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Thrustmaster brown water Z-drives first with mechanical fuse

Written by Nick Blenkey
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JULY 14, 2015 —Thrustmaster of Texas has been building brown water propulsion equipment  for over 30 years and that experience is reflected in its American-made Z-Drive thrusters for inland waterways towboats, the first in the industry to include a built-in mechanical fuse or quick release coupling.

Incorporation of a quick release coupling at the input shaft of the Z-drive gives operators added protection from the inevitable debris that can line the riverbed.The quick release coupling acts as a mechanical fuse whenever the drive line is blocked, for example should the propeller ingest a log, a tire or other river waste typical during daily operations.

After the obstruction is removed from the propeller, the mechanical fuse can quickly be reset manually.

The mechanical fuse, also called a torque limiting coupling, is installed on the horizontal input shaft of the Z-drive and connects to the cardan shaft driven off of the engine or electric motor.

The concept behind the quick release coupling is that when the propeller or gear set and/or drive line experiencess any spike in torque above the set limit for the coupling, then the coupling instantaneously breaks free allowing the cardan shaft and engine to spin freely without driving the thruster. The propeller and gear set are instantaneously disconnected from the engine saving the propeller, gear sets, and bearings, from damage or complete failure. This not only avoids the damage, but also the operational downtime, unnecessary drydocking, and costs of repairs typically associated with other thrusters’ run-ins with the inevitable debris.

The quick release coupling is a standard component on Thrustmaster’s line of Z drives.


  • Maximum driveline protection: damaging inertias disengage at once
  • Set torque remains constant over time
  • Quick resetting for maximum uptime

Thrustmaster Z-drives are designed based on conservative U.S. standards with ample safety margins. Thrustmaster has built a reputation on designing and manufacturing each Z-drive with a rugged stainless steel propeller turning in a Kort nozzle with all stainless steel internals. For added strength, the nozzle is firmly welded to the lower housing, reducing vibration, and insuring the nozzle is not lost in grounding. Gears, transmission shafts, and precision bearings are generously sized.

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