Innovative Processes Improve Warfighter Readiness and Save the DoD Millions Annually in Sustainment Costs
The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) today announced that two of its projects have been honored with Defense Manufacturing Excellence Awards presented by the National Center for Advanced Technologies (NCAT) for outstanding cooperative efforts on technology development between government, industry and academia. These two achievements mark the eighth and ninth of these prestigious awards for NCMS projects.
Both NCMS projects were formed under the Commercial Technologies for Maintenance Activities (CTMA) program, a unique NCMS collaboration with the Department of Defense. NCMS uses its proven and tested collaborative process powered by the innovation and manufacturing expertise of member companies to speed technology development and reduce DoD costs associated with the maintenance and rebuild of weapons systems.
“By partnering with the NCMS, the DoD is able to quickly assess the benefits of new manufacturing technologies in their own facilities, working side-by-side with industry leaders solving manufacturing problems through collaboration,” said NCMS Vice President Chuck Ryan.
Winner Collaborative Team Small Business Category- Modernization of Metal Electroplating with No-Mask Conforming Anodes
NCMS managed this innovative R&D project working with Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD), Naval Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) Southwest, Advanced Tooling Corporation (ATC), and CAI Resources to reduce the cost and environmental impact of the electroplating process.
The project team created a completely unique approach to a technological process that had otherwise gone largely unchanged for nearly a century. The project’s No-Mask Conforming Anodes resulted in amazing reductions in process time and $990,000 in immediate savings from the two most recent pilots. The process all but eliminates toxic hazardous waste resulting from masking materials found in previous methods. Reusable, sustainable, and highly efficient, No-Mask Conforming Anodes promises to revolutionize the world of electroplating.
The team estimates that if this technology were deployed across the DoD, a savings of over $50,000,000 could result over the next three years alone, with an overall process time improvement of 35-50%, all translating into improved readiness for the warfighter and reliability of platforms. Limited deployment has already generated an additional $7,280,000 in savings.
Winner Collaborative Team Large Business Category- Automated Robotic Blade Stripping System (ARBSS)
NCMS brought together the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) – Keyport, Naval Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East, Penn State Applied Research Laboratory, General Lasertronics Corporation, Sikorsky Aircraft Company, and Michigan based Koops, Inc. to create an innovative solution for the refurbishment of helicopter blades.
FRC East refurbishes up to 150 helicopter rotor blades each month. Prior to ARBSS, technicians removed the topcoat of paint using pneumatic hand orbital sanders. This slow, error-prone process demands hours of tedious labor in a sweltering, hazardous environment while wearing protection equipment to avoid toxic dust inhalation. Stress injuries, fatigue, and lost time are significant problems.
Determined to improve this process with advanced laser and vision systems, the NCMS-managed ARBSS team developed a proven automated robotic laser paint stripping technology that strips helicopter blades 75% faster than traditional methods, with practically zero error. The precision required stripping only the paint of a blade while leaving the primer coat intact thereby eliminating damage or wear to the substrate. This process is expected to save $900,000 annually, eliminates the generation of secondary hazardous waste, and provides an unprecedented level of safety and comfort for the maintainers.