SMD deliver QTrencher 500 compact high power trenching system

March 26, 2019

Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd. are pleased to announce completion of the first QTrencher 500 compact, high power trenching system developed for submarine cable installation and maintenance specialists, SubCom.

The new QTrencher 500 system provides additional 100HP versus its QT400 predecessor, without a weight penalty for a powerful, cost effective solution. The system combines proven SMD cable maintenance tools in an ultra-compact and lightweight arrangement, to deliver ultimate power within a small footprint. The high voltage transmission provides maximum thrust and jetting performance enabling trenching capability to a depth of up to 3.0m with multiple passes dependent on the ground conditions.

Paul Davison, Managing Director of SMD’s Equipment business comments “This system is a new product developed specifically for the submarine telecoms market, and marks a welcome sign of innovation and new product development in the sector. It’s 500HP in a compact footprint and 12TE weight limit make it the best in its class. The system also benefits from jet tooling and a new suite of sensors making it digital ready for future asset management. It’s developments like this that have made SMD equipment responsible for the burial and protection of over 80% of the world’s subsea telecoms cables.”

The vehicle is equipped with SMD’s latest surface control and power cabin layout and 12.5Te Wide Angle A-Frame operational in sea state 5, an umbilical winch with steel armoured umbilical for operation in 2500mwd.

John Dahlgren, Director of submersible systems at SubCom said “SubCom’s goal was to procure a vehicle system which would exceed client expectations for reliability, performance and cable protection. The result was a trencher, which incorporates SubCom’s vast telecom cable installation experience and drive for innovation with SMD’s proven engineering and manufacturing expertise. SubCom is confident this new vehicle will lead the telecom industry in burial power and capability inside a manageable and cost effective footprint, while also incorporating the latest advancements in subsea technology. We are thrilled to be adding the system to our fleet.”

For more information on our range of Trenching ROVs visit: https://www.smd.co.uk/our-products/qtrenchers/

General Deck Equipment Trenching

SMD Shanghai Complete Manufacture of Quantum MkIII WROV

January 29, 2019

Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) are pleased to announce that SMD Shanghai, SMD’s Chinese entity, have successfully completed the manufacture and commissioning of a Quantum MkIII work class remotely operated vehicle (WROV) at their facility in Lingang, Shanghai. This is the first WROV to be built at their facility since its opening in 2018.

SMD Shanghai’s facility is home to a 3700m2 workshop which contains an in-house training facility featuring a state-of-the-art ROV training simulator and 405m3 test tank. Having this capability in-house means that SMD Shanghai are able offer their customers a full solution from sales support to training and aftercare.

Andrew Starforth, Managing Director, SMD Shanghai comments, “I am thrilled that we have completed the manufacture of our first WROV system. This is a huge milestone for us to achieve and we have done so with a new team of engineers and technicians. I am looking forward to continuing our success here in Shanghai.”

The Quantum WROV is the largest and most heavy duty WROV in SMDs range, it offers an ideal solution for offshore tasks where high thruster performance and tooling power are required. Generous chassis space means that the system is versatile to allowing for upgrades and additional equipment to suit the customers’ requirements.

For more information on our range of Work Class ROVs visit: https://www.smd.co.uk/product-category/work-class-rovs/

General ROVS

Understanding the Self-Fleeting Cable Engine

October 2, 2018

 

It’s all about the cable!

When the SS Great Eastern laid the first successful transatlantic cables it used a drum-wheel with four turns of cable.  For the cable to enter and exit at the same positions it had to be fleeted, with the coil pushed sideways by a “knife”. 150 years later and that same layout is still widely used. The engineer of the Great Eastern hadn’t invented the concept; he was vastly improving the simpler rope windlass drums, including knives, familiar to old time sailors.

The drum is still the best way to hold a cable load but the knife pushing on the side is always an undesirable high side load contact – something that wears grooves – and when objects like repeaters and joints arrive, it is a skilled task to manipulate the coils and knife so the object can pass through cleanly.

Telecoms cables have become remarkably more resilient since those days but the gentler the cable handling during deployment, the lower the risk of an in-service failure.  Our ever more digital lives depend on the quality of those cables and how they are laid.

SMD has supplied linear cable engines of up to twenty wheel pairs which are, of course, knife-free – but few ships can afford the length of deck space required.   Linear engines also only work on the cable sheath which can limit the ultimate grip compared to drums.   SMD has also supplied plain drum tensioners with knives where that was the client preference or budget but has always looked for better solutions.

