It’s like “Shark Tank” for Navy scientists, with a substantial payout for a proposal that catches the eye of some of the Navy’s top leadership.
NSWC IHEODTD was recently selected as one of the winners of the DoN Innovation Sustainment Group (DISG) Pitch Tank following a January pitch session held at the Pentagon. The DISG Pitch Tank is operated by the Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy (Management) (DUSN(M)) Office of Strategy and Innovation and seeks to competitively award seed money to create or accelerate research and development areas in the areas of additive manufacturing (AM).
Dr. Samuel Emery, a research physicist with the command’s Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Department’s Dynamics and Diagnostics branch, provided a pitch focused on NSWC IHEODTD's potential large-scale development and production of energetic materials AM (EMAM) explosives and propellants.
“DUSN(M) was looking for innovative R&D proposals that could accelerate the exploitation of relevant technologies such as additive manufacturing,” said Emery. “For us to be considered for selection, our proposal needed to tie to one or more of the five elements of the SECNAV’s Innovation Vision and be supported by internal Navy sponsors.”
After careful review of the 23 proposals pitched, the command’s EMAM proposal was notified in May they were selected for funding.
AM, also known as 3D printing, encompasses several technologies able to create 3D objects by adding material layer by layer. AM technology can allow for greater cost savings by enabling flat production costs per item produced, while also reducing the development life-cycle of a product through rapid prototyping.
In 2016, preliminary testing of printable plastic-bonded explosives (PBXs) demonstrated that AM produced PBXs formulations met conventional PBX qualification/certification thermo-mechanical requirements. According to Emery, the NSWC IHEODTD EMAM team prepared for this testing by acquiring the appropriate EMAM hardware, while also developing safety procedures and material testing protocols for any EMAM print articles.
“Our main objective moving forward is to produce an explosive charge that exploits the capabilities of AM technology to produce unique effects,” said Emery.
The team’s secondary objective is to produce a rocket propellant grain utilizing features only achievable by utilizing AM technology. Emery believes these internal features have the ability to release stored chemical combustion energy more efficiently, with the added potential of extending the range of rockets.
AM technology has several notable benefits over the traditional method of developing and producing explosives. Traditional explosive manufacturing formulations are limited in both formulations and availability of ingredients. Improvements to these already existing systems are often counterproductive due to the inefficiency and costs associated with updating the large scale manufacturing plants used to produce the explosives. The subsequent impact on product performance or munition safety is often negligible, as well.
“This is a great win for both the command and for the warfighter,” said NSWC IHEODTD Technical Director Ashley Johnson. “The potential behind EMAM technology is limitless in the scope of potential savings, reliability, scalability and the effects on the battlefield. We’re all incredibly proud of the research done by Dr. Emery and his team and their commitment to providing the warfighter an unfair advantage over the enemy.”