PhD Candidate Hired by Industry Partner

With a lot of mathematics and programming the PhD candidate Sondre Sanden Tørdal has developed a technology which compensates for movements and enables cranes on ships to make stable lifts in rough sea.

Article by: Sissel Eikeland

PhD candidate Sondre Sanden Tørdal at UiA was offered employment contract at the R&D department at MacGregor Norway before he handed in his PhD thesis in mechatronics.

Sondre Sanden Tørdal at the University of Agder has developed robot technology and is employed by MacGregor Norway before he handed in the final version of his PhD thesis in mechatronics. The thesis will be handed in during October 2018. Afterwards Tørdal will join the R&D team at MacGregor Norway to continue development of the technology.

Load handling on ships are risky operations. This technology has the potential to reduce risks, increase safety and efficiency. It will be exciting to develop this technology further at MacGregor towards a product, says Tørdal.

The first to submit the PhD thesis in SFI Offshore Mechatronics
Tørdal completed both his bachelor and his master education in mechatronics at UiA and started as a PhD candidate in 2015 in the research centre SFI Offshore Mechatronics. This project is the largest ever coordinated by UiA. The project period is from 2015-2023 and the goal is to increase collaboration and innovation with research active companies in industry and other excellent research groups in Norway and abroad.

Currently the centre has 22 PhD candidates, 2 Post.Docs and 42 Bachelor and Master thesis projects in various fields at UiA, Aalborg University, NTNU and RWTH Aachen. Tørdal is the first SFI PhD candidate to complete his project at UiA.

The centre leader for the SFI and Tørdal’s supervisor, Geir Hovland, congratulates Sondre with his new position at MacGregor. “Sondre has shown a great enthusiasm throughout his PhD period and put in a large effort. In total he has spent 8 years on UiA Campus Grimstad”, says Hovland.

MacGregor got a demonstration
MacGregor is a supplier of engineering solutions and services within maritime and offshore load handling. On September 7 the management team at MacGregor Norway visited UiA’s mechatronics lab in Grimstad. There they got a demonstration of the technology developed by Tørdal. In the lab they got to see two Stewart platforms which moved similar to offshore vessels in waves.

Høye G. Høyesen is the CEO of MacGregor Norway and he is convinced that this technology is something the industry can make use of.

The management team in MacGregor Norway visited the motion-lab in Grimstad and got a demonstration by PhD candidate Sondre Sanden Tørdal’s robot technology. From left: Jan Martin Grindheim, Eivind Gimming Stensland, Geir Grasmo (UiA), Ingvar Apeland, Bjørn Fossestøl, Rune Klausen, Tor Eide, Høye G. Høyesen, Sondre Sanden Tørdal, Geir Hovland (UiA) and Geir Roland.

– The research done in the SFI Offshore Mechatronics is a valuable resource for the industry. The robot technology which Tørdal has developed will contribute to safer transportation and load handling at sea. We live in an interesting time when industrial machines become increasingly more automated and autonomous. I am convinced that this technology will become further developed into a product which MacGregor can sell, says Høyesen.

MacGregor has been involved in Tørdal’s project since the beginning in 2015. Høyesen says that the collaboration with the SFI centre is very exciting and one result is the fact that MacGregor “hijacks” Tørdal to work for them and to realize the technology into a product.

A financial perspective
The leader for the R&D department in the offshore division at MacGregor and Tørdal’s new colleague is Eivind Gimming Stensland. He is currently in the management board in the SFI Offshore Mechatronics centre and has watched Tørdal during the entire project period. He is impressed by what Tørdal has developed and is very satisfied that he now joins MacGregor to develop the product further. Gimming Stensland tells that the technology is very relevant as part of MacGregor’s digitization process.

– From a financial perspective this product will contribute to more efficient load handling operations. Ships can deliver more cargo in the same amount of time as before and this will result in added value for our customers. The technology will make us less dependent on weather windows and give more time for heavy lifts. As a result of this less fuel is consumed and the environmental impact is reduced, says Gimming Stensland.

One of the goals of the SFI is to contribute to growth and innovation within the maritime industry, create new jobs and companies with potential within the offshore sector and outside. The collaboration with MacGregor plays a central role to achieve these goals-

– The SFI centre is very satisifed with the collaboration with MacGregor, says Hovland, and says also that the visit from the management team gives the centre a motivation boost to continue its work.

