Marine electronics and navigation specialists, Mantsbrite, were looking for a way to quickly and easily diagnose an NMEA 2000 network, after a vessel that they had worked on presented with apparent faults along the starboard side of the network.
Having refitted the navigation gear, AC/DC power suppliers and charging arrangements for their client’s vessel, Mantsbrite were contacted by the client who reported a loss of data on their starboard fuel display, as well as the MultiTank display no longer working and the RD-33 was no longer getting any navigation data.
Matthew Langham, Mantsbrite’s Technical Director, explains: “This indicated to me that there was an issue on the NMEA2000 network as all these devices were on that network and powered from it, so I asked them if the port tank display was good and the navigational plotter system was working correctly, which it was.”
Once establishing that the issue was on the starboard side, as the port side was still working, Matthew remembered that, on the starboard side, there was a thru-hull NMEA2000 speed transducer which, from previous experience when these had gone faulty, had pulled down the network or caused issues.
Tackling the problem
Attending the vessel armed with his laptop, an Actisense A2K-TER-U Smart terminator, NMEA2000 cables, Tee-pieces, and the Actisense W2K-1 NMEA 2000 Wi-Fi Gateway, Langham continued: “I had purchased a W2K-1 for myself to use as a service tool for seeing what was on the network and different points (good for checking cables). This is easier than using a plotter with a hardwired cable, as generally the connections aren’t always in the most accessible location. When I purchased the W2K-1, I saw an email about introducing the included “Actisense-i” diagnostic tools, where you could see battery voltage, log data, CAN-Bus monitoring, etc…”
When on board, Langham confirmed the faults were as described. His first check involved used the A2K-TER-U Smart terminator, which provided immediate voltage checking at the end of the starboard side network. The built-in LED glowed green indicating that the voltage was approx. 9V. Wanting to see the actual voltage was, as well as to check the status of the network before making changes, Langham removed the starboard fuel display and connected the W2K-1 at the rear of the vessel, and had his laptop in the wheel house. Here, he simply connected to the wireless network of the W2K-1, logged into the webpage, and was immediately able to see the voltage and a full list of which devices were connected on the network. Langham added “Here I was able to see the exact voltage which was 13.43 so I had good voltage but I could see I was only seeing a couple of devices on the bus, not everything.”
Langham then moved the W2K-1 to where the MultiTank display was connected, but wasn’t showing anything on the display. Checking on the Actisense-i website, he was able to see the voltages and devices on the bus but again not everything. Langham knew there was a speed transducer connected so went down and removed this from the network and powered-cycled the network and once again checked the Actisense-i website, where this time besides seeing the good voltage, he was able to see details of ALL the devices connected, as well as the load equivalence in LEN and mA, software versions. In his words: “…everything I could want or need!”
The value of the data
When asked why he found the data from the W2K-1’s Actisense-i tool so useful, Langham commented: “This information is really useful and handy to have when problem-solving a network issue, or indeed if I needed to send this off to the manufacturer, as I can see if anything needs a software update as well as what exactly is on the network (something is normally hidden somewhere which could be causing an issue), along with the total load current which is useful if you want to add more devices to the network. In addition, it also gives us a bunch of other information such as serial numbers – again, this is useful because you can use this for warranty registration or if there is a fault with a certain batch of units. Saves having to crawl around a vessel trying to find all this information!”
The end result
Once Langham was able to see everything at the MultiTank display location, he powered the network back down to reconnect the MultiTank Display and moved the W2K-1 back to the starboard fuel display location which was at the end of starboard leg of the network. With the network powered back up, he was able to check the devices on the Actisense-i website where again everything was showing as connected, and on checking the MultiTank display and RD-33, he was seeing data and it was all working correctly.
Langham added: “So, I was able to prove at the end of the network everything was good with the speed transducer disconnected. I then disconnected the W2K-1 and reconnected the starboard fuel tank display which was also then working correctly. During this whole process I was able to show the Master of the vessel and explain what was going on and happening on my laptop using the W2K-1 which is reassuring to them. To finish it off I connected the W2K-1 where the speed transducer was connected and saved a report of the network which I filed away for future reference if I ever needed to do something again on board I can compare it to my previous attendance.”
Final comments on why Mantsbrite chose Actisense
“I have been in the industry for just over 12 years and working with different network systems from a wide range of manufacturers. I have been looking for a solution to diagnose and check a NMEA2000 network and I have seen a couple of testers out there but for the price and what they could do, I couldn’t really justify it as I didn’t think they could do everything I needed. But I have found for the cost of the W2K-1 from Actisense and what it can do, that’s definitely worth having in the tool bag! Considering it’s still relatively new, I am sure there will be future software updates which will only improve it to make it even better than it already is. For anything NMEA2000 or NMEA0183, Actisense has always been my go-to brand of choice – I have always found them to work well and do what it is supposed to so I have never had to worry about an Actisense product not working. If I have ever had a query, needed help or wanted more information on what a product does I have always been able to get an answer out of them – I really can’t sing their praises any more highly.”
Matthew Langham EngTech TMIET
MantsbriteMantsbrite Marine Electronics