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Propulsion - Voith-Schneider

In our Propulsion- series we now discuss a second system, Voith-Schneider.

Voith Schneider propulsion - © VoithThe Voith-Schneider propeller is a specialized marine propulsion system. It is highly maneuverable, being able to change the direction of its thrust almost instantaneously.

Over 80 years ago this ship's propulsion system, the only one of its kind in the world was developed by Voith from an idea by the Austrian engineer Ernst Schneider. It allows thrust of any magnitude to be generated in any direction quickly, precisely and in a continuously variable manner. It combines propulsion and steering in a single unit.

From a circular plate, rotating around a vertical axis, a circular array of vertical blades (in the shape of hydrofoils) protrude out of the bottom of the ship. Each blade can rotate itself around a vertical axis. The internal gear changes the angle of attack of the blades in sync with the rotation of the plate, so that each blade can provide thrust in any direction, very similar to the collective pitch control and cyclic in a helicopter.

Voith Schneider propulsion
© H.G. Hogeboom

Unlike a Z-drive (where a conventional propeller is tilted on a vertical rudder axis) changing the direction of thrust with a Voith-Schneider drive merely requires changing the pattern of orientation of the vertical blades. In a marine situation this provides for a drive which can be directed in any direction and thus does away with the need for a rudder. It is highly efficient and provides for an almost instantaneous change of direction. These drives are becoming increasingly common in work boats such as fireboats and tugboats where extreme manoeuverability is a very useful characteristic.

Z-drives (and Kort nozzles) have both advantages and disadvantages when compared to cycloidal drives. The Z-drive is less efficient and slower to maneuver, but is likely to be significantly cheaper in both the long and short term. A choice is made on the basis of perceived performance requirements. Also the blades of the drive protrude from the bottom of the hull making shallow water operation a problem.

A low accoustic signature favors the device's use in minesweepers.

sources: Voith, Answers.com



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vorsteete wrote


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Fascinating info. Thank you.

Pat Gilmartin

Pat Gilmartin wrote

Hi, i enjoyed your post very much, i love the application, and brute power, of the Voith Schneider Drive, as an ex engineer of both conventional (with N/S cort nozzles and rudders) and Zed Peller tugs, i was always envious of the "guys, meaning Engineers" of the Tractor Tugs. Those babys could pull the skin off of my Mums Christmas Custard, and that takes some doing, 45T Bollard Pull Min......With a QR incase things got sticky....LOL.sorry Mum.

But, as minimally as the vs drive was restricted previously in shallow water ports, the evolution of computer enhanced design prevails which give us design innovations such as variable geometry blade design, varible pitch/rudder profiles (on blade), flexible high speed swash ring/pitch ring designs, just a few things which have decreased prop blade/ turntable draft, So eventually, it will Evolve.


Great to see people enjoy our content and inputting their own experience!