Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) for Ground Vehicles
The objective of this proposal is to develop a robust hand-held, tool for inspection of non-metallic armor while the armor is still mounted on ground vehicles. Impacts of sufficient energy, including those which are routine, like impact with road hazards, and handling incidents can damage the armor without visible condition indicators. The extent of repairable damage from ballistic projectiles can also be difficult to determine by visual inspection. In-situ inspection permits condition assessment without returning the vehicle to a depot, and permits assessment of individual armor applique panels without committing the vehicle to depot maintenance. This reduces maintenance cost and improves overall availability. The system will employ a patented microwave scanning device which has been demonstrated to be effective in examining non-metallic armor. The system is in use in the laboratory and field environment, and a Prototype Wireless Hand Held System was created and delivered under Phase I of this SBIR Topic. TARDEC has a laboratory instrument and is testing the prototype system delivered in Phase I. It is the design starting point for this project, which will incorporate lessons learned in Phase I, and deliver 6 Prototype units for field testing. The field experience with the second generation prototype units will be incorporated in a rugged, robust design, which will include a manufacturing specification suitable for procurement. The patented scanning process utilizes microwaves as an interrogating beam to image the volume of a dielectric material. The microwaves are reflected at areas of changing dielectric constant and combine with the emitted signal to form an interference pattern. This reflection returns voltage differences which are measured by the receiver and displayed to indicate the presence of a potential defect, damage or internal structure of interest. The system will enable the user to easily and with fidelity determine if there is damage to the panel while the panel is still attached to the vehicle. The system will also store the data and can export the data in a conveniently accessible format. The proposed technology has been identified by the Stryker Program as an opportunity to reduce operating costs. The letter of support from the Stryker Program office is included in this proposal. It states, in part,"The approach being developed under this project could result in a significant savings in time and cost as well as insure that Stryker armor protection and crew survivability are maintained throughout the vehicle"s lifecycle."In support of Phase II, PMO Stryker BCT will provide suspect armor panels as well as access to Strykers to demonstrate the effectiveness of the scanners. As indicated, this technology has an excellent potential for application to the Strykers as well as other combat vehicles with ceramic armor panels. The project has advanced through Phase I with active support by Associate Director for Survivability, Tank, Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and TARDEC staff, who indicate interest in the resulting technology. It is intended that the portable nondestructive health monitoring tool will be deployed with current forces and included as a tool for future weapons programs. The program will be self funding after Phase II.
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