Test personnel at Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) and the Combat Capabilities DevelopmentCommand (CCDC, formerly Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland) are working together on a new test cell that will challenge protective suit materials made bulky by seams or closures.
The DPG Machine Shop won the bid to build 30 of the prototype test fixtures for assessment; half were shipped to Maryland, the other 15 will be assessed at DPG. Cooperation between DPG’s West Desert Test Center (WDTC) and CCDC’s Chemical and Biological Center (CBC) cultivated an exchange of ideas on the project from scientists, engineers and test personnel.
“This level of collaboration between Edgewood and Dugway has been exhilarating, and the test community is happy to see it occurring,” said Larry Russon, Senior Project Scientist for Team SURVICE, a contractor at DPG.
Testing of seams and closures for leaks stems from the need to eventually test the next generation of chemical protection suits for the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble (UIPE) program. The current Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) is at least 20 years old and in need of replacement.
A shared problem, and a series of events, led to both test centers working together. Before clothing designed to protect the wearer from chemical and biological hazards is tested, the material from which it’s made goes through rigorous testing.
The properties of flat, smooth material become known, but material made bulky and oddly shaped by a zipper, seam or fastener may respond differently.
“It is difficult to seal swatches of material that have bulky profiles in test cells, because the O-rings we typically use are hard rubber; they can’t conform to the bulky material,” Russon explained.
Consequently, Russon submitted a proposal to DPG, seeking funding to develop a test cell specifically designed for testing bulky material. Rather than O-rings, Russon proposed materials that would conform under pressure to the bulk’s shape. At the same time Russon sought funding from DPG, the Deputy Under-Secretary of the Army for Test and Evaluation (DUSATE) began releasing funding to identify and close testing gaps.
Darren Jolley, DPG Physical Scientist, sought DUSA-TE funding to develop a test cell for bulky material. Scientists at CBC did too. DUSA-TE suggested DPG and CBC collaborate. They agreed to, and funding was provided.
“The design was started with something that the CBC had in mind, and was refined with input from personnel at both sites,” Russon said. Adopted suggestions include oversized tabs on the racks for easier handling with gloves, and replacing wing nuts with hex nuts for use with a power wrench.
Engineers and machinists met to discuss the most cost-effective means of manufacturing.
“By eliminating the sharp corners, we saved 60 labor hours,” Norman Hill, DPG Machine Shop Supervisor said. “We also eliminated two screws from each compression weight, reducing the total of tapped and threaded holes by 60, saving an additional 20 hours. The 30 aluminum test cells were built with 630 labor hours and $8,500 in materials for a total of $39,000, Hill said.
Ultimately, the collaboration will produce prototype test cells that are expected to accurately reveal leaks in seams and closures, and protect warfighters and others who face deadly chemicals as a weapon or in industrial mishaps.