Maritime News
- New Thruster Portfolio to be developed by 2020

|News by Maritime News by | 10.12.2013 |

On November 28, 2013, Wärtsilä inaugurated its brand new test facility for developing future propulsion products and related technology. The Wärtsilä Propulsion Test Centre, located in Tuusula close to Helsinki in southern Finland, will enhance the company's capabilities in product validation and research activities. It was established and funded by Wärtsilä with strong support from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, who will provide the resources to operate the facility.

According to Wärtsilä, the new facility enables the group to speed up the development of new, high quality and environmentally sound propulsion products, with the work to be done in cooperation with research institutes, universities and suppliers. It will have a central role in propulsion related research and development activities carried out by the company. In particular, the test centre will be used for functional and endurance testing with an emphasis on mechanical power transfer.

The test installation consists of a very rigid steel test rig, under which propulsion drives and thrusters, tunnel thrusters and new units to be developed can be attached and tested. The unit can accommodate thrusters up to some 2.4 MW in power, which is the power of the electric motor of the test rig, but the system allows for limited duration overload of up to 3 MW, reached in off-design conditions, in a speed range between 750rpm to 1,800rpm. The main components are the electrical motor, controlled by a frequency converter, a hydraulic load system which provides realistic loads to the propulsion unit as close to that of real operational conditions. The electrical motor has a nominal speed of 1,000rpm at 2MW. For the thruster installed, combining the upper and lower gearboxes the ratio of 4 to 1 gives a propeller speed of 250rpm. After the propulsion unit, driven by the propeller shaft of the unit to be tested, is a specially designed gearbox connected to a generator which feeds the electricity back to the electric network of the test rig, thus saving in energy costs. The gearbox more than doubles the shaft speed, to 2,100rpm, thus making it possible to use a smaller size cheaper generator. If 2 MW is used, 1.5 MW to 1.6 MW is brought back to the network, with the only losses being those of the frequency converter, generator as such, in the bearings and gear contact of the transmission and thruster, as well as viscosity losses from the oil in the gearboxes. Including all needed auxiliary systems such as cooling, controls and lubrication, the test centre, placed in a modern industrial hall, covers an area of about 200 square meters and will be capable of running tests on a 24/7 basis.

Wärtsilä provided the funding for developing the test center. VTT and Elomatic participated in the project planning, design and execution of the project which, according to Mr Boletis, is unique and had to be developed completely from the beginning. As a (first) test object used for calibrating the rig is one of Wärtsilä's thrusters, the CS250, produced by Wärtsilä Propulsion (WUXI) Co Ltd in China.

"Our know-how is this force loading system, in how you apply the correct loads on the system based on the actual loads applicable in the field," Boletis said, referring to loads under sea conditions and also ice-loads. The loading system is a hydraulic multi-force system providing realistical test conditions to the propulsion units, and the components of the suppliers, the gears, bearings, shafts. Factors considered in developing the test rig were relevant temperatures and cooling conditions, reproduction of the propeller loads including eccentricity and structural loads as well as dynamic loading. Cooling is arranged using water spray.

The test rig is very flexible regarding what and how much to measure. The currently installed system measured some 136 different signals, including that of rpm, temperatures, at a total of 51 positions, torque, thrust, vibration, displacements, oil conditions etc. There are eleven hydraulic cylinders to generate forces stressing the tested unit. The data, received using various transducers and strain gauges is transferred to a control room, provided with two sets of data storage disks, and a number of screens for immediate analysis. The factual data analysis work is done elsewhere by VTT, Wärtsilä and partners.

Jaakko Eskola: Key element for lowering operating costs

"This investment in a full scale test facility for propulsion products is one of the key elements in our strategy for supporting and assisting our customers in lowering operating costs through higher propulsion efficiency and lower maintenance expenses. Having a technology development centre enables us to provide the best possible technical support for the propulsion needs of the entire marine sector," said Jaakko Eskola, President Ship Power and Senior Executive Vice President, Wärtsilä, at the inauguration. He noted the goal of improving the efficiency of the propulsion units further, using this test facility, as part of the new portfolio programme, also striving towards even bigger power units. When asked about his views on eventually also starting to produce electric azimuthing propulsion drives, or to stay with Z-drives, he said. "At this moment we will stay with our line of products. For example in big cruise ships, we strive to deliver everything else (but the big electric propulsion units). Now new types of engines are coming, new types of propellers are coming, and we develop the electronic side further. The world changes, and we cannot remain in one place either."

Partners in R&D

The extensive list of benefits offered by Wärtsilä Propulsion Test Centre includes the ability to stretch the limits of current propulsion products under controlled testing conditions, and to validate future products and new technologies prior to market introduction. This includes the introduction of, for example, cost efficient components, new environmentally acceptable lubricants, and new propulsion diagnostic techniques. With the new test centre Wärtsilä aims to be in the forefront of propulsion technology advancement as the demands of the marine industry evolve.

Mr. Elias Boletis, Director R&D of Propulsion at Wärtsilä, with some 20 years of experience within various sectors of machinery and propulsion development, told his current task is to develop new propulsion systems which can be combined with Wärtsilä's marine offerings. "We believe this center is unique. We believe this test center can create a cluster on research and technology development on propulsion systems," Mr. Boletis said. For this purpose, Wärtsilä had invited several parties, universities and several potential industry partners to participate in this work. "We are open to further discussions with any party of the industry which is interested in participating in such development cluster."

Among companies attending the inauguration event were, in addition to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which will carry out the daily operation of the facility, also representatives from some other universities in Europe, and companies like SKF, ATA Gears, and others.

Mr. Boletis noted that if there is interest third parties are welcome to propose their own tests at the facility. "The intellectual property of the third party is assured by having VTT as the operational party of the test rig." He noted though that the majority of the work planned for the coming years is for Wärtsilä.

