KDI tasked me with bringing tugboat controls into the 21st century. Current controls use outdated technology and lack some of the ergonomics and aesthetic thought that is put into the rest of the wheelhouse. Z-drive tug boats are a niche market locally, but there is opportunity to incorporate new controls into repowered tugs. Creating better Z-drive controls would benefit captains by giving them a more comfortable, easy, and safe experience. The new design would aim to work with the existing technology in tugs, fit well in limited wheelhouse space, simplify the usability to make the Z-drive system easier to use and learn, create a more intuitive interface so the captain can focus more of their attention elsewhere, limit any stresses on the body from long term use, and be aesthetically in tone with existing Aquakob designs and the other equipment in the wheelhouse. Z-Drive tug boats are incredibly complex and designing controls for them was a unique and interesting challenge.
Concept development, prototyping
The project’s first focus was an exploration of current controls and the understanding of tugboat drivers' preferences and expectations in regards to overall working experience, safety, and design. At KDI I had the time and resources to go past the concept and develop a real, working prototype. I had access to up-to-date software, brand new 3D printers, extremely knowledgeable engineers, and the opportunity to talk to experts in the area I was designing for.