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June 26, 2012

Pole Trucks & Tugboats: Getting About Commercially

Today we open with a quote from InventorSpot:

“How do you get ridiculously long and massively heavy electrical poles to your construction site without hiring an expensive, purpose-built transport truck? If you’re in China, DIY! Workmen in Wenzhou get their poles to the holes quickly, cheaply and one-at-a-time thanks to a little ingenuity and some very loose traffic regulations.

The heart of the improvised pole-carrier is a common “iron ox” – a two-stroke, two-wheeled tractor commonly used in China for mining, construction and agriculture. It’s estimated around 10 million of the tractors are in use at any one time and they’re prized for their versatility: hook one up to a trailer or other non-powered cart and you’ve got a cheap, rudimentary truck!”

I had no idea what to do with this story until I saw the video below. Then I realized: I should laugh (and so should you).

We’ll stay on the transportation-based technology theme but change countries (and move to the sea). Dutch tugboat operator Rototug and ASD Ship Design have invented technology to prevent towline failures resulting from chafing against a tugboat’s fixed towing point. I don’t understand that sentence any more than you do so let’s allow the professionals to explain:

Conventional towing point designs are usually fixed bitts fitted with polished and stainless steel cladding in line contact areas guiding a towline to a towing winch. Using state of the art towing winches, towlines are winched in and out automatically by using a pre-set line force to prevent both dynamic overloads and slack wires. Synthetic towlines can easily fail due to chafing and friction with increased risks for safety.

Fast ingoing and outgoing movements of a towline with these winches cause high temperatures, especially in the inner core of synthetic towlines. The issue is particularly acute when ambient temperatures are high. The friction and the resulting high temperature cause considerable wear and, eventually, failure of the towline connection.

What does this mean to you? Probably nothing. I have never been on a tugboat and I don’t intend for that to change in the near future. But to me the tugboat is a signal of yesteryear. A beacon of a simpler time. And it’s exciting to see the focus of intelligent individuals on maintaining the tugboat and cementing its future.