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Customer application 28 August 2020
Transparency for Propulsion

Whether it’s a luxury yacht, a cruise ship or a specialty ship – diesel–electric drive systems provide great benefits wherever electrical energy consumption is high. This is one of the core competencies of SAM Electronics. This company specializes in marine electrical and electronic systems. In designing innovative propulsion solutions, the Hamburg-based company relies on the flexibility and reliability of WAGO’s I/O system.

SAM Electronics, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, is a world leader in marine electrical and electronic systems. For more than 100 years, SAM Electronics has developed products and systems for both shipping and naval applications. With more than 600 employees at its headquarters in Hamburg, Germany and nearly 1,400 staff members worldwide, the company offers innovative and customer-oriented solutions. These include energy production and distribution, ship communication and navigation, maritime automation and safety and monitoring systems, as well as entertainment and propulsion technology. The company’s service portfolio runs the gamut from smaller packages to integrated systems and turnkey solutions, including planning, engineering, production and on-board installation.

Propulsion Control – Here’s How WAGO Supports You:

  • The WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750 collects all relevant data from the drive system.
  • The system can be checked in advance using WAGO-I/O-CHECK.
  • In the event of a service call, diagnostics can be performed remotely.

Using Data to Enhance Reliability

Diesel–electric drives offer great advantages – particularly for cruise ships, yachts and specialty ships. The drives run quietly and with minimal vibration and can be designed as redundant systems with exceptional reliability, while providing maximum maneuverability and a allowing high level of automation. In order to prevent faults and operating errors, it is crucial to monitor and control all functions and key parameters. Therefore, a variety of on-board process-related data must be collected from decentralized nodes. For example: How high is the degree of utilization of the various propeller and thruster engines? How many operating hours can they run? Are the engine shafts sufficiently lubricated? How do the temperatures of the transformers and cooling fluids relate to each other? Answering such questions makes it possible to streamline the propulsion control while increasing system reliability.

Maneuverable in All Situations

In order to provide absolute reliability, SAM Electronics employs a redundant diesel–electric drive solution. Conventional mechanical diesel systems usually operate with diesel engines directly coupled to a specific propeller; diesel–electric drives, on the other hand, benefit from diesel engines that can power any propeller. The engines drive generators, which feed electrical power to a common busbar that supplies the electrical drives and all other loads. Therefore, the availability of a drive is independent of the availability of an individual diesel engine. This advantage provides a ship with maximum maneuverability – even in extreme weather or environmental conditions. At the same time, only as many diesel engines are connected to the on-board power supply as are required by the current energy demand. This economizes diesel engine operation, while enabling the engines to operate at peak efficiency. This solution is used for a wide variety of engine sizes ranging from 1 to 21 MW. Each drive is usually equipped with its own frequency inverter, often with corresponding transformers, and operates independently. This makes data exchange between these units and the central unit all the more important.

Uniform Standards

SAM Electronics relies on the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750 to collect all relevant data from the drive system and remotely control the system from the Engine Control Room (ECR) or from the bridge. With this system, SAM Electronics can configure each node to meet individual requirements. The system offers modules for various potentials and analog signal types. The 1-, 2-, 4-, 8- and 16-channel digital input/output modules can be combined as needed, providing a high degree of granularity and flexibility. This fine-grained modular design allows for extremely compact sizes. In fact, it can accommodate up to 16 channels in a module width of 12 mm (1/2″).


The WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM is used from the bridge to the engine room.

Customizable Modular Principle

This modular design can also be seen in the fact that the system offers appropriate fieldbus controllers and couplers for all standard protocols. A variety of fieldbus systems is generally used in shipbuilding applications, depending on the level within the ship. While communication is mainly carried out via ETHERNET on the bridge, data from the ECR system is primarily exchanged via Modbus® or CAN. The RS-485 interface is also used in many areas. This diversity has led SAM Electronics to rely on the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM as a scalable standard component, from the engine room right up to the bridge. “Part of our strategy is to rely on standardized components wherever possible,” explains Rainer Genilke, Project Manager for Drive Systems at SAM Electronics. “It’s extremely advantageous for us to flexibly tap all important data throughout the entire drive system using the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM and a handful of components – and this ability extends across all types of ships and drive capacities. This aspect plays an important role not only in planning and inventory management, but also for the spare parts package that’s carried on board.”

Maintaining Flexibility from Ship Design to Launch

Adjustments and changes are often required during the one-to-two-year construction phase of a ship. Electrical systems also need to be adapted and extended if another type of onboard system interface or additional components are required. This can be easily implemented using the modular WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM; the only requirement for long-term planning is sufficient space in the control cabinet. Furthermore, Rainer Genilke appreciates the fact that distributed units can be easily configured using WAGO’s remote I/O solution. Configuration is performed using the WAGO-I/O-CHECK commissioning tool, which provides a comprehensive evaluation of a system’s wiring and functionality, without requiring the system’s control unit to already be installed.

All that remains is to connect the power supply and fieldbus cables, and the system is ready for operation. “Our most recent design provides us with insight into all relevant drive systems data via satellites after release by the crew,” explains Rainer Genilke. If faults occur while at sea, a specialist can perform remote diagnostics directly from the office to determine whether a service team is required or whether spare parts must be sent to the nearest port.

Fulfill Customer Requests with the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM

“We were sold on the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM because it allows us to meet nearly all of our customer requirements for drive technology,” summarizes the drive system expert. “We also value our cooperation with WAGO due to their experience in the marine industry. Like so many WAGO components, the I/O System used has received all major international shipbuilding approvals and is suitable for use on the bridge near the compass. In one special case, WAGO even succeeded in getting certification for components that hadn’t yet been approved.”


  • Fieldbus-independent

  • Flexible use

  • Tested and approved worldwide

  • More than 500 modules available, including functional safety and Ex i

Text: Jörg Schomacker | WAGO

Photo: SAM Electronics, Hauke Hass/vor-ort-foto.de

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