When Upside-Down is Right-Side Up

Innovation Sometimes Requires Turning Things Upsidedown

Technical Solution Wins International Competition

 

Within combat vehicles, power—whether hydraulic or electric—always remains at an absolute premium. While hydraulic power is typically more compact and efficient, today's modern combat vehicles have moved away from it in favor of D.C. electric power, due to the inherent safety concerns of volatile high temperature hydraulic fluid in crew compartments. Yet, though electric drive is inherently safer, the amperage loads necessary for its operation can create an unacceptable power drain, as well as the need for physically larger motor sizes.

When the U.S. Army developed its Advanced Field Artillery System (AFAS) and companion Future Ammunition Resupply Vehicle (FARV), these issues came to the forefront during the development of newly required ammunition handling systems for both vehicles. Typical modern 155 mm artillery shells stand three feet high and can weigh in excess of seventy pounds. With high burst firing rates of ten shells per minute, power requirements to move shells from their stored positions into the cannon breech are extremely high.

Within combat vehicles, power—whether hydraulic or electric—always remains at an absolute premium. While hydraulic power is typically more compact and efficient, today's modern combat vehicles have moved away from it in favor of D.C. electric power, due to the inherent safety concerns of volatile high temperature hydraulic fluid in crew compartments. Yet, though electric drive is inherently safer, the amperage loads necessary for its operation can create an unacceptable power drain, as well as the need for physically larger motor sizes.

When the U.S. Army developed its Advanced Field Artillery System (AFAS) and companion Future Ammunition Resupply Vehicle (FARV), these issues came to the forefront during the development of newly required ammunition handling systems for both vehicles. Typical modern 155 mm artillery shells stand three feet high and can weigh in excess of seventy pounds. With high burst firing rates of ten shells per minute, power requirements to move shells from their stored positions into the cannon breech are extremely high.

An engineering team assigned to this problem for an extended length of time was unable to conceive a technical solution that would allow the necessary handling and movement of these shells at the required rate of fire, within available power and motor size limitations. John was asked to advise on the problem.

Breaking the dilemma down into its base components, John determined that one of the greatest power consuming tasks involved moving the shells from their stationary position in the autoloader onto a conveyor that would transport them to the gun position. It seemed impossible to lift the shells onto the conveyor, which required high amperage and large motors. Nor could the bottom-heavy shells be tipped onto a conveyor arm, as the center of gravity for such bullet-shaped shells is not located centrally in relation to the shell's height, but rather at one third above its base.

When the engineering team gathered at a table to study designs, John circled the table on which the drawings were spread, viewing them from differing angles. With the drawings positioned upside down before him, it became obvious to him that, if the shells were actually stored in just such an upside down position, only a very minimal amount of motor power would be required to tip them into a receiving arm on the conveyor. Tipping the upside down shells would utilize their now top-heavy attribute, thus requiring minimal additional electric motor power.

The team quickly determined that all of the shell types could be stored indefinitely in an upside down position, with the noted exception of white phosphorus, which could nevertheless be stored in this manner for the required time period. Thus, the solution was obvious; the design team proceeded to adopt John's concept, which subsequently won best technical design solution for the international procurement.

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