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Airborne Composites, a Dutch company specializing in the engineering and manufacturing of high-end composite structures, delivers composite ship propellers to the marine market. A main propeller is currently in production for the Royal Dutch Navy, and an innovative bow thruster is a proven product for many civil customers.
(Published on September 2007 – JEC Magazine #35)
MARCO BRINKMAN, DIRECTOR MARKETING & SALES AIRBORNE COMPOSITES
Airborne Composites has its major clients in the aerospace and defence markets. Combining engineering expertise with a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant, the company develops new products for the international market and takes them into series production.
Since 2004, Airborne has been producing the highly innovative Electrical Propulsion System (EPS) in cooperation with Van der Velden Marine Systems. The EPS thruster, which does not have a gear or propeller shaft, uses a pioneering construction and the very latest materials. It offers major benefits to ship owners and naval architects in terms of power-performance, noise, weight and robustness.
The EPS thruster represents a novel construction where the blades are connected to an outer ring, rather than to a hub as in conventional thrusters. Since there is no clearance between the propeller and tube, a likely source of cavitation is removed, resulting in an extremely quiet operation. This solution provides many other benefits, such as a high power-performance ratio, higher power at similar cross-sections, simple and robust construction, and low weight. High-performance ceramic bearings ensure good reliability, and exchangeable blades facilitate maintenance and repairs.
Airborne is working with the Royal Dutch Navy on the development of composite main-ship propellers 2.5 meters in diameter for their mine-hunter programme. The main reason for the use of composites in this application is their reduced magnetic and acoustic signature compared to the existing low-magnetic bronze propeller. Reduced maintenance and lower noise levels are additional benefits of this new type of thruster. Because the product is a controlled-pitch propeller, special attention is given to the highly loaded composite-metal interface with the centre hub.
After successful testing and evaluation of the propeller on a Dutch Navy vessel for one year, the whole mine-hunting fleet will be equipped with these advanced products.