Predictive sim for real-time answers

Real-time, virtual prototyping of lifts can save time and money Real-time, virtual prototyping of lifts can save time and money

Simulation has stepped away from being a training tool and is now being used to optimise complex lift and engineering projects. Moreover, it promises to save wasted time, effort - and money.

“In the past we focused on making simulation as real as possible,” said Joel Mills, CEO of Norway-based OSC. But the development of advanced graphic cards in particular made for very fast calculations: “Real-time – that’s the key word here,” he said, and added “it suddenly clicked” that given this ability, simulators, rather than aiming to recreate the onboard environment, could become a working tool.

Fundamentally, this high power processing gave OSC the ability to develop advanced technology which allow for ‘dropping in’ of vessels, offshore structures, cranes and other equipment “so that as long as you know their parameters, you can rely on the simulation’s physics to give you a realistic prediction of what will happen”. He added that even if OSC doesn’t have the identical vessel already in its library, it will usually have one “close enough” to indicate the pathway forward. In the past this virtual trial run has prompted further development with a more accurate model.

There’s a growing interest from the maritime industry he explained: “If the risk is high with a project, it may already have a cost-heavy solution... so often people come to us to find a more optimal solution.”

Further, the simulations give operators “an understanding of how the components work together”. Sounds obvious, but it can be overlooked.

“For example, people working with cranes, they’ll spend all their time talking about the wave heights... discuss why fibre over wire rope, or wire over fibre,” said Mills. “Actually when you put that crane on a vessel, you can find that 90% of that data is irrelevant.” Why? It’s sometimes just because the specs don’t gel, he explained; so while the crane may be able to operate in the given area, it can’t perform to the required level while the vessel is encountering particularly dynamic seas.

A number of projects have already benefited from OSC’s virtual engineering approach: for one particular crane and vessel combination “the simulation clearly showed the operators didn’t have enough control over the lift” said Mills. A bigger vessel was the only realistic answer.

Another, involving a particularly heavy offshore lift involving a pair of Hereema vessels, showed that the original concept “just didn’t work as planned”. But collaboration with the engineering team uncovered a relatively simple fix and a month later “it all went perfectly”, said Mills. He added: “That’s why building up the full scenario within simulator and understanding how all these things operate together is a game changer.”

As Mills concluded: “When people are doing something for the first time and they are not doing it in a simulation, to me that’s kind of crazy - do it first in a safe environment where you are not taking risks. You can save much more money than you’d be paying for the simulators.”

By Stevie Knight

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