Your beautiful new ship is launched from the shipyard. She sparkles and shines. The engine revs up for the first sea trials. . . . and disaster strikes! The ship can’t make its design speed. How could this happen? How can you fix it?
In this case, prevention is much easier than fixing. In the design phase, the ship must have a model test in the towing tank. But why? You can easily find someone that claims model testing is no longer necessary. Modern computer technology can easily replace it, right? Well, not really. Not reliably. Computer simulations have their place, but their accuracy still greatly depends on the skill of the individual engineer. Model testing had years to develop international standard practices. When you absolutely must get the speed right, rely on a model test.
But just what is a model test? It sounds like someone playing around with toy boats. And why do model tests cost so much? I came across a five minute article with a quick introduction to ship model testing. If you don’t know what a model test is, read this for a quick orientation.
Not only for ship designers, but even in vast research and development field of naval architecture or ocean engineering studies, model tests are crucial for study of waterborne structure such as offshore rigs, oil platforms, oil wells, floating harbours or jetties, etc. In recent times, the emergence of ship design software and other path-breaking simulation systems have eased the complexities of manual model testing operations to a considerable extent. However, the significance of physically testing a model still remains as even the software-based approaches have their limitations and often rely on the empirical relations established through physical tests.