Which Teeth Will Survive The Cut? Adapting Your Selection

Me, explaining about our cutter systems
Me, explaining about our cutter systems

After my last post1, I received some comments and questions about the actual products we are applying in our cutter systems for our CSD’s2. Indeed, from a pure physical perspective, last post cuts to the heart of the processes, but does not explain our design of the working tool that makes a cutter suction dredge do its work.

Over the years, there has been a lot of development in this tool. Originally, suction dredges were plain suction dredges, working in non-cohesive sand. When the soil was more cohesive than could be dug with the standard suction dredges, attaching a mechanical device for loosening the ground enabled the suction dredge to work in this environment. From this original concept, the cutter head was already recognisable as a crown with teeth on a back ring and a suction mouth in the centre. From there, a lot of experimentation was done, but ultimately it all came back to this concept. Although modern cutter heads have a vastly improved performance and lifetime.

The cutting process in a modern cutter head is a combination of the rotation of the head and the swing of the dredge. The teeth describe a compound path of translation and rotation and each individual tooth has its own set of cutting parameters for depth and angle varying over time. Moreover, the combination of teeth on the different arms, allow for a staggering of the teeth that each tooth cuts fresh material and optimising the use of the teeth and spreading the wear. This results in a complicated geometry of the arms and a intricate pattern of the teeth.

Teeth system with adapters (left) teeth system direct on arm (right)
Teeth system with adapters (left) teeth system direct on arm (right)

Once a cutter design has been chosen, there is still some tuning possible. Normally, the teeth are fitted on adapters and there are several teeth types available for a certain adapter. Pick points, Chisels and Flares. Most productivity can be expected from the wider teeth. However, the penetration of the wide teeth is less. So, for harder material you want to select narrower teeth.

Adapter system (left), teeth range with adapter (top), teeth range direct on arm (bottom)
Adapter system (left), teeth range with adapter (top), teeth range direct on arm (bottom)

Wear is also an issue3. And as the teeth are in direct contact with the fresh material, the wear rates can be severe. The disadvantage of a teeth and adapter system is that that are quite big. So, less teeth fit on an arm, reducing production on average. As most of our CSD’s are working in more gentle sands we selected a cutter system, that provides more teeth to engage in the action, increasing production. As these teeth are fitted directly on the arms, there are no adapters that wear also. Consequently having no adapters, simpler arms and dirt cheap teeth result in a low investment low OPEX cutter system. Although you might have to check the state of your teeth more often, in the end you spend less money on a cubic meter produced.

Teeth in various stages of degradation
Teeth in various stages of degradation

Teeth can be worn down to the root. Also they are not wearing evenly. Usually, they last longer on the outside, near the back ring. You might consider using different tooth forms over the arm. Experience and practice, will guide you in selecting the best combination. In line with the previous post, the analogy will be on the table. Just as you select different teeth for your fork, you can select different teeth on your cutter depending on the dish being served.

Different teeth selection for tableware
Different teeth selection for tableware


  1. Experiencing The Cutting Edge Of Dredging Technology, Discover Dredging
  2. Cutter Suction Dredger, Damen
  3. Wear of Rock Cutting Tools, Peter Verhoef

See also

Don’t Play Games With Your Wear Part Planning

Board game for wear part manufacturing planning
Board game for wear part manufacturing planning

Last week we had another of our training courses for service engineers and field service engineers1. The interaction with people actually working with our products is quite refreshing and every time I understand their issues better. One of those issues is that they have to discuss with the client are spares for the wear parts. In a planned maintenance context, wear parts are a little odd. Sometimes, they are worn away or break down unexpectedly. And that is the moment customers call for spares. We do have a lot of spares on stock, but sometimes even we run out of stock or we advise to use a special execution of the concerned part for the specific operation of the client. And then we have to inform the service people and the client that there is a long lead time. Several times, they are filled with disbelief and under such circumstances it is very difficult to explain the reasons behind it. So, that is why I developed this little game to experience the waiting time for special wear parts.

Layout of the board for the wear part game
Layout of the board for the wear part game (Download pdf version here)

It is based on the old board game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’2. All it takes are the board, one dice and as much tokens as players. All start at the first position. The places are all phases in the manufacturing of the wear parts and each have their specific issues.

