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Towards high performance pitch control

A U T H O R : M i l i n k o G o d j e v a c , R e s e a r c h E n g i n e e r, W r t s i l i n t h e N e t h e r l a n d s

This article discusses a novel control strategy for a controllable pitch propeller (CPP) driven by a diesel engine. This new control strategy should contribute to more effective use of the complete power train.
Fig. 1 Dredger and its control system.

prop. shaft torque Pitch feedback Load control Pitch control Propulsion gearbox
OD box

Propulsion clutch

Setpoint load

Setpoint pitch



Mechanical load

Setpoint speed

Speed governor VIKING 25

Wrtsil 12V46

Fuel preservation is important for the future of mankind. Any increase in efciency offers not only fuel savings, but also reduced engine emissions and more ecological solutions. For this reason, control strategies for developing highly efcient propulsive thrust to a ship are important. The traditional ship with a CPP, driven by a diesel engine, is controlled via the combinator, which sets the optimum combination of pitch and shaft rotational speed for stationary ship conditions at no waves and other added ship resistance conditions (ideal condition). The combinator consists of running up/down and look-up tables for the (pre-set) optimal pitch and rotational speed combination. The optimum is not only inuenced by fuel consumption considerations, but also by the propeller noise and cavitation issues. In contrast to ideal conditions, at sea or maneuvering conditions necessitate the adjustment of shaft speed and/or pitch. In references [1] and [2] it was also shown that engine speed disturbances, caused by the seaway, could be suppressed better by pitch control than by controlling the fuel rack. The time needed to get the rotational shafting (diesel engine, gearbox and propeller) from one shaft-speed level to another is measured in the magnitude of a few seconds. For ships with large power take-offs using generators, the CPP pitch is used to compensate for fast and high frequent load changes of the generator, as well as for the seaway. For dredgers (see Figure 1), the generator is used to drive the dredge pump, which can jump in load from minimum to maximum and vice versa, rather quickly. The diesel engine load is kept constant by continuous and fast pitch changes. The existing situation Figure 2 shows the simplied CPP actuating system and pitch control. The oil volumes in the pitch actuating cylinder and the oil pipelines are controlled by counter balancing valves. When no pressure exists at the ahead and astern ports of the oil-distribution box, these counter balancing valves (CBV) are closing. When these are closed, the propeller pitch stays as it is. These counter balance valves, together with the proportional valves with load sensing, make the task of the pitch controller rather easy. But the cost is a rather slow actuating pitch, which can have different dead times from one pitch change to another. This has to be overcome in order to have fast and accurate pitch control. p

Electrical load

Electronical load sharing communication when running parallel

6.6 kV 10MW

Main generator

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feedback sensor header tank or pump

pitch ahead pH CBV OD-box hub QC2, pC2 QC1, pC1 i1 i2 pS, QS proportional valve load sensing pR, QR

Valve drive Upv xy Pitch Controller 0set Pitch setpoint

Fig. 2 Simplied CPP control system.

setp. valve pitch

Fig. 3 Modeled and measured results of CPP actuating model and pitch control.

Pv,max Pahead Pastern Pis + C+ S1 +

(C|D)&E S2

pS, pC1, pC2, pH1 (bar)

pS, pC1, pC2 (bar)

pS pC1 pC2 pH1

Cload sensing



N u

A|C S4 B|D S5

E + CP_yoke (C|D)&E S6 (C+/D+) + Xm, ref

Cmain valve ivalve

act ref +


main spool Xm, act position control



Fig. 4 Block diagram of the new pressure controller.

