A group of Cornellians have teamed up with Advanced Design Consulting in Lansing, N.Y. to develop a synthetic rope for hoist systems used in the U.S. naval rescue helicopters.
The group includes Prof. Leigh Phoenix, mechanical and aerospace engineering, and three Cornell graduate students — Tim Lai, Matias Werner and Sarah Choe.
The Navy currently uses steel wire ropes for its hoist systems, according to an ADC. The new synthetic rope aims to solve the difficulties these wire ropes present.
“The current steel rescue cable system results in electrostatic discharge which currently delivers electric shocks to rescue divers as they make contact with the water or ground,” Phoenix said. “A synthetic cable would eliminate that problem and also be lighter and less likely to cause hand injury from broken wires.”
The team collected and interpreted data on the properties of various types of materials during the development process, according to Lai. He added that the winch used in the hoist system also needs to be redesigned to accommodate the behavior of the new materials.
“We have to develop a synthetic rope by picking appropriate fiber types and geometries to fit this application and conduct testing to meet all navy specifications,” Werner said. “Because integration of these synthetic ropes into the current hoist system is not perfect, we also need to figure out a way to integrate the two seamlessly so the system works as intended.”
Werner said that working in close collaboration with ADC and Phoenix has been “different from what I’ve done so far.”
“This type of project exposes students to the most recent high-strength fiber materials, mechanical structures and coatings and lubricants at a depth that cannot be taught in courses at the level required, if at all,” Phoenix said. “Future employers want to see this type of involvement [because] experiences such as these have a huge impact on students’ future careers and the paths they follow.”