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Maritime Modeling

By Sara Ferris

The Coast Guard is thinking ahead. In its $600-million contract for a new 45-foot aluminum-hulled patrol boat, it specified that each of the boat’s 5,000 parts must be fully modeled in CAD software. The CAD data will power an interactive Web-based assembly that engineers will use to service the boat, part of a strategy to decrease the amount of time needed for maintenance and replacement of boat components. 


The new boat, called Response Boat-Medium, or RB-M, will replace the Coast Guard’s 35-year-old fleet of 41-foot utility boats. The RB-M will handle a number of duties, including search and rescue, drug interdiction, environmental protection, homeland security, and boating safety.

The Coast Guard is also emphasizing human engineering in the new design, with the goal of increasing crew efficiency. The RB-M will provide secure seating for all four crew members and an environmentally controlled cabin. Self-fendering will allow the crew to conduct boarding and towing operations more efficiently. The RB-M will also be significantly faster than the 41-foot utility boat, with a top speed of 42 knots. Each RB-M can accommodate two mounted .50-caliber machine guns.

The winning contractor, Kvichak Marine Industries (Seattle, WA) is using SolidWorks for the job. “SolidWorks software makes it easy for our engineers to take the concepts in their minds and model them in three dimensions,” said Kvichak engineer Leo Schowengerdt.

Designing a boat is a complex undertaking, and Kvichak is using an assortment of SolidWorks capabilities. SolidWorks custom property capabilities are used to annotate the Web-based model. Kvichak engineers use COSMOSWorks analysis software to optimize the design of individual parts and study the effects of forces on the entire boat. Engineers must consider collisions, wave impacts, and random forces such as those exerted on a hull when it’s balanced on the peak of a wave.

SolidWorks PDMWorks data management software allows Kvichak’s 20 engineers to avoid version control problems when they work on the boat design concurrently. SolidWorks Routing software is used to lay and then modify electrical cables. SolidWorks eDrawings collaboration tool is used to share the design with external parties, including the Coast Guard engineering review team.

Kvichak has integrated its 30 SolidWorks seats with its ERP (enterprise resource planning) system so that engineers can initiate purchasing and manufacturing workflow immediately once their designs are approved.

Kvichak selected SolidWorks software over specialized marine-industry CAD packages from smaller companies. “We wanted to work with a company that had the resources to aggressively update features and provide robust support whenever we needed it,” said Schowengerdt.”

“A boat is a formidable mechanical engineering challenge,” said Rainer Gawlick, SolidWorks vice president of worldwide marketing. “Every design decision has implications for the performance, handling, and in this case, life-saving capability of the vessel. We’ve worked closely with Kvichak to understand its challenges in designing better products, knowledge that will help shape future versions of SolidWorks software.”

Kvichak and its partner in the project, Marinette Marine of Wisconsin, will deliver the first boat in December and build up to 180 more in the next eight years. Marinette Marine, the prime contractor, provides experience in contract management, logistical support, and building large steel ships for the Navy and the Coast Guard. Kvichak, which was founded in 1981, adds experience in designing, engineering, and constructing smaller aluminum boats.

For more details and images from the RB-M project, visit:




Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company and customer website.

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