
  • HAAS SL20B CNC lathe, 2.5" thru spindle, 11" max diameter cut (2009)
  • HAAS SL30B CNC lathe, 3" thru spindle, 17" max diameter cut (2005)
  • HAAS TL3B CNC lathe, 8.5" thru spindle, 30" max diameter cut (2007)

Outside Shop

The outside shop has the capabilities to weld normal materials (steel, stainless steel, aluminum, titamium, etc.) by MIG, TIG or ARC welding. The shop has a 7-1/2 ton bridge crane which spans entire shop area. Forklifts 4,000, 6,000 and 15,000 lbs. size. The shop also operates a 24' flatbed truck with a knuckle boom crane mounted on it that has a 35' reach. The Pressure Test Facility will test a piece 8" in diameter and 8' long to a pressure of 10,000 psi. Other equipment includes:

  • 4' Press Brake
  • 8' hand brake.
  • Rolling Machines to 6' long.
  • Buffalo Iron Worker.
  • Herr Voss plate shear 5/8" capacity 6' long on steel
  • Darley Precision Sheet Metal Shear

For further information on the MPL R&D Shop capabilities and rates, please contact the Shop Superintendent.

Fabrication of 20-foot Liberdade class underwater autonomous fixed wing glider.

Fabrication of 20-foot Liberdade class underwater autonomous fixed wing glider.  MPL Shop fabricated the 6AL4V titanium frame spar pieces to exacting tolerances to fit both the elaborate welding fixture and thermal formed external skin.


Fabrication of 20-foot Liberdade class underwater autonomous fixed wing glider.

On the left is a 60’ long aluminum boom fabricated by the MPL shop on large fixtures designed and built by the shop. This was a very thin wall boom fabricated by our welders and then tested on a fixture that simulated deployment at sea and certified by an outside Principal Engineering firm. 

In the center is The SeaCycler, a prototype deep-ocean surface piercing profiler sensor built for Greg Siddall of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.  The MPL R&D shop worked closely with SIO’s Marine Science Development shop to produce the needed parts for the assembly. MPL produced the internal precision parts while the SIO shop produced the larger Sea Cycler housing. The parts involved were made to close tolerances. 

On the right is a large winch fabricated by the shop for Dr. Steven Constable of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This is a picture of the final assembly just before delivery.