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Three Reasons your Boats Deserve a Digital Switching System

Written on August 12th, 2022

Manufacturers are always looking for ways to lower production costs and increase reliability of their products. If you could do that and make it more convenient and (let’s be honest) sexier for your customer, well, that’s a solution worth investigating. Marlin Technologies’ Digital Switcher does just that.

What is a Digital Switcher?

A digital switcher is a device or system that allows boat owners or operators to control various electrical and electronic functions on their boat through a digital interface. It serves as a central control unit that replaces traditional physical switches and buttons with a digital interface, often on a touchscreen display or a mobile app.

Why Go Digital?

The short answer: Cost and Reliability.

Traditional boat controls employ a point-to-point system that relies on fuse panels, paddle switches and a lot of wiring to control key functions such as lighting, pumps, and accessories. Not only do you have to pay for the wire, the connectors, and mounting for extra components, but you are also paying for the labor to install it all. Plus, each connection point is vulnerable to corrosion from the wet and often hot environment. Constantly sending replacement fuses or breakers to your dealer network can really add to your overall costs and erode confidence in your product.

Marlin Technologies’ Digital Switcher controls all of a boat’s loads such as lighting, pumps, wells, and accessories through a programmable CAN controller and CAN keypad. Instead of running wire from a fuse panel to the paddle switch and then on to the load, the circuit is run from the Digital Switcher directly to the load.

Imagine a nav light on the bow of the boat. You want to control it from the helm. The circuit would need to go from the from the fuse panel to the helm and then up to the light located at the bow. On the DS System the circuit would run from the Digital Switcher direct to the load.

Digital Switch

Key Advantages of Digital Switchers

Before we get to cost and reliability, most savvy boat builders will have at least 2 key questions:

Is this powerful enough? Some boat models have a lot of functional capabilities, including accessories. Marlin’s Digital Switcher is powerful enough to energize an entire boat including all the lights, pumps, wells, and accessories. Our standard model has 100 A capacity with (16) 10A outputs and (4) 20A outputs. If the total loads on exceed the switcher’s 100A limit, you set the priority for which loads are prioritized. (For example, does the live well outrank the bilge pump? Depends on the boat.) Do you need more than 20 outputs or 100 Amps? We can expand to suit your needs.

Sure, but digital means complicated, right? Marlin’s Digital Switcher is simple to install. IP67 Deutsch-type connections mean no wire terminations. The system is all solid state, so no moving parts. The rest is up to you and is as simple as filling numbers into a chart – button operations, colors, fuse ratings… Of course, the first time you install any new system, it is a learning process. Marlin’s engineers will walk you through your first install so that it is done correctly – and our ongoing support is legendary.

Here is how Marlin’s Digital Switcher can make a difference to your marine application:

1. Saves money

Two of the biggest cost drivers in the boat building business are materials and labor. Some manufacturers have reduced their use of copper by as much as 40% using a Digital Switcher System vs. conventional wiring methods. Fewer copper wiring runs between the individual switches and loads also means less labor to install the control circuits.

Digital Switcher Systems are more expensive than fuse panels and paddle switches but will save money in terms of wiring material and labor installing it.

2. Increases reliability

  • Fewer connections mean fewer failure points:

Typical circuits in a conventional wiring have connections at the fuse panel (1), at the paddle switch (2), and at the load (1) for a total of (4) connections. For the Digital Switcher there is a connection at the controller (1) and at the load (1) for a total of (2) connections. Fewer points of failure caused by loose connections, wrong connections, and corrosion generates better reliability.

  • Eliminating corrosion

Fewer failures = better customer satisfaction: IP67 sealed modules eliminate corrosion and utilize solid state switching. All the connections are sealed with Deutsch-type connectors at the controller and at the load.

  • Redundancy improves function and satisfaction:

Eliminating the cost of additional wiring makes it possible to have key functions controlled at multiple places on the boat. Since the keypads are all on the CAN network, wiring is simplified – so why not have the controls you want where you want them? Each Digital Switcher can have up to 6 different keypads for controlling applications.

  • Diagnostics right in the keypad:

The Digital Switcher has the capability to determine fault condition and location on a particular circuit. For example, an overloaded circuit condition will automatically shut down the circuit and flash the LED backlight on the particular key associated with the circuit. Helmsmen would clear the overload by pressing and holding the key, eliminating the overload.

3. Provides flexibility and convenience – for you AND your customer

  • Multiple keypad types open up the number of ways you can set up your controls: You can have a round button, 12 button keypad on the console with a six-button keypad in the bow and/or stern and they all work together. The Switcher interacts with each one based on how you set it up. Flexibility in design for you and convenience (key functions in multiple locations) for your end user.
  • You can use the same control modules on multiple boat models, streamlining production: You can use one Switcher and load it with different software/configuration that pertains to each separate boat model. For instance, you might have different equipment on a 24-foot boat than you do on a 30-foot boat, but you can use the same Switcher technology on both, as the Switcher will “know” what to expect based on the configuration loaded.
  • You can have different switch functions on the same control pads: For example, you can have toggle on/off, momentary, PWM/dimming, Low/Hi for Primary and Secondary loads, and RGB lighting control on the same control pad.
  • Remote control of lighting and pump loads on the boat is a convenience boat owners will appreciate. Bluetooth technology provides connection to the Digital Switcher onboard and outside the boat.

Ensure a Successful Implementation

Digital Switcher Systems can provide cost savings, increased reliability, and flexibility and convenience that your customers will appreciate. Having the right customer support from your supplier can make a big difference to the success of upgrading your boat electronics to Digital Switchers. At Marlin Technologies, we:

  • Provide a thorough understanding the capabilities of our Digital Switcher so that they can experience the full benefits of the system.
  • Ensure that a Digital Switcher System is correctly installed on a prototype boat.
  • Provide training on the Programming Tool to show how to configure the Digital Switcher for different types of loads and applications.
  • Provide answers in a timely manner to solve the problem and make customers happy.

Are you ready to upgrade to digital?