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Life Cycle of Surface Drives

When France Helices quotes a surface drive system, a detailed life cycle analysis is provided to all potential customers. In other words, how much is the drive going to cost me over the long term, including maintenance, spares, and fuel efficiency?

These are complicated questions with no set, “one size fits all” answer. Indeed, we have pioneered the use of specific, proprietary formulas in our software that calculate the life cycle costs and life span based on the projected variables and constraints that we are given when we are asked to quote a specific project.

The nature of high speed craft makes fuel efficiency a concern. Indeed, if a vessel burns fuel at top speed at a rate that makes prolonged operations impractical, then the vessel design may not prove as useful as initially anticipated, though the top speed may be adequate or desired.

As to life span of the SDS, France Helices, in insisting on using only the highest quality raw materials, greatly extends the life of the drive over that experienced by competing products.

The figures listed here are averages. They are highly variable given a multitude of factors, including frequency of use, fuel efficiency of the engines, continuous vs. non-continuous operation, maintenance performed. The percentage of time spent maneuvering, cruising, and at top speed also greatly impacts life cycle.

The weak link in surface drives is the roller bearing life. If maintenance is neglected, the roller bearing life span and chances for failure increase dramatically. On average, roller bearing life of 7,000 – 10,000 hours is normal. The MTBF average on the SDS unit as a whole is 3,500 hours, with an average lifespan of the drive at 27,000 hours. Again, these numbers vary greatly from vessel to vessel. Four Cycle Outboards typically experience a life span of 2,000 hours, on average. Stern drives are typically in the 10,000 hour range, though this can vary greatly depending on the manufacturer.

As to fuel consumption, the SDS typically operates on diesel engines, more economical than gasoline-powered outboards. Since every engine and power plant is different on each vessel, it is difficult to come up with average figures. At speed, a surface drive generally consumes slightly less fuel than outboards or stern drives, typically in the 5% range. This is at cruising or top speeds. At low speeds, the SDS is typically less efficient. The efficiency is gained through the reduction in drag.

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More Stories By John Miele

I am currently Sales and Marketing Manager, Asia / Pacific for France Helices. Created in 1977 by Paul BEZZI, FRANCE HELICES is today an international company. French marine propulsion leader, FRANCE HELICES is also one of the international leaders. Research and development are a very important part of FRANCE HELICES program, the CAD's department is equipped with the latest computer technology, using most up to date programs. Our engineers and technicians determine from the customers specifications and designs, the type of propulsion system to suit the boat's application. They can also advise on the ideal choice of power and optimum gearbox ratio to obtain the maximum thrust. There are many FRANCE HELICES' inovations and patents such as Surface Drive System (SDS) which enable boats to obtain very high speed with excellent handling capabilities and high quality Controllable Pitch Propeller systems (CPP) for both professional use and pleasure application. The constant research using cavitation tunnel testing, guarantees high efficient propeller blade shape for our customers. More than 20 000 propellers per year are manufactured by FRANCE HELICES workshops. In all sizes from small sailing boats to large fishing vessels to navy boats or mega yachts. The FRANCE HELICES workshops are equipped with modern foundries capable of casting propellers up to 3.5 tons in NiBrAl. They are also equipped with CNC milling machines and CNC lathe machines. FRANCE HELICES has four sites which cover the complete range of production. The development of FRANCE HELICES, supported by shareholders places our company as a leader in the international market and insures a constant development, worldwide, in order to be close to the end user.