In the increasingly competitive naval architecture marketplace, investment in software technology is an important aid to ensure continuing success. One company who have made a singificant investment in their software tools is Southerly Designs.
Southerly Designs is based in Port Denison, Western Australia. The company was formed in 1997 by John Fitzhardinge and Chris Smart, although John started designing commercial fishing vessels in the early 1980’s - most notably for Geraldton Boat Builders, one of the pioneers of aluminium boat building in Australia. John is a professional skipper & lobster fisherman who has also maintained an interest in designing boats for himself & others. Chris is responsible for implementing Southerly’s use of CAD software & design data to realise their designs, and has taken the lead role in new vessel design for most projects to date.
While his first few lines plans were done in the traditional way with pen, splines & drawing board only, John was a very early beta tester of Maxsurf, purchasing his first version in 1986. From that time on John was an early adopter of each new release of Maxsurf & as a result has an amazing “museum” of early Macintosh computers & Maxsurf application disks (no hard drives back then!). Chris is happy to report that those first Maxsurf design files are still filed away on Southerly’s server & they still open transparently, with 100% accuracy over 20 years later in the latest version of Maxsurf, or the other CAD applications they use.
Over the past 10 years Southerly has grown, taking on more senior & support staff, and have built a professional and dedicated team catering to vessels for the fishing, pleasure, offshore oil and gas, military and surveillance industries. With a portfolio of over 400 designs ranging in size from 4.2m up to 56m, their boats are just as likely to be built by yards in Singapore or Vietnam as they are in Australia.
The combined energies create a very successful yet compact design office capable of providing the extensive pre-cut design packages that modern shipyards demand. As Chris says; “We have worked hard over the years developing procedures & software to allow us to rapidly develop each new design from the “ground up” or tailor it from an existing design, no matter how big or small the vessel or number to be built.”
One of their most significant recent projects has been the crewboat designs Southerly developed for local & international yard Strategic Marine. In addition to many patrol vessels Strategic have delivered from a Southerly design to SE Asian clients, 13 crewboats between 30-40m have recently been delivered from their yards in Singapore & Henderson.
Although the majority of their designs are aluminium monohulls, their portfolio includes fibreglass vessels, catamarans and trimarans. Their extensive use of a core group of software tools that can share design data seamlessly enables them to confidently & quickly cover a wide range of vessel types.
The design cycle at Southerly encompasses the complete process from initial concept, right through to production drawings and NC files for cutting. This process is facilitated by the use of a range of software tools. Drawing on their large database of information collected from built designs, initial weight estimates, resistance and powering prediction and hydrostatics are completed using in house developed regression techniques while the hull model & GA are developed.
Chris says typically an initial hull model is constructed in Maxsurf by one of the team very early in the design process & refined from there right up until production detailing begins; “While we started off with Maxsurf, John & I have tested a few of the other leading hull modelling packages over the years and have always found that Maxsurf is far superior for generating fair surfaces, particularly in a production environment. It is very simple to use yet powerful enough to cope with any surface we need to generate, either in Maxsurf, imported from our other CAD applications, or exported to them.”
As the design progresses, detailed analysis is conducted on the hydrostatics and stability using Hydromax, resistance and powering through the use of Hullspeed and initial structural development with Workshop & Excel. Pre production surface detailing and marketing models are created in MicroStation. “The simple and robust data exchange between Maxsurf and other CAD packages allows us the luxury of constant design refinement throughout the process.” Chris said.
| Maxsurf hull surface model||MicroStation 3D model superstructure added.|
Initial stability analysis & final booklets are generated quickly and accurately from Hydromax. The wide range of clients from all over the world means that Southerly have designed to most of the major classification society rules and government regulations. “The stability criteria supplied with Hydromax has been a major gain in terms of productivity. It is rare we find a criteria that has not been covered by the standard library but if we do we can easily create a custom one from the parent criteria”, senior Design Engineer Andrew Taylor said.
|Hydromax model showing stability analysis, extensive internal tanks.|
Formations structural design package Workshop, is used exclusively for plate, stringer & frame development. As Andrew explains; “For hull shell plates we supply the developed shape of each plate to be cut by the yard’s plasma or router cutter along with markings for stringer paths & frame intersections. A result of which is that in many cases the production team weld the stringers to the unformed plate on the workshop floor before offering it up to the hull, knowing it will fit. Initially the yard was sceptical that the accuracy was going to be sufficient for the formed plate and stringers to slot directly into the frame cutouts, but we manually checked plate & stringer developments in the early days of using Workshop & many boats later we know the accuracy of Workshop is very robust & only gets better. It is nice to have that level of confidence in the software output”.
|Workshop model complete with frames, stringers, cutouts and plate expansions.|
Where the simplified structural analysis prescribed by class rules leads to undesirable results, or where a more accurate method is required to prove novel designs, Southerly mostly use Multiframe marine, another software application from the Formation Design Systems’ Maxsurf suite. Complex structures can be quickly & accurately analysed to aid in confidently developing the necessary scantlings.
|Structure and loads on crane-rails modelled and analysed in Multiframe.|
Once the design has been refined in the Maxsurf suite to a stage where production drawings are ready to be generated, the model is moved across to ShipConstructor. ShipConstructor is a relatively new addition to their software repertoire. Southerly started with one limited license of ShipConstructor structure 18 months ago and has gradually added licenses and increased the maximum number of parts to adapt to new projects they have worked on since then. This has always been a simple process that involved one phone call and a license update utility was usually received the next day. Even though AutoCAD had not been used in the Southerly Designs office prior to purchasing ShipConstructor, the implementation of ShipConstructor has been a smooth process that involved only 4 days of training for each staff member.
|3D rendering of hull structure and superstructure model from ShipConstructor|
18 Months after implementing ShipConstructor, nearly all production drawings come directly from ShipConstructor and builders are becoming more likely to use the 3D model to query design details themselves directly from the 3D ShipConstructor model, rather than asking for more traditional paper detail drawings. “This is a process Southerly is happy to nurture as it allows more time spent designing better boats rather than detailing more drawings” Andrew said.
Although ShipConstructor has its own automatic nesting module, Southerly’s existing nesting software, SigmaNest, is smoothly integrated in the ShipConstructor suite using simple dxf data export macros that Formation Design Systems developed. Southerly is very pleased with the level of support they receive from Formation Design Systems.
A long involvement in the marine industry and extensive use of a range of software packages has allowed Southerly to remain at the forefront of the marine design industry for over a decade. More information on Southerly can be obtained from www.southerly.com.au.