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

UK team set to take on the world in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE final

December 4, 2018

 

A team of North East-based subsea engineering experts are preparing to represent the UK in the final of the prestigious $7m Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition to map the sea floor.

This month TeamTao, the only UK team and one of the smallest to reach the grand final of the Ocean XPRIZE, head to Greece to field test their technology in the last round of the prestigious international competition, which aims to create next generation tools and techniques for rapid, unmanned ocean exploration and discovery.

The designated competition area is roughly 500 sq km of seafloor, which is equivalent to an area the size of Paris. The teams get 24 hours to map as much of the area as possible at a resolution of 5m horizontally and 0.5m vertically. There can be no human intervention and the equipment must fit within a 40ft container.

During the final round testing, TeamTao will showcase their autonomous swarm system technology, and compete against seven other teams from around the world to map the largest area of seafloor in deep waters off the coast of Greece near the port city of Kalamata.

TeamTao will demonstrate the capability and efficiency of their swarm system of subsea drones and an autonomous surface deployment and recovery vessel to chart the seafloor and identify 10 archaeological, biological or geological features of interest at any depth.

Based in the National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering at Newcastle University, TeamTao brings together experts from UK-based subsea engineering specialist Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) and Newcastle University.

Dale Wakeham, SMD Design Engineer and TeamTao Project Leader, said: “The team has been working tirelessly during the last six months to develop and refine the technology and we are looking forward to representing the UK in such a prestigious international arena. The Ocean XPRIZE competition presents a significant challenge but we are using it as an opportunity to accelerate development and showcase to the world what the future of subsea survey looks like.”

The Ocean XPRIZE team that comes out on top will win $4m. Second place earns $1m.

Dr Jeff Neasham, the team’s sonar expert and a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University, added: “Newcastle University is immensely proud to be part of TeamTao and to have reached the final of the Ocean X-prize Competition. It has been hugely challenging to develop an innovative seabed mapping solution from scratch and we are very excited to see how this technology can impact ocean exploration in the future.”

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.

Mike Jones, SMD CEO, said: “To reach the final has been an outstanding achievement. We began this journey with an ambitious dream on a minimal budget and secured a fantastic partner in Newcastle University to create TeamTao. Together we have engineered a truly pioneering and cost-effective method of rapidly mapping the ocean floor and water column. In recent months, we’ve also received further support from a number of partners and generous sponsors, including UK Research and Innovation. This has enabled us to scale-up operations dramatically, and while there is still a lot of hard work to do, we’re on track to demonstrate our system’s capabilities, which are revolutionary both in terms of cost and speed of map generation, and once scaled up, they will change the way our oceans are monitored in future.”

The winning team will be announced in March 2019.

SMD and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are the title sponsors behind TeamTao. 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, Robotics and AI Challenge Director at UK Research and Innovation, said: “TeamTao encapsulates all that is great about the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund investment in Robotics and AI technologies. To see both SMD and Newcastle University develop innovative solutions so quickly to address the Shell XPRIZE challenge is awe-inspiring. As the only UK-based consortium left in the competition, I wish them every success in the forthcoming trials.”

Other sponsors and supporters of TeamTao include Rajant, Sonardyne, WAM-V, Lenovo, Altair, Swansea University, Advanced Industrial Solutions, Solidworks and Volz Servos.

In addition to TeamTao representing the UK, other teams competing in the final represent Germany, Japan, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States.

To advance to the final round, the eight semi-finalist teams had to pass a technology readiness test. This included a site visit by XPRIZE staff and judges where the technology was tested against rigorous measurement criteria to show the approach was capable of meeting the operational requirements necessary for rapid, unmanned, high-resolution ocean mapping.

Events

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 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

A Dynamic Underwater Mining Solution

November 3, 2016

March 2016: Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) and Underwater Mining Solutions (UMS) are teaming up to offer customers the full scope of mining equipment required for underwater mining projects, both offshore and inland, and in all territories.

Their combined expertise, and the strength of each of their parent companies, enable SMD and UMS to provide customers with proven, de-risked solutions to deep-sea, near-shore and inland underwater exploration, mining and processing.

