ANN ARBOR — The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences was awarded its 10th National Center for Advanced Technologies Defense Manufacturing Excellence Award at the 2011 Defense Manufacturing Conference last week in Anaheim, Calif.

Attracting more than 1,000 attendees from the DoD, armed services, industry, and academia, the conference strengthens  military and industrial capability through innovation, collaboration and strategic investment.

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The award-winning collaborative team, managed by NCMS, brought together several small companies including Gravikor, the Michigan Research Institute, and SpaceForm Welding Solutions as well as the U.S. Army PM Light Tactical Vehicles division and the Marine Corps Maintenance Center Albany.

The project team’s objective was to develop solutions for lighter, stronger military vehicles, allowing for the utilization of the latest lightweight armor solutions and improving overall maintainability.

The awarded project, “Deformation Resistant Welding of Space Frame Structures to Reduce Weight in DoD Ground Vehicles,” applied new innovations in welding techniques to dramatically reduce time and weight associated with traditional vehicle space-frame construction.

The team created a design for a new cage structure that would completely replace the current body structure in the military’s ubiquitous HMMWV (Humvee) platform. The NCMS team scrapped traditional old-school welding techniques in favor of deformation resistance welding — an approach that produces atomically clean surfaces between metals to be joined.

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The result is a near-perfect surface bond with many benefits over the traditional approach: elimination of weld fillers, which cuts weight, corrosion targets, and weak spots; deformation-welded surfaces, which offer a considerably stronger bond; the joining of unlike metals, such as aluminum and titanium; fully compatibility with advanced composite armor technologies; and an entire weld process nearly 1,000 times faster than the traditional method.

The solution is cost-feasible as well, requiring little additional equipment and practically zero added investment.

“We needed a cost effective, producible cage structure that will support mounting lighter composite armor and various vehicle attachments,” said Chuck Ryan, vice president of technology at NCMS and program manager of the project. “It needed to be stronger, lighter, and — very importantly — cheap and production ready. With this technology we achieved those goals and significantly reduced the overall vehicle weight.”

The Commercial Technologies for Maintenance Activities-funded project demonstrated the potential for a substantial weight saving — around 1,500 pounds — with a comparable protection level to the current FRAG 7 HMMWV.

Other advantages through the use of the DRW Space Frame Design include an approximately 50 percent reduction in required parts, a rapid manufacturing process for cage structure, a fully bolt in kit (no welding at the depot level), no major modification to current HMMWV chassis, improved ingress and egress for end user and increased rollover protection versus standard HMMWV.

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“These are the types of innovative technologies collaboration produces,” said Rick Jarman, NCMS president & CEO. “At NCMS, we believe that true innovation lies at the intersection of talent, investment and infrastructure — an intersection that you can only reach by collaborating. This project is another win for our portfolio of successful collaborations. I couldn’t be more proud of the team and its innovation — not just for this success, but because solutions like this save lives every day.”