Test of patience for Tørdal
The University of Agder was the first educational institution in Norway to offer a degree in mechatronics at both bachelor and master levels. The education program gave Tørdal continuously confirmations that this was an exciting field to work in, and that was the reason for him to continue from bachelor to master, and from master to PhD.

– At bachelor and master levels I felt that the learning process went well, and it was both interesting and challenging. It has been very exciting to build and further develop Motion Lab to what it has become today. That process has, at times, been both frustrating and challenging, while it gave me a drive to continue the development of the technology. In the PhD thesis the complexity of my work kept increasing, and that was particularly motivating.

The project has been a test of patience for Tørdal. As an advice to other students who struggle to decide what to become or to research on, he says: Choose something which makes you happy and don’t listen to others!

Below is a video demonstrating Tørdal’s solution, showing damping of a swinging payload in presence of wave-induced motions simulated by the two Stewart platforms. The industrial robot with a winch mounted simulates a scaled-down offshore crane.

Level 2 Paper Accepted

SFI Offshore Mechatronics has it’s first level 2 paper accepted: Sondre Sanden Tørdal and Geir Hovland, “Ship-to-Ship State Observer using Sensor Fusion and the Extended Kalman Filter”, ASME Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering, Accepted for publication, September 2018.

This journal is classified as Level 2 (the highest) in Norway, see:

A new crane control and estimation laboratory

Figure 1. A new crane laboratory at NTNU, Trondheim.

The construction of the new crane laboratory at NTNU, Trondheim has been finalized. The laboratory features a down-scaled version of a knuckle boom crane, which will be used for testing and developing control and estimation algorithms for offshore operations. The PhD candidate Andrej Cibicik (NTNU), who is responsible for the design and assembly of the laboratory, thinks that the research results will provide significant value for the industry.

– The lab itself was built from scratch, so I had a lot of flexibility to make it as versatile as possible. I decided from the start that we should have industrial control hardware in the loop, so that our implementation schemes can be easily transferred to industrial applications. I think that our group at NTNU has achieved a very good theoretical level in the areas of modeling, control and estimation. The next step is to demonstrate to the industry partners how the equations work in practice.

Today, the safety and feasibility of offshore crane operations depends very much on the skills and experience of the crane operator. With this new laboratory we can test and benchmark different automated control approaches for performing safe crane operations in demanding conditions. Andrej Cibicik is collaborating with his colleagues Aksel Sveier (NTNU), Alexander Meyer Sjøberg (NTNU) and Geir Ole Tysse (NTNU). Professor Olav Egeland (NTNU) is the leader for the working packages WP2 and WP4, he is positive about the collaboration between the PhD candidates.

Figure 2. PhD researchers: (from left to right) Alexander Meyer Sjøberg, Geir Ole Tysse, Aksel Sveier and Andrej Cibicik.

Andrej Cibicik adds:

– We want to study possibilities of damping the sway of the payload at the specific position, as well as possibilities of following trajectories while minimizing the sway of the payload. My own research is mainly focused on modeling and control, but the controller is dependent on measured or estimated systems states. Some of the states are very difficult or even impossible to measure, here a reliable estimation procedure comes into play. Luckily, I have several colleagues working with advanced estimation and filtering.

Aksel Sveier is working on implementation of 3D vision sensors and sensor fusion for offshore applications. He thinks there is a large potential for the technology in the industry.

– My research is focused on estimating and tracking position and orientation of dynamic objects and systems using mainly 3D vision sensor technology. The 3D camera enables us to track virtually any object (or several objects) even in poor lighting conditions. We have already conducted several experiments in the lab where we have tracked the crane load using a 3D camera. Potentially, we can also track other equipment and personnel on the drill floor thanks to the flexibility of this 3D vision system. In addition, the estimation and filtering techniques I use enable sensor fusion with other sensors, such as 2D cameras and IMUs, so we can achieve the robustness that is required in an offshore operation.

Alexander Meyer Sjøberg and Geir Ole Tysse are looking at the alternative solutions for tracking of the crane payload.

– We are looking at the application of 2D vision sensors for object tracking in the context of motion compensation. The 2D cameras are known to be very precise sensors under favourable conditions, however the implementation is challenging for real-life cases. We want to investigate the robustness of the technology on its own and in combination with other sensors. The price of the 2D sensors is relatively low and they can easily be mounted on the crane boom or any suited location on the ship to track the motion of the payload, or the other vessel.

