TITUSVILLE, Fla. (Nov. 7, 2005) – Boat owners who are tired of climbing over, around or through their lift while working on their boat – which can be dangerous – will find welcome relief from a safer, reconfigured boat lift system developed by Float-On, Corp., an aluminum boat trailer and lift manufacturer.
The revolutionary lifting apparatus was designed in cooperation with the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) and is expected to be on the market by 2006.
SATOP is a NASA-funded program that provides free engineering assistance to small businesses with technical challenges through donations of time and expertise from 50 Space Alliance Partners throughout the country. SATOP is operated by the Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA).
Traditional systems use guide cables and pulleys to keep the platform and boat level during lifting, but installers must enter the water to connect the cables to the front pylons underneath the waterline. Moreover, during operations the boat lift and cables are submerged and, therefore, highly susceptible to corrosion, especially in brackish and salt water.
With the new Float On lift, the boat is readily accessible and extremely convenient, unlike the old systems, said Ralph Poppell, president of Float-On. Float On not only provides unobstructed access to the boat, but also is constructed of powder coated aluminum so that it will last longer and maintain its appearance for years.
Poppell wanted to develop a more user-friendly product. He already was familiar with TRDA and its SATOP operation, which are located in Brevard County. He had referred others to the agency “because I believe in them and what they do. They run a first-class, timely operation.”
Civil Engineer Richard Wood, co-founder of AJT & Associates, Inc., a SATOP Platinum-level Alliance Partner, responded to Float-On’s Request for Technical Assistance (RTA). Wood’s multi-discipline engineering firm specializes in facility modification and thrives on conceptual challenges. Its global innovations include developing and shipping water treatment systems to southern Thailand villages devastated by last year’s tsunami. AJT also designs and constructs airport control towers, including the Space Shuttle landing facility tower that debuted in the summer of 2005, and a control tower cab spanning 34 feet in diameter that is being built in pieces in Cape Canaveral, Fla., to be shipped and assembled in the Bahamas.
“The attitude here is, show me something somebody says can’t be done or is difficult to solve and we’ll likely jump in and give it a try,” said Wood. “That’s the mindset we have here about developing any new system or solving a complex problem. This became an analytical design project; more of a mechanical than civil engineering project.”
Poppell submitted several redesign ideas and asked for ways they could be improved upon. Wood’s research included a visit to one of Float-On’s boat lift installation sites for first-hand knowledge of the existing lift method. Poppell’s son, Tim, who serves as vice president of Float On and handles day-to-day operations, conferred with Woods during the site visit.
Using schematics and CAD drawings, Wood modified Poppell’s design concepts to incorporate higher lifting point placements for the rerouted pulleys and cables within existing gear and motor systems. Housed on columns at the top of the lift and the stern of the boat, the improved mechanical apparatus operates with minimal water contact. Load calculations and welding connections, based upon Wood’s conceptual design, were left to Float-On’s in-house engineer.
“The challenge was to create a lifting mechanism, including the cables and pulleys, that stays out of the water but still gives the full access of a float-on boat lift,” said Wood. “It was a little tricky because the normal method of lifting is to go to a point that’s the lowest below the boat it