DSC’s Dredge Simulator

by Colleen Suo

During the 2017 CONEXPO-CON/AGG recently held in Las Vegas, NV, DSC Dredge invited attendees to try their new state of the art dredging simulator, which featured advanced dredge operation software that is available to install on any new dredge or as a retrofit. The software running in the simulator has been in development for 18 months, and although for this show it featured one type of dredge, DSC plans to be able to showcase a choice of any of their dredges in a simulation program for AGG1 2018.

During my visit to the simulator, William (Bill) Wetta, senior vice president, Product Development and chief technology officer (CTO) for DSC gave me a brief demonstration. The operator sits in the simulator just as they would in the operations center of the dredge. To the left is the GPS monitor and to the right is the dredge control. Wetta remarked that part of what they were trying to show with the simulator was how much more accurately, effortlessly and efficiently an operator can work when running the dredge in automatic mode with this software.

The dredge used for the CONEXPO simulation is a fully customized cutter suction dredge that was recently launched to CalPortland’s Santosh Aggregate Plant in Scappoose, OR. The software was developed not just for the simulations, but the Santosh dredge will be running the same program. “This is the CalPortland dredge’s actual software,” Wetta emphasized.

As he took me through the paces, he explained they were “simulating a big dredge cutting a tough bottom at 60-feet. As soon as the cutter hits 60-feet the cutter (reader) should bounce up” and let him know he’s hitting something.

As he operated the simulator in manual mode, the efficiency clearly dropped, while the program was throwing “all sorts of rocks” at him, causing him to constantly have to make adjustments to compensate for the differing pressures in the intake pipe in order to keep efficient production. Once he switched the cutter speed and swing to auto, he stopped and restarted the program. At that point the computer took over monitoring all the different nuances of running the dredge. In no time, it was operating at optimal production.

Where he had to constantly make manual adjustments on the equipment, under manual mode, in auto mode “it’s pretty much optimized to do as best as it can on its own.” It undergoes ten updates a second based on all the instruments “so it’s working pretty hard to keep the dredge at maximum production.”  He continued, “It will pretty much control everything by itself.” The operator would only need to monitor the readings so that nothing untoward happens.

The DSC Dredge monitor reads like a pie graph, broken into quarters. Each section is labeled for its purpose: Outlet, Inlet, Cutter and Swing. Some of the other information displayed in real time includes: outlet RPM and percentage, inlet depth and production in tons per hour, cutter RPM and percentage, swing and p brake percentage. Also seen at a glance are ladder readings, hydro pump pressure and other fluid data.

Operators can color code the bar graph-type readouts to their liking. For this simulation, Wetta explained that gray represented clean water, yellow equals a density of above 1.15 (over 800 tph) “and then if I get a little bit above the 12, I start seeing the orange bar — which is where I’d really like to get it. I’d like to be bouncing between the yellow and the orange. If I go steady orange, it’ll overload the system. It’s now at the point where it can keep doing that — the yellow and the orange — there’s no way a human can do that. Not without plugging the pipeline.”

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