Machine Control Engineering Award

Houlder control engineers, Craig Waddell and Robin Milward Cooney were awarded the Machine Control Engineering Impact Award by National Instruments on November 27th.  The awards are a technical application contest, showcasing the most innovative projects based on NI software and hardware.

The winning application used NI CompactRIO and LabVIEW products to rapidly and cost effectively develop a precision control system to lift, upend and position 855t offshore wind foundation piles.  Houlder’s clients required two pile upending tools for operation on board the heavy-lift jack-up installation vessels MPI Discovery and Swire Blue Ocean Pacific Orca. The tools (pictured) lift monopiles that will be driven into the seabed to act as foundations for offshore wind turbines.

The remote controlled hook-up and release system engages directly with the foundation’s flange. This eliminates the need for additional lifting points or straps – the optimal solution where the lifting point overhangs the deck or is out of reach.

It is a self-contained system with rechargeable hydraulic and electric supplies. Recharging is carried out at a deck-mounted docking station, avoiding the need for additional connections or power lines during lifting operations. The use of high strength steel provides a robust and lightweight structure with clear and easy access to all inspection and maintenance areas.

The award winning control system, using NI CompactRIO and LabVIEW products, controls the hydraulic valves and the hydraulic power supply. It also monitors the position of the cylinders, accumulator pressure, angle of the tool, reservoir level, and battery level. Additionally, the system controls the warning signals and relays the information to the operator through a radio transmitter/receiver module. It also helps implement safety standards. For instance, when there is a communication error in the radio signal, the CompactRIO system ensures all the outputs fail safely. Similarly, the system sends a watchdog signal to a safety relay. The tool fails safely in the case of a power outage.

The safe and efficient upending tools installed all 116 monopiles that make up EON Climate and Renewables’ Rampion Offshore wind, providing the reliability and robustness required. We have also fitted the transition pieces and expect the wind farm to be fully operational in 2018. The upending tools are now available to be used in future wind farm installations.

Principal Mechanical Engineer, Luiz Deminicis is pictured receiving the Machine Control Engineering Impact Award on Craig and Robin’s behalf at the glittering awards dinner at Sandown Park Racecourse.

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