SMD to Supply Multi-Mode Pre Lay Plough to Boskalis

June 7, 2019

Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd are pleased to announce that they have signed a contract to supply a 200Te Multi-Mode Pre Lay Plough to leading marine service provider Boskalis N.V.

Set for delivery in spring 2020, the Pre Lay Plough comes with SMD’s latest surface control equipment which will be mobilised on the bridge of a Boskalis specialist trenching vessel.

The Multi-Mode Pre Lay Plough is an established member of SMD’s power cable installation and protection product range and is available with configurations for trenching and backfill. The plough will come equipped with a 2.1m share suitable for trenching in sands and hard clays up to 600kPa and has configurations for trenching and backfill. The trenching pass creates an engineered ‘Y’ trench profile with a secure power cable pocket for subsequent lay process and the backfill pass moves the cut spoil back over the product for maximum cover.

Paul Davison, Managing Director of SMD’s Equipment Business comments, “We are delighted with this second award from Boskalis following the CBT2400 Trencher contract. We’ve worked hard with Boskalis to evolve the Multi-Mode Plough design, improve its performance and minimise environmental impact on the seabed.  Minimising lay risk and maximising lay speed are key drivers and being able to carry out a campaign of trenching and backfilling using a single vehicle makes operations economical in both cost and time. We look forward to cementing a solid working relationship.”

Read more about our plough range: https://www.smd.co.uk/our-products/ploughs/

General Trenching

Team Tao Receive Special Recognition in Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE Competition

June 3, 2019

A team of North East-based subsea engineering experts from Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) and Newcastle University have been recognised for their innovative engineering approach in the prestigious Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition.

Team Tao, the only UK team and one of the smallest to reach the grand final of the Ocean XPRIZE, were recognised for their highly innovative approach as the organisers announced a surprise additional Moonshot Award at the prestigious awards ceremony held in Monaco.

During the final round testing, Team Tao demonstrated their autonomous swarm system technology launched from an ASV, and competed against seven other teams from around the world to map an area the size of Paris in deep waters off the coast of Greece near the port city of Kalamata.

Team Tao were able to clearly demonstrate the capability and efficiency of their swarm system of subsea drones and an autonomous surface deployment and recovery vessel.

Dale Wakeham, SMD Design Engineer and Team Tao Project Leader, said: “It has been an honour to compete in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE Competition, our small team has worked tirelessly over the past year to develop and prove our technology. While the Ocean XPRIZE competition posed a significant challenge, it has been an opportunity to showcase to the world what the future of subsea survey looks like.”

 

Mike Jones, SMD CEO, said: “I am delighted that Team Tao has received this Moonshot Award as recognition for their hard work and achievement. We began this journey with an ambitious dream, a small, young energetic team, a clean sheet of paper and a modest budget.   With Newcastle University we secured a fantastic partner to create Team Tao. Solving engineering problems by looking at them from a different angle is the essence of what we do at SMD, and Team Tao has engineered a truly pioneering way to efficiently survey the ocean floor and water column. I’d like to thank our partners and sponsors who have generously supported us on our journey through the Ocean XPRIZE competition, and in particular UK Research and Innovation. We still have a lot of hard work and investment ahead of us to bring this technology to market.  When we do we are confident that this will change the way we understand our oceans in future.”

 

Nick Wright, Newcastle University Team Lead, said: “The project has been a fantastic collaboration that has really stretched the team to be inventive and imaginative – with contributions from the team based at the National Centre and also at the Newcastle University SEALAB, led by Jeff Neasham, who have provided a world-leading sonar technology.”

The competition is part of XPRIZE’s 10-year Ocean Initiative – a commitment made to launch five multi-million dollar prizes by 2020 to address critical ocean challenges and inspire innovation that helps create an ocean that is healthy, valued and understood.

SMD and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are the title sponsors behind Team Tao. SMD is a world-leading designer and manufacturer of specialist subsea remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) based in Newcastle upon Tyne. UKRI is a national funding agency with a £6 billion budget to invest in science and research across the UK. It brings together seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England.  Newcastle University is a world-leader in subsea engineering and acoustics research, bringing together experts from a wide range of engineering and scientific backgrounds.

Andrew Tyrer, Challenge Director – Robotics, UK Research and Innovation, said: “The technology showcased by Team Tao represents the best in UK innovation and it is fantastic that this has been recognised by the judges in this competition. The UK is a world leader in the field of robotics and UK Research and Innovation is supporting this vital sector through the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.”

Other sponsors and supporters of Team Tao include Rajant, Sonardyne, WAM-V, Lenovo, Altair, Swansea University, Advanced Industrial Solutions, Solidworks, Matrix Composites & Engineering and Volz Servos.

Learn more about Team Tao

Learn more about the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize

General

SMD Deliver CBT2400 to Boskalis

May 28, 2019

Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) are pleased to announce the delivery of an ultra-high powered, compact 2400hp Cable Burial Tractor (CBT2400) to Boskalis.

