By Phil Poulos
Some 25 years ago, back in the cold war era, the slightest underwater noise was deemed as a flag to the enemy. Certain submarine operations went beyond the ordinary strength of divers and required a high leverage winch to perform the assigned task.
The only problem was the ratchet on the winch was noisy.
In fact, the spring return “click” was actually measured to be heard about 3 times as far as was “acceptable.”
It was a red flag, in effect saying, “Here we are, over here!.” The only solution (at the time) was an electric winch.
I was given the problem of designing a silent manual winch. I remembered my younger days working in my dad’s mower repair business and recalled the design of the rope starter recoil mechanism on B&S engines. It was, in effect, a floating ball ratchet, and completely silent.
In a matter of three days I had a prototype up and running of my floating ball ratchet, it worked perfect, passed 1000 lb pull test, and is still in use today.
The design consisted of three vertical rings, and it was all dependent on gravity. The outer “ring” (CRES 316) was cut into and became a part of the housing that held the entire mechanism in place. The second ring (NIALBRZ) was movable and held the ball in an angle cut hole, and also had a handle that protruded through a slot in the outer housing. The inner ring (BRASS), also movable, had “saw teeth” indentations to accommodate the 0.375 dia steel ball. The main shaft was a hex bar that fit through a hex hole cut through the inner ring.
To achieve the ratchet operation, the second ring was rotated to position the ball so that it would roll up and over shallow angle slant of the teeth allowing one way rotation. Any attempt to rotate in the opposite direction, the high angle slant of the teeth would force the ball to form an interference block.
Since every second counts, to provide a “free wheel” action for quick line payout, the second ring was rotated to allow the ball to drop to a neutral position.
Can’t say where, can’t say how, but wherever it is used, “Silence is Golden.”
Phil Poulos of Northrop-Grumman Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia, has been involved with the design of military ships both surface and submersible for most of his adult life. Although starting out in mechanical engineering at NC State, he became more interested in things electrical/electronic at Wake Tech. In his spare time, he patented the orbiting lawnmower (5,542,242) and the flying go-cart (5,146,854). Going strong at 68, Phil says he is just a tinkerer at heart.