Custom Component Design- Dive Ladder

A good couple of years ago I was working on a 17m DSV, designed by Incat Crowther. They provided us with a brilliant set of structural drawings, systems drawings and cut files, but that is where it ended. As the purpose of this boat was to get divers in and out of the water, the client placed an understandably huge amount of importance on the strength and practicality of this one item. They had experiences in the past where the dive ladder would break during their shift, and then they would have no option but to pull up and return home for the day, losing money.

The ladders had to be detachable, with the one on the main deck being able to swing down into the water, and the ladder on the platforms above the jets dropping into a socket. There were also stringent regulations for the ladder design, relating to it’s depth below the water line, rung spacing and the like.

The project managers and I got together and thrashed out an idea, which I then designed in 3D, put onto a drawing and presented to the client. And the answer that came back was…no. We repeated the process, re submitted a revised drawing, and the answer was…no! After a couple more revisions our team were out of ideas, but I came up with one more, which I designed and put onto a drawing. If I recall it was Rev.G. It was acceptedby the client. The irony was that after all our combined hours, the workshop built the ladders (two plus two spare) in a much shorter amount of time than it took us to design them.

That was the nature of this item, and there was no going around it. If I was the client I would have been just as particular, given the importance of this one small item in the grander scheme of the project. I have done a number of these custom loose items over the years, and in all honesty these are my favorite jobs to work on. Looking back, each of these jobs has followed the same trajectory, sketching and researching in the beginning, then at some point cursing myself for ever getting into design in the first place, working through that, and finally getting to a solution.

I like to think that my training as a sculptor has given me access to a creative design process, the ability to problem solve, turn things upside down and inside out. While always being mindful of keeping the design as simple as possible. And I also like to think that my many hours of practical experience, either crawling around inside boats with a spanner, or crawling around under my car with a socket wrench, keeps me mindful of how important it is to make sure that there is enough room for pins and bolts to be put in or taken out, clearance for installation and the like.

So in short, I really do enjoy my work.

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