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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2023

Collaboration leads to 'K-circuit' innovation

By Aime Lykins, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

Knowledge sharing, high-velocity learning and technical innovation are essential elements of the U.S. Navy’s “Get Real, Get Better” initiative. This means bringing together the top minds from among the Naval Sea Systems Command community to problem solve, remove barriers and bring fresh ideas to the table.

With an eye on maximizing collaboration opportunities, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility and Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport recently worked together to manufacture a K-circuit shaft revolution indication system card.

The shaft revolution indication system provides electrical pulses, which are proportional to the revolution speed of the main propulsion shaft. These pulses are processed to provide a revolutions-per-minute indication to various panels, counting how fast the propeller is spinning. Prior to the collaboration between the two NAVSEA entities, the stock system was low on K-circuit cards and there was little support for fabrication and repair.

The asset constraint revealed that the only functional cards were those installed in their respective hulls. Without a reserve of the essential circuit cards, the potential for maintenance delays was a real concern.

“I attended a technology symposium in Boston May 3, 2022 to find out if the solution to the K-circuit card shortage could be addressed by private industry,” said Tommy Kidwell, electrical inspector, Code 720, Lifting and Handling Quality Assurance, Testing and Training. “When no solution was immediately apparent, I brought an example and drawing to NUWC Division, Keyport to determine if their capabilities could meet our needs.”

The meeting between PSNS & IMF and NUWC Division, Keyport allowed the two commands to form a technology partnership.

“This collaboration brought together the supply system, the Program Office, the In-Service Engineering Agent, PSNS & IMF and NUWC Division, Keyport to overcome this material procurement issue and pave the way toward future opportunities to work together,” said Nick Jones, cell manager, Code 1010, Reactor Systems.

NUWC Division, Keyport possesses advanced technical capabilities and resource capacity, which makes it a perfect innovation partner. Some of NUWC Division, Keyport’s capabilities include rapid prototyping, and the testing and repair of electronic, electrical, and mechanical assets. Some of these capabilities were developed through the manufacturing of a discontinued, but usable, circuit card. The original circuit card manufacturer no longer exists, causing NAVSEA to develop cumbersome workarounds.

“There are two long-term impacts of this project that I believe are of particular importance,” said Gerald Centeno, electronics engineer, Code 290EP, Combat Systems Engineering and Planning. “First, we have the ability to direct quote fabrication and repair of a circuit card, provided that all stakeholders are in concurrence. This helps avoid duplicate efforts. More importantly, if we are early enough in an availability, we can utilize this capability instead of waiting for the supply system to solicit a quote. Second, we have provided the capability to fabricate K-circuit cards to both Seawolf and Virginia-class submarines. This is a big accomplishment considering the only working cards in the Seawolf class are the ones currently installed.”

Nine months of collaboration taught the team process integration, to include funding, technical requirements, technical investigation, ownership, research, evaluation and testing.

In addition to the prototype, the NUWC Division, Keyport, and PSNS & IMF engineers discovered a potential configuration limitation in the circuit schematic, which may have impacted the ability to complete repairs. The ISEA is working on long-term improvements to the circuit, and NAVSEA has ordered a production run of K-circuit cards from NUWC Division, Keyport to meet the stock posture demand of the Navy.

Key lessons learned

PSNS & IMF has the ability to receive quotes directly from NUWC Division, Keyport for the fabrication or repair of assets, as long as the cognizant Program Office, ISEA, and NAVSUP item manager are apprised of the situation. This level of collaboration allows for the use of the most correct technical documentation and the highest situational awareness possible.

Working with engineers who are component-level specialists can help uncover possible root causes that have led to historically unrepairable assets.

NUWC Division, Keyport is a Navy Working Capital Funded organization, making ordering easier and more affordable than private industry.

Innovation teams will solve existing problems at PSNS & IMF and work toward improving long-term goals of cost reduction, and schedule improvements and first-time quality.

“Collaboration processes between the two organizations will be documented and standardized, allowing for future streamlined collaboration,” said Jones.

Current and ongoing NUWC Division, Keyport and PSNS & IMF collaboration projects include slip ring adapters for towed array builds, motor generator circuit card repair, and splice encapsulation machine build. Future areas of interest include fiber optics, cold spray, dry ice blasting, laser ablation and virtual reality training.