Cargotec has developed new operator interfaces for MacGregor dry cargo products; customer feedback formed an essential part of the process.
Cargotec’s R&D team has developed a new portable operating unit for use with side-rolling hatch covers and has begun to create a new product series of future low- and high-end starters.
“When developing the new electric-drive technology for side rolling hatch covers, MacRack, we took up the challenge to create something revolutionary from a usability point of view,” says Tuukka Laakso, Cargotec’s technical manager R&D, for MacGregor dry cargo electrical systems. “We also took up the same challenge for our starter units and have begun to create a new product series of future low- and high-end starters. The main task with both the starter and portable operating units was to maintain their existing robustness and reliability, but at the same time make them more durable and easier to use and service.”
“Cargotec’s new portable operating unit (POU) provides a significant improvement for the operation of side-rolling hatch covers,” Laakso says. “People are used to operating hatch covers with manual hydraulic valves from a local control stand where their movements are restricted. Now, the new unit allows the operator to move away from the control stand.
“This makes hatch cover operation safer and easier to control, particularly if there are unexpected situations during the drive process. The user receives feedback directly from POU, not only from warning lights as before, but also in the form of short text messages. Also, most importantly from an end user perspective, the unit is ergonomically easy to use. “As basic values for design, we looked at usability in demanding marine conditions, user friendliness and the future possibility to use the same operating unit for different lighter and simpler equipment operations.
To make this possible, we will employ bus communication technology instead of a traditional I/O system.” A key design element was that it should also be shockresistant and durable in marine environment: therefore the covers were designed to have protective features and the unit is made from corrosion-free materials.”
He notes that: “Initially, the portable controller is designed to be used with MacRack systems, but in the future, other solutions — simple or sophisticated — could start to use this operating unit. Further development plans also include wireless, bluetooth technology based operation option.”
“As for our new series of future low- and high-end starters, it was time for a fresh look at the whole of our dry cargo products’ starter range. Starting units for hydraulically-operated hatch covers are often quite difficult to reach and use. As part of the development process, we decided to locate warning lights and alarms in more visible places and improve visual identification elements. This means that the location of the control panel can be arranged more flexibly on the ship because the power and control units do not need to be placed together.
“Also, old starter units only had signal lights to report failures, whereas the new starters have an alarm recording log, which enables the operator to find out what has happened and even potentially forecast service needs. Additionally, remote diagnostics are now possible with the new technology.
“As well as the operator interface improvements, we are looking at ‘soft start’ solutions. With larger hatch cover solutions needing higher electrical currents, we believe that soft-start solutions have advantages when compared to traditional starting methods.
“These development projects are now well underway, and we expect to see marketable products within the next year,” highlights Laakso.