Hull testing has been taken out of the box and into the open ocean with M Ship Co.'s new Rapid Empirical Innovation program.
The naval architecture and research firm says the approach allows scaled-down hull models of recreational and racing sailboats, motor vessels, and cargo and military ships to be towed in real-life weather conditions by a self-powered fast, low-cost, open-water testing, or FLOWT, platform rather than by a traditional towing mechanism used in a controlled indoor basin or “tank.”
Among other advantages, the company says, the REI program saves designers, naval architects and boatbuilders 50 to 80 percent of the cost it would take to utilize a conventional tow tank without sacrificing accuracy or waiting for tank access.
“The REI program certainly is an unconventional approach to conventional tank testing,” M Ship Co. executive director and co-founder Bill Burns said in a statement.
With its knife-edged hulls, multiple computer workstations and various adaptable structures, the platform looks something like an inspired Lego design while under way, “but the implications of it are of far-reaching importance to the people who shape our industry,” Burns said.
He explained that two hull models can be evaluated in tandem, providing immediate and direct hull-to-hull comparisons. After the hulls are fabricated they are outfitted with identical high-frequency 6-DOF accelerometers that provide comprehensive motion and acceleration comparisons. The models are then tested on the platform, which provides real-time force, trim and acceleration measurements and allows the hulls to be analyzed on power, speed, payload, fuel efficiency, range capability and ride quality.
“We can offer test programs that can use a constant baseline with a new design or test two new designs at the same time,” Burns said. “Fully instrumented, rough-water testing at the same time is unique and offers immediate and unequivocal comparison of ride-quality performance between designs.”