The current situation for in-stationary maneuvering conditions and for increased vessel resistance in seaway, calls for a load control to be used. The traditional load control performs rather coarsely and is not able to precisely control the diesel engine load as a function of the actual shaft speed. This load control overrides the pitch set by the combinator, and reduces it in order to keep the diesel engine within its operating envelope. To avoid unnecessary pitch changes in adverse weather, the passive load control is provided with an automatic adjusting dead zone. When pitch uctuations, caused by the passive load control action, are sensed and when these are periodic, the dead zone will be increased step by step until the periodic uctuations have been removed. In heavy seaway, this results in an increased service margin and reduced average diesel engine loads of up to 60 or 70% of the CSR point. This passive load control automatically takes care of good seamanship needs, but it results in a lack of usage of the propulsion plant. As opposed to passive load control, active load control implies an active pitch change in order to keep the load on the engine under control. This was investigated in [3] where the measurements were carried out on board a 9000 cargo tonner. These measurements indicate active load control as being ineffective and causing additional wear to the pitch adjusting system. However, looking at the spectrum analysis presented in the report [3], it can be clearly seen that the pitch adjusting system was three to four times slower than necessary to suppress torque oscillations. Thus these measurements and conclusions needed further investigation. In order to investigate if the load control could be used in the seaway, the CPP actuation and control system has been mathematically modelled [4]. The model contains the following main elements: Pitch actuating mechanism. External pitch actuating force model (hydro-dynamic forces and moments). Hub mounted pitch-actuating cylinder. Oil supply lines and pitch feedback pipes. Counter balance valve. Oil-distribution box. Hydraulic proportional valves, load sensing and pumps. Feedback sensors and pitch closed loop controller.


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load-sensing control pressure control pitch position control


The study indicated that the response of the CPP system is slow, mainly because of the fact that oil has to be compressed prior to each pitch change. The oil must be compressed to the point that the hub pressure reaches the threshold level of the Coulomb friction. The dead time before pitch change can easily vary from 0.5 seconds to 3.0 seconds. Figure 3 shows modeled and measured results for the pitch change. The results show good correlation between the model and the actual response as measured. Pressure control In the controllable pitch propeller, a counter balance valve is installed in the shaft line in order to maintain the pitch should the hydraulics fail. In the new controller, the counter balance valve is kept open whilst there is no change in pitch. This required the control strategy to be changed. Whilst there was no change in pitch position, the hydraulic pressure had to ensure that the pitch could not change, but as soon as a change of pitch becomes necessary, the position control actuates the yoke so that the desired pitch is achieved. Then it is switched back to differential pressure control to maintain the pitch. Figure 4 shows the new control strategy [5], which will be described below. When the pitch setpoint ref changes, the pitch error increases so that condition C or D becomes true as soon as the pitch error exceeds a certain value. Condition C indicates that the pitch error is negative, meaning that the pitch act has to be decreased, while condition D indicates the opposite. Assuming that the pitch has to be increased (condition D is true), the pressure controller will increase the differential pressure in the hub-cylinder to the upper limit of the friction band. This is ensured by condition D switching S4 to set the upper part of the curve. In this way, the Coulomb friction band in the system is quickly crossed as pressure buildup is more efcient when carried out by a pressure controller than by a position controller. When the required differential pressure is set by the pressure controller CP_yoke with certain accuracy, condition E becomes true, so that S 6 switches from pressure control to pitch position control. At the same time, S 2 activates the electronic load-sensing to ensure a loadindependent yoke speed when the pitch is changed, which is done by the pitch

brake brake cylinder mass

leakage valve actuator load

frame Schematical drawing of the test bench.

Fig. 5 Test bench set-up.

position controller Cpitch. The reference pitch is set more accurately than an error in the pitch is detected to prevent chattering and unwanted switching between the pressure and position control. When the required pitch is achieved, S 6 switches back to pressure control and load sensing is turned off by S 2. Now the pressure controller sets the differential pressure needed to hold the pitch, given by the mean between the upper and the lower part of the exemplied curve of Figure 2. When the pitch set point changes, or when the pressure difference set to hold the pitch is not adequate due to changes in the seaway or weather leading to a change in pitch, the same procedure starts again to match the actual pitch with its set point. Note that the validity of Figure 2 can be extended by taking shaft speed N and ship speed through water u into account, as pitch, shaft speed, and ship speed dene the thrust and the hydrodynamic forces acting on the blades, thus the pitch actuating force. This extension would make the pressure controller more reliable.

