Category Archives: Simulators

Various equipment simulators and simulated activities.

Drilling Simulator


One of our consultants told me that training on the correct use of the auto driller function of our proprietary rig control software could improve drilling rates by 15%. So, I set to work. Most drilling simulators cost in excess of half a million dollars or more. None had our software, however. We had a “simulator” at the school that was an actual drillers seating and computer displays, but they could be taught nothing from it except the use of the joystick, touch screen, and other controls. All the buttons below the screen lead to other functioning screens, all exchanging data. I rather doubt I spent more than 20,000.00 all told and then built it into the “simulator” we had to make it far more realistic and useful. More useful than most simulators as it could be run on any PC anywhere.

Extended Boom Forklift Load Chart Simulator


I was shocked to find that the forklift is the most accident-prone piece of equipment in the United States with over 100,000 annually. The worst ones are caused by ignoring or improper use of the load chart. The fact is, the certification process for new forklift operators often doesn’t really spend a lot of time on it. Extended Boom Rough Terrain Forklifts as used in the oilfield are particularly dangerous in the hands of a poorly trained and disciplined operator. This fairly simple simulator offered trainees direct experience by testing them lifting a variety of loads to various heights and boom extensions, while notifying them immediately when they entered a no-go zone. I designed a version that could be integrated directly into forklifts to provide a similar function on actual devices. While we are “learning engineers” and certainly not any other kind, studying tasks and machines often reveals areas where designs can be improved for safety and efficiency.

Refractometer Simulator


I built this simulation of a device used to test anti-freeze in about a half a day, and it was the first simulator I produced for HPIDC. When first hired, I was viewed with contempt by the SMEs as an academic with new boots. They could not see what I would add to the training function. One day I was entering the office and saw one of them with a refractometer out reading the instructions. I asked him what it was, and he told me, and that errors made in the field with the simple device were costing a lot of money and downtime. I asked if it could borrow it for a while. I took it back to my office, read the instructions, and proceeded to build a simulation. All the images were made by putting the instrument and case in various modes on the bed of a flatbed scanner. They have a remarkable depth of field. I then cut out the various components and used the to create sim. It is silent and highly efficient. When I took it back to my colleague the next day, he went through it in about 3 minutes (it took him ten to read the instructions). He stared at the screen silently and then turned to be and said “I get it now, Dave. I can spend 20 minutes teaching this to 20 crewmen in a classroom, but you’ve done something here that will teach 5,000 the same thing right on the rig.” He became my good friend, supporter, and one of my staff.

ST-80 Pipe Wrench Simulator


The above screenshot is from the ST-80 simulator I can demonstrate on location. The ST-80, also known as an “iron roughneck,” made the job of making and breaking connections far easier and safer in the right hands. These machines cost 400,000.00 each and a set of the spinners you can see to the right of the pipe connection cost 18,000.00 to  replace. The could be ruined in a few seconds by a poorly trained operator. Until  I designed this simulator, the only way to train was  OJT, which could be  expensive and costly if  the students didn’t do well.  The goal was to be able to make or break a connection in 20 seconds or less, a considerable skill level. This simulator took the hit or miss teaching of the sequencing of the controls away from the actual device. Once they mastered it here, time on the machine to duplicate was reduced by 90% and wear and tear on the machine by a similar amount.

Variable Frequency Drive House Startup Simulator

The VFD House is  literally the heart of the rig. Until it is brought on line there is no power on the rig at all. Any time lost once it is ready to start up is counted in thousands of dollars per hour. All steps have to be completed in sequence, and some of them can cause critical failures and a great deal of lost time, or worse. The simulator below provided an massive improvement in field performance over ILT or OJT. Once a student had completed the 4 modules, they had to complete this simulation with no prompts. Once certified, they were given a Quick Reference Card that covered all the steps to bringing these two large engines and two 2500hp generators on line.

VFD House

This is the VFD House. It houses two Caterpillar 3512B engines and two 2500hp generators, as well as the control panels below.

VFD Board

Every control, meter, or function on the above control panel worked, displayed, and functioned just as the real thing.


The Caterpillar panel above is for a specific 3512B engine. Here again, every item on this  panel worked just as in the real world,  right down to sound.


The Quick  Reference  Card  above shows  all  the  steps  covered in the simulator and served to keep the field personnel on the right path. If hard to read, click this link. QRCVFD (View  or download Quick Reference Card)

Production Safety Systems Training Simulator and Simulation


Note the instruction to move the mouse to the right to  view more of the screen. This is one of the many functions we had that Windows, Mac, or LINUX cannot do. We called it “virtual screens” and they could extend as far as you wanted beyond the right, left, bottom, or top of the screen. This allowed the student to simply move their mouse to the edge and the screen would scroll proportionally in that direction to show more of the screen. It was highly successful and intuitive. We also had a variety of sizes and types of mouse cursors for a variety of purposes.

PSST Overview (Click to download item)

SimStation01PSST remains a landmark work. It was developed by myself and a team of my former students from the University of North Texas for ARCO Exploration and Production Technology to improve results, and save time and money on Federally required certifications. The technology was far in advance of its time and it remained in service until the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster changed Federal requirements. When developed there was no portable computer capable of running simulations except one UNIX based OS. As we developed it, it still remains far superior to Windows in stability, preemptive multi-tasking, and user functionality. We could overlay buttons directly onto video, something Windows cannot do. We designed and built SimStation from the ground up with the most advanced technology such as full motion full screen video, 8 individually addressable sound channels, and a variety of other innovations that were beyond anything else in use at the time. I also designed  an on board LCMS that was among the first designed. Additionally, I was tasked by the Minerals Management Service to rewrite sections of the Code of Federal Regulations to cover the use of interactive training because training was counted in hours rather than results. Cost was 2.5 million dollars and was fully recovered in less than six months, as six major oil companies paid to use it. Reductions were about 80 percent in time and about the same for cost of conventional instruction. Further, outcomes and performance of those completing the course was vastly improved.

PIPARCO (Click to download item)

PSST Proposal and Implementation Plan with test banks and concordance with Federal regulations.

PSSTSG  (Click to download item)

PSST Student Study Guide

Counter Explosives Hazards Course Simulation


CEHC Mod B Storyboard

Completed storyboard for a single module of a complex simulations and training course I designed for the Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Leonard Wood. The map above was part of the course. Images below are from terrains I generated in 3D software of various areas of the map. I received a letter of commendations that can be seen in the Letters and Commendations file on this site.

pop This image from from the lower left of the map between the two hilltops with 2nd and 3rd Platoons. The road, defile, and bridge are on the map. There were several explosive hazards in this image, IED’s, and mines. If activated they caused immediate failure and an explosion the student experienced.


Road from map along the River Styx with IED’s.

Deck Crane Simulator


I can demonstrate this simulator for you. It’s a fixed deck crane and designed to be as close to real as possible. The trigger on the remote is proportional to the amount of pull. Until I fielded this simulator the company was dealing with huge losses from bent booms and dropped loads from failure to use the load chart. With this training, that decreased dramatically for pennies on the dollar. Training should be operated with an eye towards increasing competitive advantage, employee welfare, and shareholder value.