Tips For Noise-Critical Installations
Home > Products
Thrusters > Tips For Noise-Critical Installations
Tunnel thrusters have a bad reputation for being noisy.
Since some thrusters are used only for short periods of time
during docking, a noisy thruster may occasionally be acceptable
for certain applications.
However, there are many applications where noise is critical,
and a noisy thruster is not acceptable, even if it is used only
for short durations. There are also many vessels that use
their tunnel thrusters for longer durations, such as vessels
with dynamic positioning systems or fishing trawlers that use
their thrusters while pulling the nets.
There are a number of noise sources in a hydraulic tunnel
thruster system. For all of those noise-critical applications,
the following guidelines apply:
First, there is noise generated by water rushing through the
thruster tunnel. This noise is like a very loud rumble
and travels through the whole vessel as a structure-borne noise.
The amount of thrust produced by a tunnel thruster is directly
proportional to the product of water flow through the tunnel
and water velocity through the tunnel. Larger tunnel diameters
allow greater flow rates at lower velocities. Friction
losses and noise increase proportionally by the square of the
water velocity through the tunnel. With this in mind, it
is clear that a larger tunnel diameter with larger water flow
at lower velocity is more efficient and less noisy than a smaller
tunnel diameter producing the same amount of thrust.
There are advantages in using thrusters with small tunnel
diameters. They are easier to accommodate in the hull design.
A smaller tunnel has less drag and less displacement loss.
However, a smaller tunnel diameter makes for a noisier and less
Larger tunnels also require less acceleration of the water,
resulting in less cavitation at the propeller. This has
a favorable effect on noise. For noise-critical applications,
always use the larger tunnel diameter.
Fairing the tunnel openings (see Tips
on Thruster Installation) improves flow patterns and reduces
inlet losses and cavitation at the tunnel openings, further reducing
noise while improving thruster efficiency.
The second noise source is the thruster itself. Mechanical
noise from gears can be substantial. Fortunately, Thrustmaster
hydraulic tunnel thrusters use a direct podded drive and do not
use any gears. The hydraulic propulsion motor is of low-noise
design, so mechanical thruster noise is not a big factor when
using these thrusters.
Hydraulic piping noise, however, can be quite a nuisance.
It is a high-pitched whine that, when transmitted through the
vessel structure, may cause resonant noise in different parts
of the vessel. The simple way to avoid piping noise is
to place the hydraulic power system close to the thruster and
use only flexible hoses and no piping at all. Of course,
this method is not always possible or practical.
using hydraulic piping, use straight runs where possible, provide
proper piping support, and size the piping adequately to keep
fluid velocities low. To connect piping to the thruster,
the pump, and the control valve, always use flexible hydraulic
hoses. This allows relative motion between piping and major
components and prevents component noise and vibration from being
transmitted into the piping system.
Do not use elbows in the main pressure and return lines.
If you cannot use straight runs, use long radius sweeping bends.
Use the hoses at the piping ends to make the turns to the connecting
Size the main pressure lines for fluid
velocities of not more than 20 feet per second. Pay special
attention to fittings, hose ends, and adapters to make sure they
have adequate inside diameters. An undersized fitting can
act as a flow-restricting orifice causing local flow acceleration
and cavitation, not to mention a lot of noise.
Use good pipe supports, like Stauff Heavy Series or another
of equal quality. Pipe supports should be spaced not more
than five feet apart, and supports should be placed at pipe ends,
close to bends and watertight bulkhead penetrations. Make
sure each support is solidly attached to a rigid structural member
of the vessel structure, such as a transverse frame.
Do not use watertight bulkheads as pipe supports. Use
stuffing tubes with resilient pipe seals, like the CSD Rise or Riswat system. This prevents
resonance of the bulkhead plating.
Hydraulic directional control valves can create a fair amount
of noise as well. For noise-critical applications, we recommend
using a closed loop hydrostatic system. This system does
not use a directional control valve at all and provides for a
less noisy and more efficient hydraulic system (see Hydraulic
Power Systems and Controls).
If other considerations dictate the use of an open-loop system,
you can use either a “bang-bang” directional control
valve or a proportional valve. Size the valve and subplate
adequately with low-pressure drop at full flow. This reduces
noise and increases efficiency. A bang-bang valve needs
to be slow shift type, with adjustable pilot throttles to prevent
shocks during shifting. When using a proportional valve,
load sensing is preferred to reduce throttling at partial load
conditions, again reducing noise and improving efficiency.
The final noise source to consider is the hydraulic pump and
its driver. Gear pumps are generally noisy and should be
avoided. When a fixed displacement pump is used, use a
vane pump. When using a pressure-compensated pump or a
hydrostatic transmission pump, select one that operates well
below its maximum RPM. When doing so, you effectively oversize
the pump for the application, resulting in reduced fluid velocities
inside the pump. This has a favorable effect on pump noise.
The pump should be flange-mounted to the engine flywheel housing
or electric motor flange, using a flanged bell-housing adapter.
This ensures accurate shaft alignment and allows for the use
of spring-type mounts under engine or motor foot, preventing
the transmission of the motor noise and vibration into the vessel
structure. Engine room insulation reduces the radiation
of airborne noise from pump and driver.
When following the guidelines outlined here, the thruster
system should be relatively quiet. However, most of these
guidelines result in a higher cost. It is therefore important
that if you want Thrustmaster to provide a quote for a thruster
system, you express the noise requirements for your particular