First Automated Boat Hull Cleaner Is Servo-Controlled

Servo-drives from Control Techniques have been chosen for the latest project from Italian automation company Imera Progetti Srl – the world’s first automatic hull cleaning system for boats.

The system, called The Corydoras Hull Washer, was designed and produced for boat servicing company Morace Port Facility and Services Srl, of Padova near Venice, and provides a ‘drive-through’ in-water hull cleaning service to remove algae, seaweed and crustaceans without the time and expense of a dry dock.

The Corydoras Hull Washer comprises a partially submerged load-bearing structure and a boat handling system.  There is a range of cleaning brushes and rollers suitable not just for cleaning the hull with no damage to paintwork, but also any additional structures such as stabilisers and rudders as well as propulsion components and propellers.  Underwater cameras monitor progress and provide visual evidence that the hull has been thoroughly cleaned and numerous safety systems ensure that there is no damage to the vessel.  An average boat, 15 metres in length, can be completely cleaned in just 25 minutes – giving a monthly throughput capacity of around 900 boats, allowing all vessels at a marina to be maintained in a clean condition all year round.

The process comprises an initial cleaning stage using jets of air and high pressure water (up to 500 bar) providing an initial clean, particularly for inaccessible areas.  This is followed by specialised cleaning rollers which use Sonar feedback to the drives for automatic positioning.  For particularly bad fouling the entire process can be repeated.

The handling of each vessel is controlled by servo-motors and Digitax ST Plus servo-drives supplied from the Control Techniques Drive Centre in Vicenza.  These drives provide total on-board control of multiple axes of movements of the washer, from the movement of the vessel through the washer at 1-metre/ minute, to the precise movements of the brushes and rollers.  The system automatically adapts the handling system to fit each boat and analyses the height, width and lateral profile of the vessel to provide a thorough, careful and faultless washing of the vessel from bow to stern.

Each of the drives is fitted with an SM applications module and all are linked via Control Techniques’ own high-speed drive-to-drive communications system, for synchronous transmission of a virtual master to all connected systems.

The brushless motors adopted have been specially customised for the application, to provide protection from high ambient temperatures and the effects of marine corrosion.

The Corydoras Hull Washer addresses a problem faced by all boat owners.  Hull fouling, which increases drag in the water, increases fuel costs and is traditionally approached by regular cleaning, sanding down, and the use of anti-fouling paints now known to be damaging to the marine environment.  The traditional dry dock process is both expensive and lengthy, typically taking several weeks.  The lifting or other removal of the boat into the dry dock is subject to possible damage and is in itself time-consuming and costly.  No cranes and no towing or re-launching of the vessel is necessary with the Corydoras system, and no noxious chemicals are used in any part of the process.  Even the algae and other materials cleaned off the boat are carefully filtered out so that the surrounding sea environment is protected.  Finally, the whole Corydoras process is under the control of one operator, minimising labour costs too.

The Corydoras Hull Washer can be installed in any port, marina or dockyard and each one is custom-designed to meet the needs of the facility and the available space.

Imera Progetti Srl, based in Foggia, Italy, is a dynamic consulting engineering company, providing original design and full engineering for projects as diverse as robotics and vision systems, industrial automation and alternative energy.