SMD have over forty years of experience in subsea engineering and remote intervention, having delivered over 400 subsea systems to date.  The company, who have unrivalled experience in the marinisation of earth moving equipment for use in deep water, have recently delivered the world’s first three commercial deep-sea mining vehicles for Nautilus Minerals.

UMS have delivered commercial shallow water mining solutions and have capability to provide a complete system including mining vehicles and corresponding launch & recovery systems, vessel conversion, ore processing, transportation, separation and ancillary ore handling equipment.

SMD and UMS’ complementary product portfolio, means customers can spread risk across the supply chain, and benefit from integration of this complementary equipment and services from an early stage and throughout the life cycle of the mining projects.

Robert Denovan, UMS: “The minerals industry is currently in a ‘belt-tightening’ period. We are now in the perfect position to offer larger mining houses the solutions they need to help them get through this period, and to help them emerge into the next growth phase with a competitive edge.”

Toby Lambooy, UMS: “We can now offer our inland customers exactly what they want and need – a safely delivered mining and mineral processing solution at a price below that of conventional mining techniques, with a much smaller environmental footprint.”

Stef Kapusniak, SMD: “We’re delighted to be able to offer the emerging underwater mining market, both inland and offshore, an unrivalled capability from a group that provides the experience and ability to deliver market-leading solutions.”

SMD are also the Technical Manager on the Vamos Project which is a consortium funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The Vamos project team are developing a submerged mining solution to exploit existing inland mines which are no longer economically viable by conventional mining methods.  The programme will develop processes and technology, such as mining navigation, sensing and awareness systems, to be exploited in this new and emerging market.

General

Commissioning of Final SPT Begins

November 2, 2016

May 2015: Our Mining team saw another major milestone in the first quarter of 2015 as the commissioning of the third and final of the Seafloor Production Tools (SPT), the Auxiliary Cutter, began.

The three SPTs have been in assembly in SMD’s main Wallsend heavy equipment assembly hall, known as the Turbinia Works, throughout 2014.  The launch and recovery equipment was assembled at various locations in Norway, Poland and Korea and is already complete.

Nautilus’ CEO, Mike Johnston said “We are very excited that commissioning of the final of the three SPTs has begun. With the Bulk Cutter and the Collecting Machine having already begun Factory Acceptance Testing and now with the Auxiliary Cutter underway, we are on track to complete this testing phase and take delivery of the three SPTs in Q4 2015.”

SMD’s Managing Director, Mike Jones commented “This is always an important and delicate phase, particularly when developing such large scale and high power technology. The experience from the first two SPTs will be a great help in this.  We look forward to their despatch for wet testing later this year.”

So How Will They Work?

The excavation and collection of mineralised material has been split into three individual tasks, with each carried out by a different SPT. The Auxiliary Cutter is designed as the pioneering tool which prepares the rugged sea bed for the more powerful Bulk Cutter. These two tools gather the excavated material; the third, the Collecting Machine, will collect the cut material by drawing it in as seawater slurry with internal pumps and pushing it through a flexible pipe to the subsea pump and on to the vessel via the Riser and Lifting System.

The Auxiliary Cutter weighs in at 250 tonnes. It is a preparatory machine that deals with rough terrain and creates benches for the other SPTs to work on. It will operate on tracks with spud assistance and has a boom mounted cutting head for flexibility.

The Bulk Cutter is the heaviest of the three SPTs, weighing 310 tonnes when fully assembled. It is designed to be the high productivity machine responsible for the bulk of production.

The Collecting Machine is the lightest of the three SPTs, weighing 200 tonnes when fully assembled. It is designed to collect material cut from the seafloor by drawing it in as seawater slurry with internal pumps and pushing it through a flexible pipe to the Riser and Lifting System and onto the vessel.

What will they mine?

The vehicles will be used to mine polymetallic sulphides, rich in copper and gold, at the Solwara 1 deposit which sits on the seafloor at a water depth of some 1600 metres, off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The mine site boasts a copper grade of approximately 7%, which is significantly higher than land-based copper mines, where the copper grade today averages typically 0.6%. In addition, gold grades of well over 20 g/tonne have been recorded in some intercepts at Solwara 1 and the average grade is approximately 6 g/tonne.

General