  1. Each pattern is used multiple times and wears down, itself. Also, some patterns have to be configured for the specific application, execution or material of the wear part.
  2. Moulding: the pattern is placed in a casting box and filled with sand.
  3. Sometimes there are more casting boxes needed and they have to be stacked carefully. Depending on the configuration, this step might be very short. Then you go directly from 2 to 4.
  4. Part of the casting system is already in the sand box with the pattern, but it has to be finished as the last part of the preparation.
  5. The material is melted in the furnace. This can take some time, depending on the size of the cast.
  6. The actual casting is done in minutes. Fifteen, at the most.
  7. But the cooling in the casting box takes weeks. Wait one turn.
  8. Sometimes the casting has not gone properly and the cast have to be done again. Back to square one.
  9. Satisfied with the cast, then it has to be touched up at the fettling station.
  10. A special heat treatment brings the final hardness and toughness to the product.
  11. The fitting surfaces of the wear parts have to be machined.
  12. Rotating parts have to be balanced. For non-rotating parts, this can be skipped.
  13. Then there is the bottle neck: quality control. If there is a deviation that can n ot be mitigated, you have to go back to square one.
  14. Depending on the location, transport can take weeks.
  15. Don’t start me about customs handling. Your anticipated spares are in bonded storage and customs is missing a document, wait some weeks or skip a turn.
  16. Finally, you’ve made it! Installation on the dredge.

Message of the game: keep your warehouse well stocked with wear parts3,4, or your dredge will be idle for months, before you can work again. Have fun!

Spare parts on stock
Spare parts on stock


  1. A well-trained team makes all the difference, Damen
  2. Snakes and Ladders, Wikipedia
  3. Do You Have Wear Parts For Spare?, Discover Dredging
  4. Options for Repairing Parts That Ought to be Replaced, Discover Dredging

See also

Graduation Suman Sapkota: Where wear parts were worn down

Suman Sapkota signing his Master of Science degree

Yesterday, Suman Sapkota graduated at the University of Twente on: ‘Technical and Sustainability Analysis of Sediment Erosion of Impeller Blades of Dredge Pumps’. We are very proud he worked for us on this topic and graduated with a grade 8 for it. As such, he stands in a long line of Master students1, who graduate with an 8 or even higher2. We value good students and we like to work with them only if the work they deliver is useful for us. This requires an intensive supervision and the results are correspondingly. This does not guarantee a good result, but you can always try3.

Suman graduated on a topic covered by the chair of ‘Sustainable Energy Technology’4. The objective was to study the economic and environmental impact of worn wear parts. When wear parts have to be rejected too early, they increase their environmental footprint. On the other end, if an impeller is severely worn, the efficiency decreases and the environmental footprint increases also. Our question was whether it was possible to improve the design of the dredge pump for a longer lifetime by checking the wear rate of the improvement in a simulation. To understand the problem and answer the question Suman had to start investigating the wear process itself.

Introduction sediment erosion in dredging applications

From literature he evaluated different erosion models. Basically, what is the effect when a defined particle impacts the concerned surface under certain conditions. And the conditions will be depending on the flow pattern and the influence of the fluid on the particle trajectories. The second research part was the investigation of this flow pattern and simulated with a CFD application. The flow pattern and the particle properties were combined. This way, the movement of the particles can be traced from inlet to outlet.

Particle tracking in CFD simulation of an impeller

Between inlet and outlet, the particles bounce against several areas of the blade. The bouncing can be counted and mapped. Together with the information of the impingement conditions and the erosion model, an estimation of the erosion rate can be made for different flow conditions and soil properties. The mapping can be transformed into an erosion density map. These maps can be checked for pump capacity and particle sizes.

Sediment erosion rate density map

With these maps, we can finally evaluate in advance where impellers will wear down and if we can improve their lifetime by modifying the design. Thus we can reduce their environmental footprint and contribute to a more sustainable business.

Suman, thank you very much for working for us. You were a pleasure to work with. We wish you good luck on your career and a happy life.

Congratulations to Suman Sapkota. Well done!


  1. Graduation reports, Discover Dredging
  2. Ben Sloof Nominated For KIvI Best Offshore Graduate Student
  3. Internship Vacancies, Damen
  4. Kipaji scholarship for Nepalese student, University of Twente

See also