Connectors Rescue Fireboat Harness Assembly
When there is smoke on the water—and fire in the sky—port authorities rely on fast fireboats to come to the rescue. MetalCraft Marine Inc., based in Kingston, ON, specializes in manufacturing very fast fireboats. In fact, the company has sold nearly 600 boats to port authorities across North America since 2001.
MetalCraft’s fastest fireboat is the aluminum-hulled FireStorm 70, which is 70 feet long and reaches a top speed of 46 knots. Its firefighting system can pump 17,000 gallons of water per minute at 130 psi, and stream water at a distance up to 450 feet.
The FireStorm 70 is very agile. At high speed, it can do emergency stops and change direction within three boat lengths. The boat’s other standard features include four diesel engines, two diesel generators, radar, GPS, a patient care area, a medical fridge, searchlights, HVAC and options like a recovery boat and crane.
FireStorm 70 currently sells for $5 million, and its assembly cost has increased significantly the past few years. To remain price competitive, MetalCraft managers recently decided to build the boat’s wire harnesses with Han-Eco modular connectors from Harting Canada.
Han-Eco connectors are made of glass-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic, which weighs and costs less than metal. The connectors are corrosion-resistant and IP65-compliant. Harnesses are built prior to general boat assembly.
Nine connectors are used on the FireStorm 70, according to Charles Iscoe, electrical designer for MetalCraft Marine Inc. Six connectors connect wire from the wheelhouse to the hull; two connect wire from the wheelhouse to the arch and mast; and one connects wire to the wheelhouse and rooftop water cannon.
Iscoe says Han-Eco connectors significantly accelerate the design-and-build process by eliminating 300 hard-wired connections on 30 terminal strips. They also enable design engineers to divide electrical subsystems within the boat and create physical modules, such as a cabin instrumentation cluster.
According to Iscoe, such modules are easily cut and pasted into electrical drawings used on the shop floor. Blanks within each connector separate power from the modules to prevent any interference.
MetalCraft likes the Han-Eco connectors’ ability to handle multiple wire sizes, thereby increasing engineers’ flexibility when designing signal connections. Because previous connectors only accommodated one or two wire sizes, earlier versions of the FireStorm 70 needed many ceiling penetrations—each of which was dedicated to an individual cable.
Modular connectors, in contrast, let MetalCraft engineers load several gauge-specific modules into one connector and standardize electrical systems. For example, engineers now use one connector to bridge pneumatic (air horn) and coaxial (surveillance camera) signals that pass through the boat’s cabin ceiling.
A final benefit of the connectors is quicker and easier harness installation. Shawn Latreille, assistant supervisor for MetalCraft, says mating wire used to require two weeks of making hard connections. Now it involves one day of plugging in connectors.
Han-Eco connectors even allow MetalCraft workers to separate wire runs in different areas of the boat, and immediately terminate each wire instead of waiting until the mating process.
For more information on module connectors, call 855-659-6653 or visit www.harting.ca.