Laser textured discs to improve marine engines

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Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have been working with industry partners on a new laser-textured friction disc that could improve marine engine performance.

Image via stock.adobe.com
Image via stock.adobe.com

Friction discs transfer power in engines and act as a safety device. They need to sustain a precise amount of friction: too much and the gear can be overloaded, too little and there could be premature slippage.

Currently, discs are treated with a thermal spray coating to help create friction. However, the method method is not as precise as the engine and the industry need, Heriot-Watt said.

The new laser-textured disk could reportedly reduce maintenance cost and downtime for the biggest ships. MAN Energy Solutions tested laser-textured friction disks on its two-stroke engines on two ships sailing from Europe to Asia.

Scientists at Heriot-Watt worked with MAN Energy Solutions and TRD Surfaces in Denmark to develop a new laser-texturing process. The innovation was funded through the EU SHARK project, aiming to industrialise laser texturing.

Professor Duncan Hand from Heriot-Watt University said: “Using lasers means we can create precise, uniform and replicable textures on the discs. 

“We used laser pulses to experiment with different patterns, shapes, spacing and depths, with the aim of creating a new surface that would have a good grip on its counterpart.”

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The high-friction concept was combined with a surface hardening process, carried out by TRD Surfaces. It effectively freezes the textured surface to ensure it does not deform when it comes into contact with its counterpart. 

Heriot-Watt said the technique was tested extensively at its laboratory, then on a specialist demonstrator. Hand said that the team achieved a ‘much higher and more reproducible’ coefficient than expected.

Man Energy Solutions’ Jesper Vejlø Carstensen said: “We needed a better solution for one of our high-friction components. 

“After joining forces with Heriot-Watt and TRD Surfaces, we now have a precise, controllable and reproducible solution. As a vital add-on, we can perform non-destructive quality control of every part, and are installing the laser surface textured high friction discs in engines.”

MAN Energy Solutions have commercialised the innovation with TRD Surfaces as the supplier of laser textured friction discs.