Independence and flexibility, both hallmarks of a strong project team, were on full display when Sandvik and MAN Diesel & Turbo collaborated to develop a solution that reduces emissions from large cargo vessels.
Marine shipping has a great advantage in that it can transport large volumes of freight with a relatively small input of energy. Still, emissions of sulphur, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide are highly problematic for marine life. Tougher marine regulations are driving the development of more efficient engines.
A reduction of emissions makes a significant change for the environment.
With the recently finalized EU-funded Helios project, the EU supported the development of a two-stroke, low-speed, marine diesel engine that operates on direct injection of compressed natural gas (CNG). Sandvik's part of the project was to develop the critical exhaust valve spindle.
"MAN has an overwhelming portion of the market share for two-stroke marine diesel engines, so a reduction of emissions in their engines makes a significant change for the environment," says Martin Östlund, Senior R&D Professional at business area Sandvik Materials Technology.
Designing a dream component
By replacing a number of key components, MAN aimed to develop a dual-fuel marine engine that runs on both diesel and natural gas.
One of these components was the valve spindle, which had to be able to withstand increased corrosion and higher temperatures, while being exposed to different types of wear. Whereas the high temperatures would affect the whole component, the bottom part would be exposed to the most severe corrosion.
"MAN came to us with their dream component in terms of cost and endurance," says Tomas Berglund, specialist in powder-based products in near-net shape and project manager for Sandvik's part of the Helios project. "Our task was to find a solution that was as close to this vision as possible."
It is a very cost-efficient solution based on a basic and inexpensive foundation, reinforced partially with advanced material.
Östlund, Berglund and their colleagues took on the challenge with an open mind and Berglund soon came up with an idea, based on a previous experience. Each valve weighs about 50 kilograms, and a single material that meets all requirements does not exist today. Development of such a material would be too expensive.
"With powder technology, we designed a component with four different materials, each with its specific properties, positioned in specific areas of the valve," Östlund says. "It is a very cost-efficient solution based on a basic and inexpensive foundation, reinforced partially with advanced material."
The Helios project is now finalized, and Sandvik's manufacturing technology has already been winning awards. To further develop production economy, the team is now looking into using additive manufacturing in parts of the manufacturing process.
We succeeded where others have tried and failed.
One success factor of the project is that Sandvik has all the resources in-house, from comprehensive R&D to full-scale production. Added to that, say Berglund and Östlund, is the relatively small size of their product unit, which gives each project team a high level of independence and flexibility. Finally, the customer has been closely involved from day one.
"MAN, with their application knowledge, combined with Sandvik's unique material, manufacturing know-how and extensive resources, was crucial for the final solution," Berglund says. "We succeeded where others have tried and failed."