Quantum Leap in Thruster technology

"Wärtsilä is investing heavily in the new propulsion series of products," Mr. Boletis said. "We call it the New Thruster Portfolio" with several products coming onto the market. This is a multi-million investment which will help us to continue to play a major role in the propulsion business. The total investment to develop a new family of propulsion products is in the magnitude of 30 to 50 million euros."

"These products need to be validated," he continued. Traditionally the validation was taking place in the field, but we see many opportunities to develop solutions into robust products from the first moment of introduction in a land-based installation such as this installation in Tuusula."

As presented by Mr. Anders Hedin, Program Manager Propulsion Technologies at Wärtsilä, the intention of Wärtsilä is first to gather a core group of partners plus other participants for a Propulsion Research and Technology Cluster, to screen technologies and to develop a detailed research development plan during the coming year. The main joint programme aimed at sparking the work of the new test center is the EVT Extreme Value Thruster. This is a platform for demonstrating quantum leaps in thruster technologies. The goal is to create a new propulsion drive by 2020 for ice and open water for year 2020 and beyond aimed at staying competitive for the distant future. 'Potential stretched targets' include an overhaul interval of over ten years, an increase of propeller power density of more than 25 percent, an overall weight reduction of more than 10 percent, an increased calculated gear and bearing load carrying capability of more than 15 percent. All this having a positive environmental impact.

Mr. Boletis noted that in parallel to new product development there are many technologies which need to be addressed, such as the new legislation in the US regarding Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants, or bio oils. "Wärtsilä is invoved in many projects to validate these bio lubricants to be absolutely sure that we know how well these perform in our industry," he added. Soon to be used for testing purposes at the facility were several barrels of bio oil supplied by a well known oil company.

Another sector to be developed at the facility is condition based maintenance systems. As new technology becomes available this technology need to be updated. "We are interested in developing new condition based maintenance principles, and we have a few ideas with VTT on how to use this facility as our center to develop and validate these technologies. Overall the aim is to have better robust products at the time of introduction on the market." The 2 MW power is used as a reference size for the entire family of new thrusters, from 500 kW up to a maximum power of 7 to 8 MW. "This is the range of the products that we have in mind." Wärtsilä currently produce propulsion thrusters with a power slightly exceeding 7 MW. Mr Boletis noted that the company works with this facility in parallel with that of computational fluid dynamics (for example) in its development work of validation techniques. This type of facility is used to validate the tools being developed.

The list of potential targets for testing included endurance testing of components & complete thruster units including electrical parts, functional testing, development of Condition Based Monitoring systems, development & validation of components & systems (shafts, gears, bearings, seals, clutches, lubrication, etc), development / validation of simulation methods (Virtual Validation), validation of new components / manufacturing methods / etc., electrical drives & motor research, and "anything else you can imagine".

A sector of special focus is products for arctic or polar applications. The ultimate goal for Wärtsilä with this test facility is to provide its customers with better cost saving products for its customers.


Mr. Boletis noted there are many situations where Wärtsilä cooperates with its competitors in pre-competitive research. Some projects are financed by the European Union, some are done together with other partners, research institutes, model testing facilities and classification societies.

New thruster portfolio underway

In early October 2013, Wärtsilä announced it is developing a new series of both steerable and transverse thrusters that will further develop the current portfolio. The new Wärtsilä Steerable Thruster series (WST) is being introduced to replace the company's Modular Thruster and Compact Thruster series, while the new Wärtsilä Transverse Thruster series (WTT) is replacing the current range of transverse thrusters. The new products have been developed in response to changing market demands, requiring competitive thruster products which are more efficient and cover a wider power range.

This major product development project was launched by Wärtsilä’s Propulsion R&D already in 2011. The latest insights in thruster design were implemented using state-of-the-art numerical simulation tools. The first product to enter the pilot phase is a 4,500 kW under water (de)-mountable steerable thruster, the WST-45-U, which began its pilot phase in summer 2013. Two more products, the WST-14 and the WTT-11, are scheduled to begin their pilot phase in the coming period. Wärtsilä will continue the introduction of different sizes of thrusters in the coming years based on market requirements and customer priorities.

The new thrusters are available for various types of vessel depending on the size and features of the product. For example, the WST-45-U is designed mainly for the offshore drilling market; the WST-14 is intended for tugs, inland waterway vessels, and for river/sea going cargo ships. This thruster is compatible with both medium speed and high speed (1800 rpm) diesel engines. The WTT-11 is a 1,100 kW tunnel thruster designed mainly for merchant cargo vessels.

The new WST and WTT units come with several added features, such as an increased power range, an 8° tilted propeller gearbox, and a new Wärtsilä Thruster Nozzle for the thrusters designed for offshore drilling. The new thrusters intended for tug boat applications also have the new nozzle, which improves performance and has a high level of system integration as well. The new tunnel thrusters are more compact and efficient than earlier versions.

"The marine sector is undergoing a period of significant change and technological advancement, and this next generation Wärtsilä thruster portfolio has been developed in line with these trends by utilizing the latest calculation tools and model testing to secure the hydrodynamic leadership of the products. The new products are even more efficient and reliable than earlier, as well as being lighter and easier to install," said Mr Arto Lehtinen, Vice President Propulsion, Wärtsilä Ship Power.

Mr. Boletis, in his inauguration presentation, talked about the new developments taking place regarding steerable thrusters and tunnel thrusters. He also talked about a new icepod (Z-drive) family of thrusters to be developed. In order to conduct efficient product development he noted the propulsion validation required three pillars, virtual or computational analysis, a rig/test bench and field testing/confirmation.

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