Release Date: September 20, 2007
|DOE Participates in Commercialization of Its Steel Casting Technology
U.S. Army Plans to Produce Armor for Military Vehicles in War on Terror
WASHINGTON, DC – To protect military personnel and vehicles from improvised explosive devices and explosively-formed penetrators, the U.S. Army has decided to commercially produce a unique steel armor based on technology developed and patented by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Calling this initiative its "highest priority," the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) plans to purchase about 10 million pounds of P-900 cast steel armor for use as add-ons to military vehicles. DoD's U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Command (TACOM) expects to receive the first 2.5 million pounds by the end of 2007 to produce the initial quantity of armor.
The U.S. Army decided to commercialize the process following a series of successful ballistic tests it performed on the cast steel armor. NETL scientists had produced the castings for the armor using a new heat-treating process to optimize ballistic performance.
In late July, DoD had budgeted $200 million in fiscal year 2007 funding for the Army to procure the first set of castings. Each foundry producing the castings will have to be qualified for its ballistic and production schedule capabilities.
NETL and TACOM personnel contacted a number of foundries throughout the United States that were capable of producing the armor. Once these foundries are deemed qualified, the Army plans to proceed with the full-scale production of 100,000-plus castings at a rate of 100 to 600 castings per day at each foundry.
To assist the Army in the qualification process, NETL scientists provided technical expertise, along with the P-900 patterns, for use in making test ballistic samples. NETL also provided its pattern tooling to TACOM to make additional patterns to jump-start the production process while foundries await full-size patterns.
Foundries using NETL's lost foam process will produce a significant portion of the 100,000-plus initial castings needed by DoD. This process, used industrywide to produce aluminum castings, was modified and patented by NETL scientists in the 1980s and 1990s for iron and steel castings.
The process consists of making a pattern using polystyrene formed in the desired shape, and then adding a polystyrene gating system so that the molten metal flows properly to the pattern. Once this patterned piece is coated with liquid ceramic slurry to protect the fragile polystyrene, it is dried and placed into a double-walled box called a flask, covered in sand, and compacted by vibration. The flask is evacuated and molten steel or iron is poured into the evacuated flask, which vaporizes the polystyrene pattern and replaces it with steel.
The gating system is removed and a light touch up is done to produce a casting with an excellent surface finish that compares favorably with much more expensive casting techniques.
To lay the background for the production of the steel armor, NETL has met with various offices of DoD to ensure that the foundries meet program goals and help DoD prepare the specifications for the P-900 cast-slotted steel armor.