10 December, 2018

Charting the right course to efficiency in the marine industry

09 October, 2018

Integrated systems

Integrated systems are the present and the future within the marine sector, according to Prouse. He maintains that the first challenge to providing the right system is obtaining a suitably detailed specification from customers of what kind of solution they are require for their specific system requirements and then matching these requirements to a practical solution that best suits the customer and the application. “There are now so many options electro-hydraulic/pneumatic products on the market which are constantly evolving,” said Prouse. “As the customer does not always know what is available it is up to us as design engineers to keep up to date with new products on the market and where they could be integrated if suitable.”

Prouse makes the point that an electro-hydraulic system that Rotec could fit on a superyacht would have to be compact, low maintenance and aesthetically pleasing whereas the same system fitted to a fishing boat would be rugged, industrial, easily maintainable and more cost sensitive. He adds that electro-hydraulics now offers a multitude of options that Rotec can then transpose to customers to give them system information, compact hydraulic systems, control interfaces and safety functionality. “Electronic control systems incorporating electronic valve control, electro-proportional valve control and actuator positioning feedback gives us a platform from where we can now control hydraulic actuators from a remote location without the need to be near to the hydraulic components,” he said.

Power units

Also active in the marine sector is Hydraproducts. One of the areas the company is involved in within the marine sector on a regular basis is dewatering – closing bulkheads for dewatering purposes for buoyancy in subsea. The company manufactures a small hydraulic power unit which has been very successful in the dewatering market. Another area of Hydraproducts’ expertise concerns LARS (launch and recovery systems), where hydraulic system reliability is paramount in order that divers can be deployed and recovered safely. This is an area where Hydraproducts’ larger hydraulic systems employ wireless condition monitoring for maintenance scheduling.

Communication

With regard to the use of electrohydraulic systems within the marine sector, Ben Lee, director of Hydraproducts UK, reflects that effective communication with OEMs or end-customers is important when working with them to build or maintain systems that contain hydraulics – however, he points out that this can sometimes be a challenge. “We find that the level of knowledge and experience regarding hydraulic systems can vary significantly among technicians within this sector,” he said. “Many of them within tend to be more controls oriented relying on things such as process diagrams, so we find the technical language they are used to can be rather different to that regularly deployed within the fluid power industry. They can be used to dealing with quite complicated process valve systems and not necessarily hydraulic systems incorporating mechanical components. So, from the outset it can be the case that we need to make them more aware of what a hydraulic system looks like and how it operates. The important thing to get across is that these systems are not a process, they are machines. So, the conversation needs to be brought back to basics to some extent.”

Lee adds that communication is also important from the standpoint of both the customer’s teams and the equipment provider’s teams working largely as a single unit. “They need to be willing to absorb us within their everyday activities because they often don’t have the required level of hydraulic experience to understand and use the equipment effectively,” he said. “However, once the willingness to engage in this level of conversation is achieved things tend to go smoothly.”




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