Industry representatives examine military textile material at NSRDEC Textile Industry event
A piece of textile material is examined by attendees of the Textile Science and Technology Industry Day held June 24 at the U.S Army's Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Mass. (Photo by David Kamm, NSRDEC)

NATICK, Mass. (June 27, 2014) -- The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center held its first Textile Science and Technology Industry Day here June 24-25 in an effort to promote collaboration with its industry and academic partners in the textile field.

The idea for a textile industry day came in response to the lack of interaction with industry due to travel restrictions placed on Department of Defense employees by sequestration. Prior to sequestration, U.S. government scientists and engineers attended conferences all over the world to stay informed of the latest developments in their fields.

The two-day event afforded government and industry experts the opportunity to meet face-to-face, exchange ideas on textile technology, and establish contacts for future collaboration.

"Industry and academic partners have a long history of collaborating to advance textile science and technologies," said Dr. Laurel Allender, acting technical director of NSRDEC, in a welcome letter to participants. "Together, we have succeeded in creating advances unimaginable a generation ago, and in doing so, we have improved the protection, capability and comfort of our nation's warfighters."

Some of those advances were on display at the event, which featured 25 novel textile technologies that NSRDEC scientists are developing to improve Soldier performance.

The venue showcased how Army scientists and engineers are using various forms of textiles to address everything from vector-borne disease protection to flame-resistant uniforms, chemical/biological defense, shelter insulation, cold-weather threats, and the incorporation of smart textiles into cargo and personnel parachutes, among other cutting-edge textile technologies.

Andy Margules, a mechanical engineer with the airdrop technology team and aerial delivery directorate, is working on a thermal protection, extreme cold weather kit for high-altitude parachutes.

"We're looking at ways we can maintain good thermal protection for the extremities without sacrificing dexterity to control the parachute," said Margules.

Currently, fielded equipment does not adequately provide thermal protection during the extreme temperature swings experienced by free-fall paratroopers exiting aircraft at 30,000 feet, where it can be as low as minus 60 F, and landing at a location that may be as high as 120 F, where they may have to engage an enemy.

"A lot of industry people have said they are looking at new, innovative fibers and different ways of weaving things together that are good at managing temperatures and adaptive cooling," said Margules.

The event was also a chance for industry representatives to hear the challenges NSRDEC textile technologists are facing with Soldier-focused projects.

"We needed to reach down into the individual directorates and pull out the textile-related technologies that have challenges and hear from industry what kind of solutions they may have," said Henry Girolamo, the emerging concepts and technology lead for the Warfighter Directorate.

"The SMEs laid out the technologies they are interested in, so that gives us a direction to go from," said Anthony Petrone, a retired Army sergeant major and current employee of Western Shelter Systems out of Eugene, Ore.

"It was important for our members to be able to network and build relationships with Natick scientists," said Donald Vavala, director of government affairs at Gore Technologies Worldwide and chairman of the National Council of Textile Organizations, or NCTO, an association that
addresses issues faced by textile companies.

Industry participants also were given tours of NSRDEC's world-class research facilities, including the High Performance Fiber Facility, which features a research-scale bi-/tri- component fiber extruder; the Load Carriage Lab, where Soldier rucksacks and individual equipment are designed; and the Textile Performance Testing Lab, where uniform and protective gear materials are put through a battery of industry standard tests.

"We definitely benefited from learning more about the standards, how they are tested, and the people who are testing them," said Helene Krauss, director of development at American Cord and Webbing Co. "Making those contacts was important in the next steps moving forward."

"It has been a great event," said Ramaswamy Nagarajan, faculty director for the Harnessing Emerging Research Opportunities to Empower Soldiers, or HEROES, program and associate professor in the plastics engineering department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
"To understand what the actual challenges are, and be able to go back to our colleagues and say, 'This is the problem they have; is there any way to solve it?' is a good thing."

For potential industry assistance, NSRDEC also had business operations representatives on hand to explain the various partnering mechanisms available.

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The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

Page last updated Fri June 27th, 2014 at 14:13