Crane Army pressing forward with modernization efforts

By Christy CarrollNovember 14, 2022

Crane Army pressing forward with modernization efforts
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – An explosives handler sets up an updated Stokes rotary press to begin a new project. Recently a Crane Army Ammunition Activity engineering team retrofitted equipment controls on the press as part of Crane Army’s ongoing modernization effort. The press now has the capability to increase production rates by three times the original rate. By renovating existing equipment, money can be saved for other areas of the modernization process. (U.S. Army photo by Christy Carroll) (Photo Credit: Christy Carroll) VIEW ORIGINAL
Crane Army pressing forward with modernization efforts
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Crane Army Ammunition Activity explosive handler monitors a production cycle on a project using a revitalized Stokes rotary press. An engineering team modernized the press and enabled it to produce more than three times the previous production rate and make a more stable product. Modernization is the key to bringing Crane Army into the next century of safely producing quality munitions. (U.S. Army photo by Christy Carroll) (Photo Credit: Christy Carroll) VIEW ORIGINAL
Crane Army pressing forward with modernization efforts
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Improving existing equipment is one way Crane Army Ammunition Activity is working to modernize production facilities. Recently a dated Stokes rotary press was reconfigured by an engineering team to produce a more stable product. Modernizing existing equipment is an essential part of Crane Army’s move into the future of producing top quality energetics. (U.S. Army photo by Christy Carroll) (Photo Credit: Lindsay Grant) VIEW ORIGINAL

CRANE, Ind. — Crane Army Ammunition Activity’s Manufacturing and Engineering directorate is rising to the challenge set by the U.S. Army as the service rolls out an extensive 15-year plan to modernize the munitions production capabilities of the Organic Industrial Base.

Time, planning and research are all crucial investments that go into the beginning stages of a revitalization process and the tasks associated with updating existing equipment used to produce high quality energetics have not happened overnight.

Recently an engineering team tackled one of these tasks by reworking a dated Stokes rotary press used to produce pellets for the supplementary booster charges used in various 155mm artillery rounds. The revitalized press now has the capability to increase production rates by three times the original rate. Since the revitalization, the press has been running smoothly and is ready for future projects and other profitable ventures.

Eric Dodson, a mechanical engineer on the project, said, “This machine is now very capable of bringing in more lucrative jobs, and with more funding we can work on more improvements and prototypes for other modernization projects.”

Prior to the update, pellets produced during previous production runs using the older four-post press showed inconsistent dimensions and poor dimensional stability over time which resulted in problematic quality issues. The team began by working with manufacturers to learn how to properly adjust controls and select punch and die materials to minimize sticking. They also discovered that by producing a taller pellet and pressing from both the top and bottom, a more stable pellet was produced.

By modernizing the Stokes rotary press, they were then able to fill more powder into the die than they previously could with the older configuration and produce a taller pellet. Taller pellets meant that fewer individual pellets were required for each stack within a loaded cup assembly. The upgrade also reduced the production cycle time and cut the rejection rate down to 1 percent.

One challenge to this task was ensuring that completing mission workload did not decrease. “Working on this high-profile modernization task didn’t take away from our other duties in ME,” Bryson Parker, a Crane Army mechanical engineer technician, said. “We were able to balance our priorities in other programs, and overall, it took us a little over three months to get it running.”

Building on small improvements and learning from trial and error were essential to making the new changes work. The addition of a vacuum line to the top and bottom of the die was one of these changes. Another modification was the retrofitting of the controls to incorporate air-relay logic, giving the team the ability to manipulate the press function for the first time, and the enhanced equipment control was imperative to the successful modernization of the press. The addition of smaller 3-D printed support parts made from electrostatic discharge safe materials such as a hopper and shoot were also part of the upgrade.

Modernization is essential for the future of Crane Army. When existing equipment is updated, money is saved for other programs. Labor costs can be cut when a machine is reconfigured for easier operator use, and fewer operators are needed, allowing them to work on other projects.

Jonathon Horton, explosives operator supervisor said, “The job runs so much smoother since the updated dies and tooling are in place. It’s more efficient and can be run with less operators, which frees people up for other areas of the job.”

Crane Army Ammunition Activity produces and provides conventional munitions in support of U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. It is part of Joint Munitions Command and U.S. Army Materiel Command, which include arsenals, depots, activities and ammunition plants. Established Oct. 1977, it is located on Naval Support Activity Crane.