Ship ahoy! Fraunhofer displays innovations at SMM

Press Release / September 01, 2014

Seven Fraunhofer Institutes will be presenting their latest developments in seafaring and navigation at the SMM Convention in Hamburg from September 9 to 12. Among the featured novelties at Booth 411, Hall B6 is a 3D configurator that makes it possible for owners to experience cruise ships and yachts in real time, down to the last detail – even before the shipbuilding begins. Researchers will additionally display a new software program for crew management, and a ship and logistics system so that inland water routes become more feasibly useable.

© Fraunhofer IGD
Using the Virtual Maritime Interior Configurator (or “VI:MAR:CON” for short), the interior can already be designed prior to actual construction at the Multi-touch table, by means of VR technologies in an interactive 3D model. [M]

When building a cruise ship or a yacht, the minor details often play a major role – ultimately, customer is king and should also feel that way, too. Which surfaces suit the interior furnishings the best? Which materials are just right for the seats, which wood for the furniture? Up to this point, designers had to decide on the interior configuration of the ship based on material or fabric samples, or arrange for costly mock-ups to be assembled. With its “Virtual Maritime Interior Configurator”, the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD in Rostock developed a tool that enables shipbuilders and customers to plan the entire interior – prior to construction start and in a realistic manner and in real time. Above all, this prevents the additional costs generated by poor planning. For this purpose, the project team configured its 3D software with a materials scanner. This way, random materials can be scanned in, stored within a database and transferred to the virtual elements and spaces/rooms that are depicted with the software. Then in real time, a realistic tracking of the finished space is calculated that – depending on the perspective – even displaces the actual lighting conditions and surface reflections. Interested visitors at the SMM can try out the capabilities of this configurator for themselves, at a multi-touch monitor, and make their way through a yacht by means of a 3D flight.

Crew management made easy

It is no easy feat to produce a crew’s service plans. There must be compliance with the international laws of the sea and the ocean carrier’s own internal regulations, flexible responses to changes to the schedule, and seamless documentation of work shifts and rest periods. The “Crew Compliance Organizer” software tool engineered by the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CML is intended to assist planners in this regard to structure individual plans efficiently and in compliance with regulations. This means shipping companies can prevent having their ships held up at the port due to regulatory violations - ultimately disrupting sensitive business processes. The solution consists of three modules. The first one calculates the personnel needs in the shipping operation. On this basis, the second one automatically compiles the security and service plans. It also takes into account working hours and employee rest periods. The third module handles responsibility for reporting, and compiles the compliance reports. At the Fraunhofer booth at SMM, the researchers will exhibit the functions of the software using a multi-touch planning table.

Using the waterways economically

Europe’s rivers still have major potential when it comes to the transport of goods. Under the EU Project known as "NEWS – Development of a Next Generation European Inland Waterway Shipping and Logistics System" – an international research team is developing a holistic concept on how the water routs can be used with greater logistic efficiency. At the SMM, Fraunhofer Austria – together with the Vienna University of Technology will be showing, for example, how a new ship’s hull may appear that has markedly greater transport capacity than the conventional container ships. Furthermore, an innovative usage concept will be displayed for the Danube and adjacent rivers and canals. For this project, Fraunhofer experts conducted a socio-economic analysis as to the extent it benefits automotive manufacturers and suppliers to shift product shipments to Europe’s waterways.

Fewer Vibrations

Distributed engines, drive trains, pumps, and secondary aggregates are frequently the cause on board of often undesirable oscillations and noise. Particularly aggravating is travelling as passenger in an inside cabin next to the engine room. The agent of rotational vibration from the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF produces and eases the rotary oscillation in rotating systems, and thus reduces uncomfortable vibrations. Shipbuilders can use this innovation for test benches of ship drives or for the drive trains in the ship.

Ship radar without rotating antenna can see more

One challenge in the shipbuilding industry is the selection and placement of a variety of electronic systems for navigation. Because traffic on the world seas is growing, and the demands placed on the ships radar increasing, in order to prevent collisions and to stay on course. While previous navigation systems work with old fashioned high frequency technology, at this year’s SMM the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR presents an antenna with electronic beam scanning. An agile modularly structured radar system equipped this way delivers higher resolution and can even detect smaller objects – like fishing boats or hazardous flotsam. This is possible through coherent signal processing. That means the form of the transmission pulse is nearly identical in every signal / receiver cycle. This way, disruptions can be suppressed and other target information gained. In comparison to the previous rigidly rotating systems, the antennas can furthermore pivot quickly and without inertia – thus allowing for any arbitrary directional change. Even when it comes to costs, the radar is clearly superior to past technology in the long term: Previously, the magnetron tubes of conventional systems, prone to wear, had to be replaced every year. These maintenance costs were dropped with the new radar. Since the system works in the S-band using a lowered transmission power in the 2.9 to 3.1 GHz frequency range, it became possible to use more cost-effective semiconductor components and technologies.