Simulator trains crane offshore operators

Paul Boughton

The latest servo drives and electromechanical actuators from Parker Hannifin are being used in an innovative simulator, designed for training crane operators working on offshore oil and gas platforms, and in container ports.

Developed and manufactured by market leading Drilling Systems (UK) Ltd in Bournemouth, the KraneSIM-6000 is the most technologically advanced simulator of its type.

Capable of reproducing a wide variety of normal and emergency scenarios, the KraneSIM-6000 enables trainees to master all aspects of crane operation in a safe but realistic environment.

To construct this virtually perfect replication simulator, the KraneSIM-6000 uses sophisticated real-time digital computing techniques, in conjunction with a full complement of standard crane controls and functions, plus synchronised visual information, in order to create an extremely realistic simulation.

Trainees can learn to perform all of the necessary crane movement operations in controlled conditions and, as a result, quickly gain a wide knowledge of crane and cargo manipulation without the risks and costs normally associated with on-site training and work experience.

Although Drilling Systems has a history of developing market leading innovative simulators for use in a variety of industries the KraneSIM-6000 is the first system to use real time motion control at such an advanced level.

Richard Blashill, Crane Division Manager, said: “Crane operation, especially on offshore platforms, is extremely complex and our simulator has accurately to recreate all types of sea, wind and weather conditions on a variety of rig types, including jackup, tension leg, semi-sub and concrete platforms, all of which react differently and affect the motion of the crane and thus the operator's experience in often unpredictable ways.”

In order to meet these demanding motion control requirements, Parker Hannifin provided three Compax3 drives controlled via Profibus, with an Ethernet link to a dedicated PC controller. Each drive then operates one of three specially manufactured Electro-Thrust electric cylinders; these devices operate independently, with two cylinders lifting the simulation rig at opposite ends, while the third provides horizontal motion to create the potential for full movement through X, Y and Z axes.

The Electro-Thrust electric cylinders provide maximum speeds of up to 1.0m/sec, with a maximum travel of up to 2.4m, and incorporate high quality C7 class ballscrew drives, allowing them to operate under the heavy loads of up to 1200Kg imposed by the KraneSIM-6000. Just as importantly, the combination of high performance, torsionally stiff actuators and the closed loop servo system means that the simulation rig responds instantly to control signals and changes in conditions caused both by trainee operator input or programmed by a system trainer.

Richard Blashill added: “The closed-loop servo system enables us to create extremely subtle changes in the orientation of the rig, quickly and smoothly in real time, while features such as internal regeneration circuitry and external resistor connections on the Compax3 drives make it even simpler to configure the system to redistribute power to each actuator as it is required, to produce the most realistic wave motion and strength. In addition, the robust nature of the actuators mean that they require only minimal maintenance, helping us to ensure that our systems get the maximum usage with the lowest possible operating costs for our customers.”

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