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Army, Alcoa to make stronger, seamless hulls for vehicles

Oct. 30, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Alcoa's ArmX 5456-H151 armor is shown on the Army's Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator.
Alcoa's ArmX 5456-H151 armor is shown on the Army's Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator. (Alcoa)
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Alcoa and the Army say they are developing a new form of armor plating for vehicles that is expected to be stronger than previous armor because it has no seams.

“What we’re trying to do here is completely eliminate the seams instead of joining two plates together and always having that weakest point,” said Ernest Chin, chief of the materials manufacturing technology branch of the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Md. “The implication is huge because we’re no longer going to have to worry about having seams on the belly and them falling apart in a blast.”

The stronger armor will save soldiers’ lives “and give them huge confidence that sitting in their vehicle, they’re protected,” Chin said.

The Army and Alcoa have entered into a cooperative research agreement which would develop a way to bend thick sheets of the aluminum alloy into shape without welding them.

Chin said the method for bending the alloy would balance its strength and flexibility. The Army brought its expertise in ballistic material behavior, and Alcoa had the experience in metalworking.

The material initially will be used in lower unibody hulls of unspecified types of vehicles that transport personnel, though Chin said the process, in the future, could be used to make other parts of vehicles without welding.

Alcoa, of Pittsburgh, separately announced another armor product, its ArmX 5456-H151 armor plate, has been specified for use after meeting the military’s strength, blast absorption and ballistics resistance standards for armored combat vehicles where weldability is a material requirement.

The armor was tested and demonstrated on the Army’s Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demon-strator vehicle, known as FED ALPHA — a prototype Alcoa helped develop to demonstrate lightweight, fuel-efficient technologies while maintaining vehicle durability and troop safety. The Army will conduct more tests next year, Chin said.

“Once we demonstrate this, there is no reason why we can’t do the upper [hull], the turret and all the other parts,” he said.

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