Traditionally, controlling valves remotely has been a pneumatic or hydraulic endeavor, with electric actuation gaining momentum over the years. Eltorque believes that by having a wider technological perspective and taking advantage of the possibilities found in controller-area-network communication, the company remains a step ahead of the competition.
Two decades ago, Eltorque set out to develop a maintenance-free solution for controlling valves remotely that would offer the best performance and require the least amount of effort to install. In 2016, the reference list includes over 400 projects and, in many ways, the company believes to have succeeded in its key markets.
The markets, however, are ever changing entities. In order to stay ahead, Eltorque increases its technological drive to exploit the opportunities found in modern technology - and this is relevant for all market segments. It is also necessary to more efficiently build and operate advanced vessels in a safe and economical manner. Recently launched by the company is the QT50: the smallest actuator in its class, with two thirds of the weight and a third of the volume of the competition yet retaining the same build quality and functionality as the rest of the portfolio.
Although Eltorque delivers digital, analogue and Modbus control interfaces for the actuators, the controller area network (CAN bus) has been the game-changer for the company - especially in complex systems with high numbers of units. The functionality and real-time system feedback marks a big step forward compared with conventional solutions. Positioning, closing speed and torque is easily configured by the operator. The actuators will feed the control system detailed information on a continuous basis. If an alarm should occur, it will be a specified alarm rather than just a general alarm. These are all highly important factors for ship-owners.
Eltorque valve control was first implemented in large fishing vessels ten to 15 years ago. With the boom in offshore support vessel building that began five to ten years ago, the company grew alongside the fleet. Today, Eltorque delivers to most market segments, including onshore projects. Although the solution itself - especially with the CAN bus interface - offers a high degree of automation, the success is also down to the shipyards that are willing to implement the technology.
The workload involved in installing preprogrammed actuators in a serial-connected configuration is lower than conventional hydraulic or pneumatic systems. With the addition of a new hybrid CAN bus and power installation cable, the builder is looking at substantial gains in efficiency.
"Efficiency is on the top of the agenda, and our customers sense that," says Eltorque CEO Arnstein Kjesbu. "Repeatedly, we see that shipyards standardise our solution, and to us, this means we are going in the right direction. Our target is to supply a plug-and-play solution that will reduce the yards' time consumption in installation and commission."
Over the past couple of years, the world economy has seen significant changes. For Eltorque, the main consequence has been an almost complete disappearance of offshore support-vessel projects, but other segments on the rise are making up for this.
One of the most exciting trends today is the booming market within cruise vessels, and large ferries and ro-paxes. This represents great opportunities for Eltorque: the vessels are large and complex, and require systems with durability, advanced functionality and real-time feedback.
"The need for maintenance is eliminated with Eltorque valve control, and we believe this sets us apart from the competition," says Kjesbu. "Real-time feedback on the valves provides operators with the exact status of the complete system. From our perspective, this means added safety."