Intelligent control block prevents dangerous windlass failure
Hauling an anchor in sudden, heavy seas can wreak havoc on windlass motors writes Stevie Knight.
“The problem occurs when a vessel is trying to pull in the anchor but it’s being pushed back by water, you get quite a lot of stress being transferred from the chain in bad conditions,” said Bernd Waldschmidt of TTS. “In a very short time, the motor is well outside its operating limits,” added his colleague, Bujar Percani.
While damage is common even on electric windlasses (an event compounded by losing both chain and anchor), where high-pressure hydraulic units are concerned a catastrophic failure can be a dangerous event.
Given all this, TTS has invested a significant amount of time and effort to mitigate the issue. It’s not been easy: In the beginning, even the details of the process that lay behind these events “just weren’t clear enough”, said Waldschmidt.
In fact, the development of the Intelligent Control Block was a long process of trial and error: on the one hand, it needed to be sensitive enough to detect a relevant overload, but not be so twitchy it’d needlessly interrupt normal operations. More, the system also had to activate within a split-second: “We had to get it to react inside a very narrow band,” explained Percani.
Finally, the team arrived at a device that would automatically maintain a balance between chain tension and windlass power, protecting the motor and giving the crew extra time to take alternative measures.
Although the new technology seemed to work well enough, scoring nearly 100% on the testbed, “we wanted to test out in real circumstances, where the weather is in the upper limits”, said Percani. A vessel was duly chartered, and the block was put through its paces.
Even here it performed outstandingly well, so as a result, the Intelligent Control Block has been embedded in all TTS’ new hydraulic winches as standard and it has also been made available as a safety upgrade for retrofits.
By Stevie Knight
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