The self-fleeting challenge

In the 1980s there were several industry attempts to develop a self-fleeting cable tensioner that did not need knives, a drum where the cable would simply enter and exit in a continuous stable running spiral.   One of those systems had a series of transverse conveyors. There have also been modified knife concepts like fleeting rings.

A particularly interesting concept to SMD was a stave drum, where the surface of the drum is overlaid with a number of staves almost all gently moving to fleet the cable across the surface, counteracting the natural action of the cable to wind to the side of the drum. At the same time, a small number of staves are rapidly resetting in the opposite direction – all this being driven by a cam mechanism. However, the challenges of a cam and stave mechanism that can easily slide laterally while resisting high, unbalanced, radial and circumferential loads should not be underestimated – especially when that mechanism that has to operate continuously for months at a time in a harsh environment.

​SMD accepted that challenge and as a first exercise built an ROV umbilical pre-tensioner which proved the mechanism – it is still in factory service today. SMD’s engineers realised that driving the fleeting mechanism independently could deliver other cable manipulations, especially for passing objects. The experience was applied to a cable drum solution that equipped three ships in the early 2000s. The new-build cable lay vessel market went quiet for many years. Then, in 2017, recognising the improving demand for telecoms cable lay and other related applications, SMD completely re-engineered the product as a high precision production item with state-of-art variable speed drive controls.

The first pair of new cable engines was supplied to KCS (Kokusai Cable Ship Co.) in July 2018. A repeat purchase for them – they also operated first generation machines.

A Mesmerising Sight

To see a 4m diameter, 40 tonne capacity drum cable engine rotating at high speed with the horizontal staves all moving in a subtle wave motion, is mesmerising. The cable sits in a gentle spiral around the drum, rather like a standing wave, and all the while the cable is arriving and departing at speed. Couple that with a fast reacting electrical drive for constant tension control and it makes for a system that gives the cable the gentlest transition from storage tank to seabed.

Cable drums are based on the classic “capstan equation”, where the drum tension capacity T is given by:

T= THB eμΦ

and

THB = Holdback Tension

μ = friction

Φ = number of turns (in radians)

The cable friction is usually just a given. Holdback tension and number of turns are the only factors that can be practically adjusted. The initial holdback is provided by a short (4-wheel pair) linear cable engine.   A 50:1 multiplication of the holdback is easy to achieve with a few turns on the drum. The linear engine, as well as providing the holdback tension, also controls the cable entry on the drum and there is an adjustable guide on the other side for running in reverse when recovering a cable.

The lay tension resistance generated by the drum is dissipated in heat somewhere (the Great Eastern had wrought iron band brakes with wooden block shoes in a water bath).  The generated power, from load handling by electric drive, can potentially be fed back to the ship but due to risks of power distortion most customers prefer to dissipate it into the resistor bank as heating.

Passing Joints and Repeaters

Joints and repeaters are another area of potential risk for lay operations and cable integrity.   They are large objects relative to the cable and giving them the least stress as they pass from storage tank to sea significantly reduces the risk of something going wrong, either to themselves or to the adjacent cable wraps.   Ideally the joints and repeaters should pass around the drum without touching the other cable wraps.

This is something that the self-fleeting drum can do very well because the cam mechanism can operate at different speeds to the drum.  This can increase or decrease the fleeting effect – the coils can be as wide or as narrow as the user desires within the limits of the drum width.    Also, if the cam ring rotates at the same speed and direction as the drum, then there is no fleeting effect and the net effect is a plain drum.   Using a combination of these effects and moving the linear engine can set up an ideal spacing suitable for a repeater arrival.  When the repeater arrives, the drum can stop fleeting and the repeater pass around a plain drum without landing on any coils.  The whole process can take place without pause to the lay.

New Applications

In deep sea lift operations, the self-weight of steel ropes negates their lift capacity at depth.  Aramid type fibre ropes have been seen as the answer as they have low weight in water and excellent net lift capacity even at ultra-depths.   However, fibre ropes do not hold their shape when under high tension on a multi-layered winch drum.  Introducing a self-fleeting cable drum tensioner may be the answer as the main rope can then be reeled on a low tension storage drum.

Analogies with the transatlantic cable lay can be a bit tenuous now.  Nonetheless, it is surprising how many things they got right on those first lays.  However, the wisdom of putting the cable through the least possible handling risk always remains true and self-fleeting drums can certainly help to do that.

General Deck Equipment

QTrencher 1600 and 48Te A-Frame Delivered to Van Oord Commences First Job

August 8, 2018

Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) are pleased to announce that the QTrencher 1600 and its associated deck equipment package delivered in April 2018 to Van Oord, has commenced its first job at Borkum-2 wind farm.

