Ringprop, the UK engineering company developing safer marine propellers, signed up its first major OEM when Honda Australia agreed to distribute its product.
Honda becomes the first big supplier to the boat industry to stock Ringprop’s device, which encases the open blades of a conventional propeller in an integrated ring.
Ringprop said it is also in negotiations with another large manufacturer and is poised to launch its propeller into the giant US leisure boat market in July.
Hampshire-based Ringprop was set up in 2002 to commercialise technology developed in Australia in the late 1990s.
A research team led by British marine engineer Dr Martin Renilson designed the propeller in a bid to reduce the death and injury toll on humans and marine life from the slashing action of open blades, which deliver up to 160 strikes per second on anything they come into contact with.
Previous efforts to improve safety, which included surrounding the propeller in a wire cage or fitting a separate steel ring, had a disastrous effect on hydrodynamic performance. Ringprop claims that its propeller will bruise rather than lacerate swimmers or sea creatures, giving a better chance of survival, but they will deliver better hydrodynamic characteristics than conventional systems.
The precision-engineered ring acts as a hydrofoil, concentrating the flow of water on to the blades and controlling vortices in a way that reduces both turbulence and noise.
Ringprop believes increasing pressure on the American sailing industry to cut injuries from outboard motors will help it gain a foothold in the world’s biggest market. The US Coastguard has called the current level of accidents unacceptable.
Conservationists are also lobbying for action to protect rare sea life from harm by propeller blades. Tests are underway by the Queensland government in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef using Ringprops supplied by the Australian Army, the system’s first user.
Ringprop said its R&D facilities were now up and running. On the manufacturing side, casting specialist JL French has successfully completed a trial run of pressure-moulded die-cast aluminium propellers.
News of Ringprop’s activity around the world came in its half-year financial results, which showed the fledgling company lost £481,000 and has almost £1.5m in the bank.
Ringprop, which floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2002, said it expects to make its first commercial sales in 2004/5.