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Guide to steam engine management
2017-02-17, 06:10 PM
Post: #1
Information Guide to steam engine management
The new steam engines have been around a for a while now, but I don't see many people using them. This might be because steam engines:
  • use resources when there is no demand for power,
  • are quite bulky and space inefficient,
  • are annoying to manage, unlike Fuel engines which can be made to be extremely efficient and require no additional equipment to manage demand.

However, I've taken a shine to Steam engines because they:
  • are easier to make,
  • can be very efficient,
  • can easily be managed with some control blocks to use no resources or fewer,
  • turbines can produce absurd amounts of power to charge up batteries at phenomenal rates.
  • USE NO EXPLOSIVE FUEL. Just materials, and you can gain materials from enemies you destroy, so it's almost unlimited in a way.

I've made this guide to prove that steam engines can be compact, efficient and powerful, and to show you how steam engines can be managed automatically by both player and AI.

Firstly, lets get over the fact that steam engines cannot be compact. I have created the smallest steam engine possible;
[Image: M0roxKJ.jpg?1]
It's a 2x1x4 engine consisting of just 1 small boiler, 1 piston and 1 crank. It produces 323 power, burning just 0.2 materials a second. With that one small material box, this thing will burn for 2,500 seconds, which is over 40 minutes. Given that this number is rounded to one decimal place, it could actually range from 0.15mps (3,333s/55min duration) to 0.25mps (2,000s/33min duration), and i kind of wish a second decimal place was added so I could give a more exact figure.

Anyhow, lets put this thing to good use. We'll add huge propeller and control to the back of this barge Full steam ahead!
[Image: dXxAAbx.jpg?1]
So we're off, but as you can see this thing is barely using any of that power, so effectively 199 is going to waste. That's far too much. Let's tone it down a bit to a more reasonable level.
[Image: 3JwCKg0.jpg?1]
[Image: r43h4cr.jpg?1]
That's much better. I tried 0.4 but was only left with 2/3 power left, which is no good. I like a margin. With a 0.5 burn, I get a free 37 power for stuff like ammo processors. Now I'm steaming along using just half the materials as before. I've now got somewhere around an 80 minute duration. Note I'm keeping the burn rate to 1 decimal place; I'll tell you why in a bit.

Let's now stop for a bit.
[Image: wsndAkP.jpg?1]
Well shiver me boilers! I'm still consuming that fuel when I'm not moving!
This is where our little friend, the Automated Control Block comes into play.
[Image: qRx2hRa.jpg?1]
We'll need two of these. Lets set them up.
[Image: AjJJNj9.jpg?1]
The first one we want to set the boiler burn rate to 0 when more than 90 percent of power isn't be used. As soon as you set these parameters, the boiler cuts off and the piston grinds to a halt. Now no power is being wasted.
To get the boiler up when we want to move, we'll set the second ACB to these parameters;
[Image: KUKYatD.jpg?1]
This is so when less than 90% of power is available, the boiler will begin to burn at 0.5, as we set before. Note in the ACB, I can only set boiler burn rates to tenths. This is why I tested with tenths only.

Now we get this;
[Image: aCUbOcV.jpg?1]

And if we throttle up...
[Image: JPeXaI2.jpg?1]
The boiler starts to power up. Note now the boiler takes a bit of time to get up to speed. This gives our propulsion a gradual increase in power fraction until the boiler has reached its top pressure for it's burn rate, rather than the sudden jolt of speed fuel engines provide.
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2017-02-17, 06:10 PM
Post: #2
RE: Guide to steam engine management
Here it is after the boiler has reached full pressure;
[Image: jax0tmy.jpg?1]

Now lets add a shield. The shield will activate only in combat, but for testing purposes I'll be switching it manually.
[Image: TmfFnfG.jpg?1]
The shield has a range of 1, and power, width and height of 10. Currently, it's consuming more power than I have so it fails often. I want to give the engine more power, but ONLY when the shield is active, or if I have ammo processors running, or other demands for using it.
Therefore I shall add a third ACB with these settings;
[Image: fYlh0tR.jpg?1]
Because the shield wants to use all the power I currently have, I'll set the burn rate to 1 for now, and the power input to 30. I use 30 because the propulsion itself uses a bit more, so if anything else is also drawing power, this ACB will come into play.

Let's test it out. Stationary;
[Image: ht4Kmvu.jpg?1]

Patrol Mode/Fleet mode, not in combat;
[Image: vJgJNQN.jpg?1]

Combat mode with shield active;
[Image: e1p7Mdh.jpg?1]
If I turn the shield off, the boiler will burn half again, and if I stop, the boiler will stop.

And so concludes the first of my steam engine tutorials Blush I hope someone finds this useful Tongue
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2017-02-18, 03:10 AM
Post: #3
RE: Guide to steam engine management
In most of your photos you don't have the "power fraction < X" showing.

Another good point to add is that you can use the effect range settings on your ACBs to turn a group of boilers off while keeping a couple on to allow for more selective power values. For example on one of my airships I keep one boiler running at all times and only selectively turn on boiler groups as power needs increase.

This is a useful way to circumvent the ACB single decimal disadvantage.
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