Heriot-Watt University scientists, along with Man Energy Solutions (MAN) and TRD Surface, have developed laser-textured discs to improve the engine performance of large ships.
According to the collaborators, the new-age disc should help reduce maintenance costs and downtime for big container ships sailing across oceans. MAN has already tested the friction discs on its two-stroke engines on two ships sailing from Europe to Asia and the results have proven promising.
The Heriot-Watt innovation forms a part of the EU SHARK project which is aiming to industrialize laser texturing.
Laser functional texturing offers several benefits—the most notable among them being cost savings; it delivers surface functionalities into real products for less than 10% of the cost of the conventional part.
It also brings in improved product performance of up to 20% based on the surface functionalities deployed.
Friction discs in ships—whether it be a cruise or cargo ship—transfer power in engines and act as a safety device.
These have to sustain a precise amount of friction because too much of it can result in the gear getting overloaded, and too little of the same leads to premature slippage.
The current strategy within the industry is to treat these discs with a thermal spray coating that encourages friction. The method however isn’t as precise as the engine.
Laser-textured friction discs could change that, notes Heriot-Watt professor Duncan Hand: “Using lasers means we can create precise, uniform and replicable textures on the discs.”
“We used laser pulses to experiment with different patterns, shapes, spacing and depths, with the aim of creating a new surface that would have a good grip on its counterpart.”
According to Hand, their high-friction concept was combined with a surface hardening process carried out by TRD Surfaces.
It effectively freezes the textured surface to ensure it doesn’t deform when it comes into contact with its counterpart.
The technique was tested extensively in the laboratory at Heriot-Watt and then on a specialist demonstrator, showing that the reproducible friction coefficient was positively a lot higher than expected.
MAN on its part performed more non-destructive quality control testing of every part before installing the laser surface textured high friction discs in its engines.
Image and content: Pixabay-Skitterphoto/Heriot-Watt