Van Oord’s deck equipment for the QT1600, Dig-It, included a 48Te launch and recovery system (LARS) with A-Frame, cursor docking head, umbilical winch with snatch limiter and hydraulic power unit ensuring safe and reliable deployment of the QTrencher 1600 in higher sea states.

Paul Hatchett, Managing Director SMD Deck Equipment comments, “SMD have been delivering safe and reliable launch and recovery and cable handling equipment for over 35 years, and we have used our expertise to deliver a Lloyds Register approved system to our new customer, Van Oord. We have designed this LARS to offer flexibility and ease of maintenance to our customer. The compact design means that Van Oord are not restricted on the layout of their vessel, with the system being compact enough for operation across the beam and over the stern. Together with SMD’s QTrencher 1600 Van Oord will be able to increase their operational window, working in conditions up to sea state 6.”

The deck equipment comes equipped with a state-of-the-art cursor launch system which allows high sea state deployment using the lift winch. SMD’s cursor launch system protects the vehicle’s umbilical and ensures operational loads are within safety factors at all times, even when the air weight of the vehicle exceeds the safe working load of the umbilical.

Furthermore, the integration of the snatch limiting device means the system is able to handle transitions through the splash zone, from heavy-in-air to light-in-water without transferring shock loads to the umbilical. This function prevents the umbilical from becoming overloaded, and also handles slack umbilical to prevent damage during vehicle recovery which can be caused by vessel motion in high sea states.

The QT1600, Dig-It, has commenced cable installation work which should be finished in July 2018. Once completed in 2019, the Borkum-2 offshore wind farm will deliver green energy to an equivalent of 460,000 households. The offshore wind farm is located 54 kilometres off the coast of Lower Saxony, Germany.

General Deck Equipment Trenching

SMD's Multi-Mode Pre Lay Plough Completes First Job for Assodivers Ltd

June 21, 2018

World leading subsea equipment designer and manufacturer Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) are pleased to announce that their Multi-Mode Pre Lay Plough, delivered to Greek offshore contractors Assodivers Ltd in Spring this year, has successfully completed its first offshore job in the Baltic sea.

The Multi-Mode Pre Lay Plough is the newest addition to SMD’s power cable installation and protection product range. This plough has configurations for boulder clearing, trenching and backfill. The boulder clearance pass clears a 13.0m wide route including surface and submerged boulders. The trenching pass creates an engineered ‘Y’ trench profile with a secure power cable pocket for subsequent lay process. The backfill pass moves the cut spoil excluding boulders back over the product for maximum cover. All three modes have responsive and controlled steering and a fully integrated sensor suite for as built survey of performance.

Managing Director for SMD’s Subsea Business, Paul Davison comments, “I am thrilled that we have been able to deliver the plough with all three configurations. Having multiple configurations available means this one plough can be set up to carry out a campaign of route clearance and power cable installation and cover processes making it economical in both cost and time, minimising lay risk and maximising lay speed. Assodivers are the first client who have this capability in a single vehicle. We have a longstanding relationship with Assodivers, they have two of our Atom Work Class ROV systems already in their fleet and we are pleased that they trust us and our equipment.”

The equipment was mobilised on board Assodivers’ DP-2 Construction Support Vessel, the Aethra, directly from SMD’s quayside access point.

Technical Manager from Assodivers, Aggelos Tziotakis comments, “We are excited with the opportunities that have arisen from the use of a unique tool such as the multi-mode pre-lay plough; The vehicle has already performed its maiden work in the offshore fields of the Baltic with very successful results.”

Offering a full turnkey solution, SMD delivered a 20ft Control Cabin and a 60Te stabilising frame operational in up to sea state 5 via their dedicated Deck Equipment business. The team were able to integrate the 60Te stabilising frame with Assodivers’ existing A-Frame.

The scissor type stabilising frame used in conjunction with the A-Frame is designed to maintain plough orientation and reduce side to side movement during launch and recovery; fore and aft motion is restricted by the tow wire.

Deck Equipment Trenching

SMD Develop Fast ROV Capability

April 23, 2018

As price pressures continue in the ROV industry, the need for operators to reduce operational costs through the adoption of new technologies is increasingly apparent.

For areas such as seabed mapping and pipeline inspection, where traditional work class ROV systems remain the preferred choice, SMD has recognised the limitations of the current technology available and developed FLO, a new high-speed Survey and Inspection ROV system, capable of delivering higher quality survey data and significant time savings in offshore operations.

Traditionally, standard work class ROVs have speed limitations due to their size, weight and hydrodynamics. They can also be unsteady operating at higher speeds.

