Weapons manufacturing course for engineers aims to produce lower costs, quicker production schedules
December 1, 2010
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - An odor of melted wax. The sound of a pistol being cocked as it is inspected. A robotic arm systematically fine-tuning revolver cylinders.
These are a few of the experiences encountered by engineers from the Armament Research, De-velopment and Engineering Center, who were on the Armament University's Weapons Manu-facturing and Production Tour that involved visits to three weapons manufacturing facilities in October.
The Weapons Manufacturing and Production Tour course is one in a bevy of AU courses meant to familiarize newly-hired Picatinny engineers with all aspects of the research, development, acquisition and life-cycle management of weapons systems.
The two-part class provides ARDEC scientists and engineers the opportunity to visit several weapons manufacturing facilities, as well as to disassemble weapons systems and learn how they function.
Part one of the course is a week-long tour of three weapons manufacturing facilities in New England. The excursion includes visits to Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger, and General Dynamics, plants that offer robust educational opportunities and differentiated manufacturing processes.
"This tour allows ARDEC team members to gain first-hand insight into weapons manufacturing and production, while also observing the Lean (Six Sigma) process in action," said Matt Stracco, Armament University education and training technician.
Among the processes observed, students witnessed how the various companies rifle the barrels of their guns, how the different facilities forge their gun components and the different way the gun shops set up their assembly lines.
Knowledge of these various manufacturing methods can potentially be used when developing future engineering designs.
"Weapon system design requires intense consideration of many aspects, fabrication not the least among them," said tour participant Adam Druga, mechanical engineer with the Indirect Fire Weapon Systems - Research and Development."Observing the standard practices of the industry has bettered my ability to produce efficient and effective designs."
Designs that require special tooling or processes often lead to higher costs and scheduling delays, Druga added, but the knowledge from the tour can help save resources by tailoring designs to standard manufacturing methods.
In addition to visiting manufacturing facilities, the students also toured the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Mass., to gain a broad history of small arms.
While the Springfield Armory is now a museum, it has a rich military history dating back to the Revolutionary War, when the site was used for assembling and repairing small arms, making fuses and cartridges, wagons and saddles, and storing powder and various war materials.
The second part of the Weapons Manufacturing and Production Tour involves a three-day Armorer training course. A Chief Armorer from Sturm Ruger serves as instructor for the class, which is held on-site at Picatinny's Armament University.
During the Armorer's course, engineers learn about the functionality and design of different weapons systems so that they can integrate this information into their technology projects, Stracco said.
Specifically, the students learn to assemble and disassemble pistols, revolvers and mini-14s, as well as learn the various safety and efficiency checks.
"Disassembly of the weapons allows engineers to better understand the varying design concepts," Stracco said.
The tour is a unique educational experience that is beneficial to any ARDEC team member, especially personnel in the small arms and ammunition groups, said Stracco.
In addition to exposing participants to the weapon production industry and its techniques, the tour allows students to learn about other departments and programs at Picatinny, as well as to highlight their individual role in the installation mission.
"I learned a lot from the tours, but I learned just as much, if not more, from my fellow tour-goers," Druga added. "Observing how people from other departments think, and the questions they asked, made me more aware of the considerations they make during their part of the acquisition lifecycle."
The Weapons Manufacturing and Production Tour is offered twice a year - once in the spring and again in the fall. The April 2011 tour is already full, and AU team members are working to coordinate the October 2011 tour.
Information about the Weapons Manufacturing and Production Tour can be found on the Armament University Master Training Schedule https://picac2w4.pica.army.mil/training/master_schedule.asp.