SKYDEX gives relief from G forces

Shock forces experienced by passengers and crew onboard fast ferries and other small vessels is an issue which is constantly being looked at by naval architects in an attempt to mitigate the worst of the effects on individuals. Apart from ship borne systems to dampen the worst of a ship?s sea motion by means of stabilising fins, stabiliser tanks and other systems, there is still room for improvement particularly during rough sea conditions.

A novel solution to this problem has been addressed by Skydex Technologies, a US company, which has produced a cushioned slip-resistant decking material based on a twin hemisphere design made from highly durable polymers.

The company has been developing this concept and introduced the prototype onto the US market in June last year which has aroused a good deal of interest in the domestic shipbuilding industry for leisure craft and commercial vessels, particularly offshore supply vessels. With its unique patented cushioning materials, Skydex aims to enter the market with its 21/4" and 11/4" thick deck panels.

The company is also able to custom engineer products to meet specific impact requirements by varying the geometry of the twin-hemisphere design, altering materials or by varying the overall profile of the panels. The concept is simplicity itself in that, the more pressure is exerted on the hemispheres, the greater the return or spring rate one will get.

The Skydex decking panel products have successfully undergone laboratory tests at the Special Operations Product Development Group at the US Army Natick Soldier Centre. Currently they are going through operational testing on high speed Navy boats. The Naval Special Warfare Command needs an improved deck matting system for its small surface craft where Navy SEAL operators are required to stand during transit in rough sea states and weather conditions. The forces transferred to the individual can be large and cause acute and chronic injuries which impair performance.

Obvious applications where the cushioning properties of Skydex will be most cost effective are operational areas onboard small vessels working in rough seas such as offshore supply vessels in the Gulf and the North Sea and high speed ferries. The navigation bridge and wheelhouse are prime candidates but engine room, galley and cabins are also ideal locations where a reduction of impact attenuation on crew members will result in a reduction of fatigue and injury inducing shocks.

All of this should lead to better working conditions and enhanced crew performance. The company claims that its boat decking materials reduce peak G forces by over 90% compared to current military decking materials.

Other marine applications for this versatile cushioning product could include bulkheads where injuries sustained during severe motions of a ship can be prevented. Another advantage claimed by the company is that the product is simple to install and requires little or no maintenance.