Center leader Geir Hovland welcomes the new lab facility at NTNU. The work done on sensors, sensor fusion, algorithms and the scaled-down knuckle boom crane is highly relevant for the research centre SFI Offshore Mechatronics and it’s industry partners.

GCE NODE Energy Outlook, 2018

From left: Leif Haukom (Chairman SFI Offshore Mechatronics), Anne Grete Ellingsen (CEO of GCE NODE) and Geir Hovland (Centre Leader SFI Offshore Mechatronics)

CEO of GCE NODE, Anne Grete Ellingsen, and her colleagues organised the excellent Energy Outlook in Arendal for the 5th time, see

The speakers at the event were:

Terje Søviknes, Norwegian Minister Of Petroleum And Energy
Janne Oddaker And Roger Pedersen, The Federation Of Norwegian Industries/Konkraft
Richard Mallinson Cross-Energy Analyst, Energy Aspects
Astrid Onsum, Head Of Offshore Wind, Aker Solutions
Hildegunn Blindheim, Director, Climate And The Environment, The Norwegian Oil And Gas Association
Steinar Eikaas, Vice President, Business Development Onshore US, Equinor
Nada Ahmed Solution Architect, Kongsberg Digital
Atle Bergfjord, Head Of Public Segment, Capgemi
Odd-Geir Lademo, Research Manager, Materials And Nanotechnology, Sintef
Irene Rummelhoff, Executive Vice President, New Energy Solutions, Equinor

SFI Offshore Mechatronics was represented by the Chairman Leif Haukom, the Centre Leader Geir Hovland and several of the board members.

Outdoor Tests at MHWirth

Mounting of the sensors at MHWirth.

Inside the driller’s cabin, from left to right: Joacim Dybedal, Atle Aalerud and Kai Erik Nilsen.

During the week August 13-17 the 3D sensors used in the work-package WP3 Robotics and Autonomy will be running 24/7 in the outdoor testing tower at MHWirth, Dvergsnes, Kristiansand. The goal of the tests is to test the multiple sensor packages in a more realistic environment compared to the lab at the University, as well as to generate a large dataset which could be used by the other partners in the project. Initially, the dataset will be used for sensor calibration and human motion detection.

IEEE/ASME Best Paper Award


The paper “Visual Marker Guided Point Cloud Registration in a Large Multi-Sensor Industrial Robot Cell” by Erind Ujkani, Joacim Dybedal, Atle Aalerud, Knut Berg Kaldestad and Geir Hovland received the Best Applications Paper Award at the IEEE/ASME International Conference on Mechatronic and Embedded Systems and Applications (MESA) in Oulu, Finland, July 2-4.

Photos from the 4th Annual Conference

Award winners Thomas Meyer and Rune Schlanbusch for submitting innovative idea.

Award winners Joacim Dybedal and Atle Aalerud for submitting innovative idea.

Keynote speaker day 1: Hans-Michael Krause, Director Market and Product Management PLC and IoT Systems, Bosch Rexroth, Title of the talk: “OPC UA over TSN in Industrial Automation”

Lunch on Day 1, Campus Grimstad.

Poster session, Day 1.

Poster session, Day 1.

WP1-Leader Torben Ole Andersen in deep thought.

Lasse Schumann (Bosch Rexroth), Sondre Sanden Tørdal (UiA) and Jing Zhou (UiA) testing out the Xbox controller for the vessel-to-vessel-crane experiment.

Poster Session, Day 2.

WP5-Leader Thomas Meyer (Teknova), Condition Monitoring Techniques.

SFI Offshore Mechatronics, Group Photo, Day 2.

WP2 and WP4-Leader, Olav Egeland (NTNU): Motion Compensation and Modeling and Simulation.

PhD Candidate Shaun Falconer (UiA) presenting his work on fibre ropes using the CBOS machine.

WP6-Leader Baltasar B. Lozano (UiA), Data Analytics, IT Integration and Big Data.

Keynote Speaker, Day 2, Arnt Aske (GCE NODE) challenging the researchers in SFI Offshore Mechatronics to become more innovative and customer focused.

PhD Candidate Atle Aalerud (UiA) demonstrating his experimental work on 3D point clouds and autonomy.