The Fast Response Cutter (FRC) is a class of patrol boats built by Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana for the United States Coast Guard (USCG). In order to reach its top speed of 28 knots, each 154' cutter is equipped with a pair of custom propellers from Michigan Wheel Marine.
Bollinger was looking for a way to increase propulsive efficiency, and Michigan Wheel provided the answer through fully custom designed propellers. Michigan Wheel teamed up with Maritime Research Associates, LLC and MTU America to perform computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis on the FRC's wake, or region of fluid disturbed by the hull. This analysis provides the necessary information to design a propeller with variable pitch, camber, and chord distribution along the length of its blades to provide maximum thrust and efficiency for the given environment.
This wake-adapted propeller design requires detail oriented, high tolerance manufacturing. Michigan Wheel started manufacturing propellers for the FRC in 2012 and continues to manufacture them as more of the vessels are built. Through high quality casting and precision CNC machining, Michigan Wheel produces propellers that meet Bollinger and the USCG's performance needs.
Custom propellers greatly improve the performance of the FRC. Significant fuel savings are estimated when calculating fuel costs per year per vessel compared to commercial-off-the-shelf technology. Flank speed is estimated to increase by well over 1 knot. Noise and vibration causing pressure pulses are estimated to decrease in amplitude by 50% at flank speed. Design and manufacturing costs are easily offset by the performance gains attained by the FRC through Michigan Wheel custom propellers.