Model testing: What is it and why is it important?

There are a myriad of tests and evaluations that go into the production of superyachts and many of them go on behind the scenes. We are so accustomed to seeing the finished masterpiece, that it is easy to forget about the science, experimentation and testing that ensures yachts stay afloat and are safe and stable for those onboard. Quantum Marine Stabilizers R & D modelQuantum R & D Model

While specifications, calculations and analytics contribute to yacht stability, many superyacht shipyards and product designers turn to physical and visible model testing to attain the best results. What exactly is model testing and how is it important to the yachting industry? We spoke to the team at Quantum Marine Stabilizers, one of the industry's top innovators in marine stabilisation, and to the independent testing facilities, the minds behind the model testing, to find out a bit more about the process.

In the most basic sense, model testing is the construction of a scale model of a superyacht’s hull (sometimes the model also includes the superstructure though this is less common) which is then placed in a tank that replicates the various wave patterns and sea states in order to test the stability and ultimate safety of a vessel. In more technical tests, those that Quantum conducts, there are scaled down versions of the stabilisation and propulsion systems that are also modelled and tested for several hours, over multiple days. 


In recent years, the bigger boat market, 70m+, has made model testing part of the pre-build process, as contracts often define strict requirements as it relates to stability, noise and vibration. Many yards, suppliers and engineers would agree, it is not worth the risk of violating the contract or having to absorb the costs associated with a major fix down the road, when a model test would have revealed the issues long before the keel was laid.

Having the luxury of gathering real data from a model test can be equated to an insurance policy, whereby a sophisticated, small-scale model, can drive redesigns, resizing and repowering on a given system. Keep in mind that the costs associated with model testing can range from $50,000 - $300,000 and the time to schedule a test is often three to four months in advance.  Nevertheless, model testing is the new normal in the 70m+ market and the manufacturers, builders and owner’s team are all the beneficiaries.  

Gwen Benoit, Naval Architect at Quantum, noted that the stabilisation tests focus on hydrodynamics, the physics behind the motion and action of fluids. “Model testing is a great way to visualise and confirm the reduction in ship roll that will be experienced with a chosen stabiliser system. With differentiations in hull shape and vessel weight, it is imperative to conduct model testing to ensure you have the most accurate understanding of how the vessel will respond to different sea conditions.” Quantum doesn't only engage in model testing for specific client projects, but it also conducts their own R & D testing, to better understand how new designs or system refinements will perform.

Dr YongPyo Hong and Mr Soukup are project managers at HSVA, a renowned testing facility in Hamburg, Germany, specializing in yachts and offshore vessels. They emphasized that while the models are scale versions of the finished vessel, they can surprisingly be as long as ten metres and can take up to six weeks to construct, but remain a vital part of the construction process. MARIN testing basinMARIN Testing Basin

Talking to Enrico Della Valentina, Team Leader Yachts at MARIN, a well-respected research and testing facility for the maritime industry in the Netherlands, it is clear that the current process of testing and evaluation will continue to develop in the coming years. He stressed the importance of model testing, like the team at HSVA, but emphasized that thorough testing is not only vital for the determination of stability, but also safety, an issue which has been partly overlooked by the industry regulators as a whole. Enrico heads up an ISO working group that aims to create a five-star standardisation for stabilisation, standardising the process of testing and evaluation, which he hopes will be the future of stabilisation in the industry.

One of the most evident examples of this is during the post construction phase, where the majority of mechanical systems have a clear and standardised evaluation process post construction. Stabilisation on the other hand does not, though some testing centres, like MARIN, offer a performance at sea evaluation by fitting a mechanism to the stabiliser fins and recording the performance of the stabilisers during the time at sea. This lack of consistent evaluation from all manufacturers is something that MARIN would like to eradicate, but model testing goes a long way to prevent post-construction issues that can lead to expensive amendments.

Mr Soukup of HSVA added, “We can model test to a much more accurate level than anything which can be calculated on a computer and it is very important for the final outcome of the product or vessel. When you think about model testing it is important to remember that when you are onboard your superyacht, those vibrations, noises or even side to side movements when at anchor, can be enough to turn an enjoyable experience into an unenjoyable one. That is what we test and prevent with model testing.”HSVA - Towing carriageHSVA Towing Carriage 

MARIN goes one step further by creating a physical simulation that captures the movement of the model in different sea conditions and inputting the movements into a full-scale simulation machine. This allows captains, designers, engineers and even owners to understand how their vessel will feel using different stabilisers. The team goes as far as to create blind tests between different products, allowing those undergoing the test to physically feel the difference between different products and systems, without knowing which system is being tested. This creates a truly unbiased and objective evaluation and it even helps naval architects and designers to understand how it would feel underway in different areas of the vessel, helping them to make better decisions about the location of staterooms and other key living areas.

The process of stabilisation has come a long way, but looking ahead, stabiliser technologies and standardisation will continue to advance and remain a vital part of superyacht construction. Quantum Stabilizers' dedication to thorough model testing, including testing on their own innovations, ensures that they are one step ahead of the game when it comes to safety and stability. To find out more about Quantum’s products, get in touch with the team at:

Quantum Marine Stabilizers

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.quantumstabilizers.com 

Phone: +1 954-587-4205