SMD engineered FLO, a high-speed variant based on proven SMD ROV fleet technology, to perform tasks faster and more efficiently. The new system has a top speed of 6 Knots and the ability to hold position in currents up to 4 Knots from any direction. FLO also boasts 50% faster survey times compared to conventional work class ROVs and is capable of significantly extending the operational window in areas where high currents are prevalent, especially within the renewables sector.

From concept to manufacture, the new high-speed ROV by SMD, has been designed around the latest sensor payloads it would be tasked to carry in order to perform offshore, whilst also providing the most stable and acoustically quiet platform possible to gather quality survey data.

In order to provide this level of performance, FLO uses SMD’s advanced ROV drivetrain technology in a low profile hydrodynamic package less than half the height and half the weight of a typical Work Class ROV. Coupled with eight open water vectored thrusters and SMD’s advanced ROV control automation, FLO is able to accurately navigate and remain stable at high speeds while close to the seabed.

FLO can also be operated in free swimming mode for shallow water and uses a tether management system (TMS) in deeper water. Although travelling at high speed creates drag on the ROV umbilical, in water depths of 500m in free swimming mode, FLO has the power to achieve speeds greater than 4 Knots.

To ensure optimised deployment and retrieval of FLO in difficult conditions. SMD has drawn upon its’ 45 years of Deck Equipment design to offer purpose designed LARS system which incorporates innovative functions including the auto cable render and a gimballing docking head.

ROVS

SMD Sign Contract to Supply Atom Mk1 ROV System to China Southern Power Grid

April 12, 2018

World leading subsea equipment design and manufacturer Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) are pleased to announce the signature of a contract to supply its Atom Mk1 1000m 100hp Work Class Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) system to Chinese power specialist China Southern Power Extra High Voltage Power Transmission Company (EHV, CSG), a subsidiary of the state-owned China Southern Power Grid (CSG).

The ROV will be used for inspection of the 31km physical power cable connections in the Qiongzhou Strait between Hainan Island and mainland China. The Qiongzhou strait often experiences high currents so it was essential that CSG chose a compact and powerful ROV to cope with the harsh conditions.

The Atom system is SMD’s lightest work class ROV suitable for offshore power applications, survey and light construction duties, and can be mobilised on vessels with limited deck space. For this contract, SMD will integrate a TSS350 cable tracking system and other survey tools to perform cable inspection.

Mark Collins, SMD business development director, said: “Our Atom system has a proven track record working in challenging operational environments, varying from shallow waters and high currents to scorching temperatures, all of which can cause significant problems for standard work class ROVs. For this order, Atom will showcase its ability to operate in high currents and will call upon its market-leading dynamic positioning system to ensure survey data is of the highest quality.”

Scheduled for delivery at the end of 2018, the ROV will be equipped with SMD’s proven and reliable range of Curvetech® components, DVECSII control system and 20ft control cabin which will be mobilised on board CSG’s new cable installation vessel. As part of the contract, SMD Services is also providing bespoke training courses to ensure CSG’s operational team are prepared with the necessary operating skills.

SMD Services will utilise CRRC SMD Shanghai’s facilities to support mobilisation of the ROV on board CSG’s new vessel. They will also lead on the sea trials ensuring the ROV operates at maximum capacity with support from the SMD Services offshore team, who will be on hand to provide assistance for any on deck ROV support.

ROVS

SMD helps major international underwater mining project move a step closer to reality

November 17, 2017

UK-based subsea engineering specialist Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) has successfully completed first stage testing in a pioneering project which is set to uncover valuable European mineral resources.

SMD is technical lead on the VAMOS (viable alternative mine operating system) project, a 42-month international research and development venture, which is part-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

At a cost of approximately 12.6 million Euros, SMD and its partners in the VAMOS Consortium, have designed and built a robotic underwater mining prototype with launch and recovery technology to perform field tests at four EU mining sites.

Stef Kapusniak, Project Director at SMD, explains: “The performance of the system is based on proven remotely controlled underwater excavation techniques made possible by improvements in underwater positioning, navigation and awareness systems. It will provide a safer and cleaner option for extracting inland submerged mineral deposits. The technique is suitable for soft to medium strength rock in orebodies below the water table. We envisage application in the form of extensions to existing surface mines, re-opening of abandoned un-rehabilitated mines and direct application in previously unworked mineral deposits which are in hydrologically challenging ground. Testing at the first trial site in an abandoned kaolin mine in Devon went very well. Testing at further sites in different rock types at different water depths will enable confirmation of the system’s potential for industrial scale applications. This is a very exciting time, as completion of testing will enable determination of the practical range of application in this emerging market.”

