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13 November 2014

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You are in: Cornwall > Places > Places Features > RNLI Slipway Research

Padstow Lifeboat

RNLI Slipway Research

A PHD student has been studying the slipways at Cornish RNLI stations to find a solution to the dramatic wear and tear. Ben Thomas from Bournemouth University visited Padstow, Sennen Cove and the Lizard. His findings are being welcomed by the RNLI.

Ben's thesis looks at ways of reducing the friction levels on the slipways during the launch and recovery of lifeboats. He's found that making a simple change in the geometry of the slipway lining material can drastically reduce it's wear rate.

RNLI Lifeboat Launching

Lifeboat Launching

Ben says: "The linings that are used are quite expensive and we're finding that they can be quite quickly worn to a point where they're not safe to be used any more. Obviously the replacement of these panels causes the slipway to be out of use for a period of time which also has safety implications."

"A lot of the slipways are made from panels or tiles, like the tiling on a bathroom wall. What had happened is that the panels had been put in slightly misaligned with each other and this led to there being quite a lot of wear at each point where the two tiles were misaligned."

"The idea was to try and change the shape of the panels so they could accommodate any misalignment that might happen. By doing that we're able to reduce the wear rate significantly to a point that it shouldn't be a problem within the expected life-span of the panels."

Padstow Lifeboat House

Padstow Lifeboat House and Slipway

It means the costs of maintaining and repairing slipways will be reduced, and they'll be generally more reliable. Ben says changing to a water-based lubrication will also reduce the environmental impact.

Based on his research Ben has made recommendations to the RNLI. Steve Austin, the charity's Head of Engineering Support, says: "The findings of Ben's thesis are extremely valuable to the RNLI as they outline improvements that can be made to produce more efficient, durable and cost-effective slipways from which to launch and recover the lifeboats."

"We are grateful to Ben and Bournmouth university for the thorough research that's resulted in such useful outcomes for the charity."

last updated: 27/04/2009 at 14:37
created: 27/04/2009

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