In house tests In order to verify the model shown in Figure 4, a special test set-up has been constructed in Wrtsil in the Netherlands. Figure 5 shows the test bench set-up. Results obtained from the workshop test bench indicate a better performance with the new control strategy and a reduction in dead time, Figure 6 shows the results from the new and old controllers. With the new controller, it appears to be possible to follow seaway, because a sine as a pitch set point having a frequency of 0.1 Hz (wave encounter frequency) and an amplitude of 10% of the stroke, can be tracked. During the test bench measurements, it became clear that the non-linear differential pressure controller is substantially faster than a linear differential pressure controller. Furthermore, with the new control strategy switching between pressure and position control, the pitch can be set in a system with high Coulomb friction and a load force while no instability occurs. p

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position [%]

10 0 10 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

position [%]

10 0 10 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

Fig. 6 Seaway simulation for a pressure (up) and position (bottom) controller.

a1 a2 a3 100 load limit 80 load control curve power (%) 60 a4 new a5 old 0.86V 0.93V


f1 f2 f3



f4 f5
0 20 40 60 80 100

lines of specic fuel consumption (kg kW 1h1)

rpm (%)

respect to the reliability of the mechanical system. The dynamics of the oil pipes and the response of the hydraulic system are shifting towards a resonant frequency. Friction in the system introduces non-linear effects and makes tuning of the controller very difcult. Last but not least, tribology and reliability aspects of the bearings have to be considered. More active pitch control means more movement and would therefore result in higher wear. In [6] the big amplitude sliding has been reported as not being a problem for conventional use of a CPP under designed conditions. However, this high control means more small amplitude and (relatively) high frequency sliding, which should be done in such a manner that fretting will not occur. On the other hand, the operation of a CPP in seaways is easily carried out in an improper manner causing control movement due to a mismatch between the seaway and the actuator. From several references (vessels which are currently in operation) where a more active pitch control has been used, the indication is that this has never led to increased wear problems. Also, the misuse of the CPP will lead to increased dynamic loads. Without improvements to the hydraulic system, the use of the CPP in seaways would be too slow to follow the wave and would lead to increased dynamic loads. For new ship systems where such a solution needs consideration, the consequence of the increased use should be studied as well. When done properly, it is expected that the new solution will contribute to fuel savings by a factor of several percentage points.

Fig. 7 Operating envelope of a propulsion plant.


There are two main applications that can benet from the present work, but both have the same starting point. The work presented above is an attempt to make the pitch control faster and more dynamic, thereby giving a reduced service margin. The rst application is for dredgers, where the reduced service margin results in more power for the dredging equipment, and quicker suppression of disturbances. The second application is for cargo ships 52

sailing in rough seas. Figure 7 shows the operating envelope of a propulsion plant, with the old control system propulsion plant operating in the red point. With the new control system, the service margin would be smaller and the operating point will go up. These effects result in higher speed and lower fuel consumption, a rough estimate of which is between 2 and 5% of the specic fuel consumption. However, besides the benets, there are several issues to be considered with

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REFERENCES: 1. H T Grimmelius, D Stapersma, Control optimisation and load prediction for marine diesel engines using a mean value simulation model, ENSUS 2000, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (September 2000). 2. H T Grimmelius, D Stapersma, The impact of propulsion plant control on diesel engine thermal loading, CIMAC Conference, Hamburg (May 2001). 3. S. van der Steenhoven, Monitoring 9000 tonner, Wrtsil internal report, (September 2003). 4. J. Bakker, A. Wesselink, The use of nonlinear models in the analysis of CPP actuator behavior, WMTC Conference, London (March 2006). 5. J.H.H. Huijbers, Non-linear propeller pitch control, MSc thesis, TU Eindhoven, (December 2007). 6. M. Godjevac, T. van Beek, H. Grimmelius, D. Stapersma, Wear mechanism of a CPP, WMTC Conference, London (March 2006).