SMD is a market leading global company with over 45 years’ experience in the subsea technology sector, specialising in the development of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and advanced trenching and mining machines.

Paul Davison, SMD Managing Director of Trenching, Mining and Renewables, said: “I’m very pleased with how the VAMOS project is progressing. This is the first project of its kind for us and so it has been a great learning opportunity. I hope its success will create new opportunities for us all, as well as continue to demonstrate our passion for innovation and delivering world-first projects.”

During November the system will be demobilised and prepared for transport from the UK to the second test site in Bosnia and Herzegovina in spring 2018.

The VAMOS project launched in March 2016. The consortium includes 16 members from nine EU countries.

Other members of the consortium are BMT Group Ltd, Damen Shipyards Group, Instituto de Engenharia Sistemas e Computadores, Fugro EMU Ltd, Zentrum für Telematik e.V., Montanuniversität Leoben, Minerália, Lda, Sandvik Mining and Construction G.m.b.H, Geological survey of Slovenia, La Palma Research Centre for Future Studies, European Federation of Geologists, Trelleborg Ede Bv, Federalni zavod za Geologijo and Fondacija za obnovu I razvoj regije Vareš.

SMD operates three strategic sites in the North East of England; a head office and heavy production facility at Davy Bank in Wallsend, a manufacturing site in North Shields and a new Services operational base at the Port of Tyne.

SMD is a subsidiary of Chinese parent company CRRC Group, the world’s largest provider of propulsion and power control systems. The company continues to expand its global network and is currently investing in a new sales and manufacturing facility in Shanghai.

Mining

SMD urges graduate engineers to join the team!

November 10, 2017

North east-based subsea engineering specialist Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) is urging university students to apply to its Graduate scheme.

The two-year intensive training and development programme aims to cultivate young engineers in a variety of disciplines to work across SMD sites in North East England.

Chloe Hopper, SMD HR Manager, explains: “Investing in young people is vital for the future. We know there’s a skills shortage in the UK manufacturing sector making vacancies in mechanical and electrical engineering difficult to fill. In a highly competitive and specialised industry like ours, recruiting fresh talent through our graduate scheme is crucial in enabling us to develop the skills and talent required to take on these roles. We hope to recruit up to four graduates this academic year. Applicants don’t have to be from the North East, as long as they have the right qualifications and a desire to work in an exciting and fast paced environment. Our focus at SMD is personal and professional development with genuine career progression. We take a long-term approach to growing, inspiring and training the business and engineering leaders of tomorrow to future-proof the business. For anyone considering relocating to join us, the North East truly is a wonderful place to live and work. House prices and rentals are cheaper, it’s less crowded, and we have vibrant towns and cities like Newcastle, packed with history and entertainment, beautiful coastlines and stunning countryside.”

SMD is a market leading global company with over 45 years’ experience in the subsea technology sector and a North East engineering success story. The company is widely regarded throughout the international subsea industry for being an excellent employer, attracting top engineering talent locally, nationally and overseas.

The company has launched a national search to attract new graduates both online and through regularly attending careers fairs at various universities across the country including Loughborough, Bath and Northumbria University.

Graduates joining SMD receive theoretical and experiential learning to give them an in-depth knowledge of the business, its divisions and product life-cycle from concept to manufacture, commissioning and customer support.

Benefits of the scheme include a competitive starting salary, support to achieve chartered engineer status and additional training and educational qualifications, overseas travel, private healthcare and a contributory pension.

Dominic Kent, a Northumbria University graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, said: “When I graduated in 2015 I chose SMD because of the opportunities that were available and because I would be able to rotate around the different areas of the business. One of the highlights of my career so far has been working on research and development projects. It is exciting to be involved in new product development because you get to see an idea progress from concept to reality and to know that you have been part of that process is really exciting, not to mention the really good experience it gives you!”

Specialising in the development of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and advanced ploughing, trenching and mining machines, SMD has a global reputation in the design and manufacture of ROVs and subsea intervention solutions within the oil and gas, renewables, telecoms and mining markets. This includes bespoke projects such as the world’s first three deep sea mining machines delivered in 2016.

The company operates three strategic sites in the North East; a head office and heavy production facility at Davy Bank in Wallsend, a manufacturing site in North Shields and a new servicing operations base at the Port of Tyne. SMD is a subsidiary of Chinese parent company CRRC TEC Ltd, the world’s largest provider of propulsion and power control systems. The company continues to expand its global network and is currently investing in a new sales and manufacturing facility in Shanghai.

General

SMD Engineers performance testing the Curvetech® HTE_430 thruster in our tank

March 3, 2017

Watch the video to see our Curvetech® Thrusters in action.

Curvetech®