TrAM project to focus on ‘modular production’ for zero emission passenger vessels

TrAM project to focus on ‘modular production’ for zero emission passenger vessels

‘Trying to change the industry’s perception of modular and more standardised vessels has been the biggest challenge,’ say Tobias Seidenberg and Christoph Jürgenhake of the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design IEM.

Involving 14 project partners, the TrAM project will build a zero-emission demonstrator fast vessel, with a focus on developing modular design and production processes for such vessels. This approach will contribute to making electric-powered high-speed vessels competitive in terms of both cost and the environment, say the project collaborators.

‘Today ships are most often designed as a one-off, even though many of them are built according to almost exactly the same specifications. We are examining the opportunities for creating modules that can be reused across application cases,’ explains M.Eng. Tobias Seidenberg.

‘By combining advanced modular production principles with ship design and construction methods, the TrAM project will develop a more efficient modular system integration than the currently favoured function orientated modularity systems.’

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute has worked on modular architectures for cars for major customers such as the Volkswagen Group, and leads TrAM’s work on adapting modularity models from the automotive and aviation industry to the needs of the maritime industry.

The proposed modular concept will be validated and refined through the development of one physical demonstrator and two ‘replicators’.

The demonstrator will be a zero-emissions passenger ferry that will service a multi-stop commuter route into the Norwegian city of Stavanger from January 2022. The replicators will be developed for waterways in London and Belgium.

‘In essence, the project is about how to build the same ship for different purposes – creating one ship family for three different routes. Our goal is to develop a modularisation methodology that allows all three vessels to have the same systems and interfaces inside the hull and the same rough structures – maybe with a partly different hull shape for each vessel,’ noted Dr. Ing. Christoph Jürgenhake at Fraunhofer IEM.

He continued: ‘Together with colleagues from the Strathclyde University in Scotland we are thinking about modularising different sections of the hull, allowing the hull to be more easily adapted to each use case. But the essence of the TrAM modularisation effort is to have the complete inside and the interfaces of the vessel in easily adaptable modules.’

The collaborators will also look at the development of a modular power module in which all the batteries and power electronics would be stored on the upper level of the vessel instead of inside the hull.

‘This is an advantage for the future. We know that battery technology will develop rapidly in the coming years, and to have the power module as an easily accessible unit on top of the vessel will benefit future retrofitting, allowing easier battery replacement or integration of new power sources like fuel cells,’ said Seidenberg.

Lesley Bankes-Hughes

Lesley Bankes-Hughes