Army General Gets Closer Look at New Technologies to Make Soldiers Safer & Stronger

By David McNally
ARL Public Affairs

How the Army will use additive manufacturing, future 3-D printing capabilities and advanced sensors is on the mind of the Army’s general responsible for research and development.

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), met with Army Research Laboratory scientists and engineers Dec. 19. ARL is the organization within RDECOM responsible for basic and applied research.

The general spent the day learning about the latest technologies Army scientists are pursuing to make U.S. soldiers safer and stronger, such as the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin (WIAMan) program.

The WIAMan program uses advanced anthropomorphic test devices with a wide array of sensors to analyze and discover how to improve the protection of the military’s ground vehicle systems.

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins (center), commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command learns about advanced anthropomorphic test devices with sensors to analyze and discover how to improve the protection of the military's ground vehicle systems during a Dec. 19 visit to the Army Research Laboratory. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson)

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins (center), commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command learns about advanced anthropomorphic test devices with sensors to analyze and discover how to improve the protection of the military’s ground vehicle systems during a Dec. 19 visit to the Army Research Laboratory. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson)

“The program provides a state-of-art test capability to assess potential skeletal injuries of soldiers exposed to under body blast,” said Fred Hughes, director of the WIAMan Engineering Office. “The manikin’s sophisticated bio-fidelity and robust sensor design provides an unmatched level of accuracy determining the potential effects of blast on soldiers in new vehicle systems.”

Hughes said when coupled with other technological innovations, WIAMan is an important tool to assess survivability and mobility design implications for future combat vehicles.

WIAMan scientists and their partners from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, also showcased advanced holographic glasses — the Hololens from Microsoft, Researchers use to glasses to virtually explore simulations and gain new understanding of how blast injuries affect soldiers.

RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins dons advanced holographic glasses -- the Hololens from Microsoft. Researchers use the glasses to virtually explore simulations and gain new understanding of how blast injuries affect Soldiers. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson)

RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins dons advanced holographic glasses — the Hololens from Microsoft. Researchers use the glasses to virtually explore simulations and gain new understanding of how blast injuries affect Soldiers. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson)

Later, the general toured 3-D printing facilities where the Army partners with industry in advanced additive manufacturing techniques. Researchers experiment with a variety of materials to enhance 3-D printing capabilities for the future Army.

Army engineer Blake Barnett briefed Wins on cold spray techniques. Cold spray is a material-deposition process where metal or metal-ceramic mixtures of powders are used to form a coating or freestanding structure.

Army engineer Blake Barnett (right) briefs RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins on cold spray techniques. Cold spray is a material-deposition process where metal or metal-ceramic mixtures of powders are used to form a coating or freestanding structure. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson)

Army engineer Blake Barnett (right) briefs RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins on cold spray techniques. Cold spray is a material-deposition process where metal or metal-ceramic mixtures of powders are used to form a coating or freestanding structure. (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson)

Barnett said the lab has been leading development in this field for a number of years, and that the ARL Center for Cold Spray started in 2001.

“We brought materials science to bear on the process and focused on optimizing the properties of the deposited material,” he said. “We are leading adoption of this technology in the industrial base. We actually spray a stream of particles – like a spray-paint job – but the material that’s being laid down, instead of a thin coat of paint, is bulk-metal material that has properties that are usable in the field.”

When soldiers have damaged parts in the field, Barnett said a portable cold-spray device could be deployed and material could be added back to the damaged part.

“We’re getting this done quickly and returning parts to service,” he said.

Wins told the scientists that the priority for the Army is readiness.

“What the Army leadership is looking for is demonstrating forward momentum in getting this capability,” Wins said. “If we can demonstrate what you can normally get through the supply system and how long it takes, and what you could do from additive manufacturing and how long it would take, then it becomes a readiness discussion. How long does it take to get those parts back into the fight?”

Researchers also demonstrated 3-D printed unmanned aircraft systems that they can create on demand for specific missions. The On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, or ODSUAS, is a concept for patrols requiring UAV support. Soldiers input their requirements into mission planning software and the system then knows the optimal configuration for the aerial vehicle and it’s printed and delivered within 24-hours.

RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins (center) holds a 3-D printed unmanned aircraft system from engineer Eric Spero (right) and Dr. Philip Perconti, ARL director (left). (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson)

RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins (center) holds a 3-D printed unmanned aircraft system from engineer Eric Spero (right) and Dr. Philip Perconti, ARL director (left). (Photo Credit: Conrad Johnson)

The engineers told the general they felt the combination of 3-D printing and UAVs was a natural technology solution.

The biggest challenge from a technology standpoint is certification, they said.

“When I make a part, how do you trust it to do the job? That it won’t fail?” asked Dr. Rob Carter, Materials Manufacturing Technology branch chief. “This is a rapid prototyping technology that is evolving into a manufacturing process.”

The laboratory is experimenting with advanced materials and understanding the process, Carter told the commander.

“We really have to drive that area so our soldiers have confidence that when they get a part it will do the job,” he said.

Wins assumed command of RDECOM in August 2016 and said he plans to continue visiting all the labs and centers under his command.

Source

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