with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Weapons and Materials
Research Directorate saw the product of their work toward a new
generation of significantly improved materials for advanced Soldier head
protection reach the milestone of commercial production on March 12
when Ceradyne, a commercial partner, announced it had received its first
Enhanced Combat Helmet order.
The new helmets have 35% higher tolerance from fragmenting munitions than previous ballistic helmets.
helmets from the ARL-led Army ManTech program are already in the field,
used by the Green Berets, the Navy SEALS, and Special Operations
Forces. These include the Future Assault Shell Technology (FAST) helmet,
as well as the MARITIME helmet. The FAST helmet offers a 25% weight
reduction, while the MARTIME helmet offers a 35% weight reduction using
new grades of a material supported and demonstrated in part by the
Program Manager Soldier Protection Individual Equipment.
state-of-the-art helmet technology was made possible through new
manufacturing processes developed at ARL, in collaboration with U.S.
Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center and
Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier. Material researchers were able
to develop, execute and transition manufacturing processes that
addressed technology gaps precluding the use of new thermoplastic-based
composites. ARL has initiated process research as part of its mission
program, and was supported by the Army Manufacturing Technology
ManTech program has allowed us to serve as a catalyst to stimulate
industry into unconventional ways of adopting these new materials for
ballistic protection,” said Dr. Shawn Walsh, Team Leader, Agile
Manufacturing Technology Team, WMRD, ARL. “Ultra high molecular weight
polyethylene materials are inherently more expensive, so handling them,
reducing the waste associated with the process to form them, and
maximizing their benefit in terms of how they are formed into the
ultimate part is very critical.”
supports manufacturing technologies that reduce the commercial risk in
transitioning military-unique manufacturing processes to production.
Prior to ManTech, the technology that the Army used to manufacture
helmets was more than 30 years old and was not adaptable for fully
exploiting the new materials.
Army helmet fabrication goal was to develop an entirely new methodology
for mass producing complex shapes combining layers of different
thermoplastic materials. Along the way it pioneered an innovative
molding technology, a preform process that reduces touch-labor by as
much as 40% and waste by as much as 70%.
Source: U.S. Army Research Laboratory