The CBT2400 and associated deck equipment were mobilised directly onto Boskalis’ specialist cable lay vessel, the NDEAVOR from the Swan Hunter quayside access point adjacent to SMD’s production facility. The tractor will be operated by Boskalis and specialist trenching contractor, Canyon Offshore.

The CBT2400 is the latest addition to SMD’s existing burial tractor range and is an evolution of the CBT2100 which was last delivered in 2011. Drawing on decades of experience of track driven vehicles, SMD designed this CBT2400 to provide a reliable solution for protecting cables in hard ground with interchangeable cassette tooling. The tractor provides a remote-control platform with a range of trenching tools for different ground strengths; the tool consists of a hard ground cutting boom, rear jetting tools for lowering the power cable and next generation eduction tools for spoil clearance. The vehicle operates in post lay mode and has been specifically designed for safe handling of the product. The CBT range is a family of subsea tractor systems capable of trenching power cables in seabed’s ranging from sands and clays to rock in ultra-shallow, beach approach work or deep water.

Paul Davison, Managing Director of SMD’s Equipment Business comments, “Boskalis are one of the most experienced marine service providers’ in the offshore wind industry and we are delighted that they have chosen our equipment to strengthen their trenching capability. The project is a great example of how we pride ourselves on working in partnership with our customers; the unique combination of tools has been a collaborative effort between SMD’s design experts and the combined operational expertise of Boskalis and Canyon Offshore. This effort and commitment to technology and innovation is the reason we continue to be the world leader in delivering subsea trenching equipment.”

SMD Services conducted specialised training for Boskalis and Canyon Offshore’s offshore personnel at their in-house training facility earlier this month ensuring that they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to operate the new tractor.

General Trenching

SMD’s Quasar WROV Reaches 5760m Subsea

April 1, 2019

March 2019:

Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd are pleased to announce that a deep-sea Quasar Work Class Remotely Operated Vehicle (WROV) has successfully completed sea trials. The 6000m rated WROV, complemented with an electric drive dual-purpose winch and Launch and Recovery System (LARS), reached the seabed at 5,760m during the trials. The complete turnkey solution was recently delivered to Shanghai Salvage and has undergone extensive testing at various depths. The system was supplied with interchangeable winch drums which can be changed out on deck to achieve operational service at depths up to 3000m or 6000m when required.

By making use of electric motors powered via a Low Harmonic Variable Speed Drive application, rather than hydraulics, SMD were able to offer an environmentally friendly energy-efficient launch system.

Paul Davison, Managing Director of SMD’s Equipment business comments, “This is a significant milestone for our WROV and deck technology. Reaching maximum operating depth during sea trials establishes the Quasar WROV as the most capable deep-water WROV in the market. Being able to operate at such depths opens up endless possibilities for the deep-sea salvage, survey and exploration markets and I am looking forward to watching this market continue to grow.”

For more information on our range of WROVs visit: https://www.smd.co.uk/our-products/work-class-rovs/quasar-work-class-rov/

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

SMD wins contract for supply of Quasar MKII System

November 3, 2016

September 2016: Shanghai Salvage Company (also known as China Offshore Engineering Shanghai, Co), a state owned entity who have a long history in diving and salvage have signed an order with SMD for a Quasar MKII 6000m remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Scheduled for delivery in the first half of 2017, the system will include a full suite of equipment suitable for both deep sea salvage and oil and gas operations.

“We are delighted that Shanghai Salvage have chosen SMD as their ROV equipment supplier,” said Mark Collins, Managing Director of SMD ROV Systems. “This system includes some new innovations in ROV modularity that will enable the client to operate across a wider range of markets, maximising revenue potential from their SMD asset. We believe that modular systems, which can be quickly optimised for a particular operation, will become important as clients continue to seek reductions in their operating costs. SMD’s ability to offer innovative products coupled with a strong global service network will support Shanghai Salvage as they expand.”

The ROV is a deep water version of SMD’s standard Quasar which has an extensive track record across various industry sectors. It will be one of the most powerful and capable systems to operate down to 6000m.

Deck equipment for the project, which will be designed and manufactured by SMD, includes a dual use 3000m/6000m winch and two cursor launch and recovery systems, one of which will be hanger mounted, the other mobile. The umbilical winches will be electrically driven with an axial fleeting configuration and active heave compensation, and provide the ability for interchangeable drums to accommodate steel wire armoured and aramid umbilical.

SMD’s deck equipment capability has been developed and refined over decades of experience. Leading the deck equipment business, Paul Hatchett explains “SMD has a long track record of designing and building more than four hundred systems with highly capable deck equipment for a broad range of subsea vehicle and cable handling applications. By holding this experience and capability within a dedicated unit in SMD we offer operators such as Shanghai Salvage a reliable and bespoke solution, which is seamlessly integrated with the subsea vehicle system.”

General ROVS