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Tobyhanna builds steel bracket prototype - Picatinny joins forces with employees, engineers to help protect warfighters

Mar 26

By Jacqueline R. Boucher (Tobyhanna Army Depot)

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Tobyhanna partnered with Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., to build a device that will help protect warfighters against the threat of improvised explosive devices.

The RG-33 IED Roller Interface Bracket prototype passed a fit test in February just months after engineers and employees here started working on the project.

Preliminary drawings of the prototype were received in November. Once a few minor design modifications were approved, and a plan was in place, workers set about fabricating parts, and assembling and finishing the bracket.

"It took employees in several shops just two weeks to complete the job," said Joseph Bianco, logistics management specialist, Production Management Directorate. "Upon acceptance of testing, Tobyhanna will continue to fabricate an additional nine brackets."

The 643-pound steel bracket is used to attach self-protection adaptive roller kits to combat vehicles. Roller kits provide contact with the ground, causing pressure-sensitive triggers to detonate an IED on the roller, forcing as much of the blast down and out as possible, as opposed to underneath the vehicle.

Before SPARK, there was no IED roller kit available to Soldiers for a tactical wheeled vehicle platform, according to an article published last year by Lt. Col. Karl Borjes. Borjes is the Product Manager IED Defeat/Protect Force at Picatinny. He described the SPARK as a modular IED roller system designed to be mounted on tactical wheeled platforms. SPARK was first fielded in March 2007.

Borjes' article also mentioned that PM IEDD/PF officials had collaborated with the Army Test and Evaluation Command and U.S. Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center for engineer support, designing three unique brackets that would attach the SPARK to each vehicle.

"Picatinny approached Tobyhanna with an idea to build a better, more cost effective bracket and wanted to know if we could make it," said Jack Andrejko, the mechanical engineering technician who headed the project. Andrejko is assigned to the Production Engineering Directorate.

Teamwork was the key to getting the bracket finished quickly. Meetings early in the process provided a way for personnel to develop and implement a plan.

"We used the latest manufacturing technology and techniques available on the market today to bring this together," said Charles Niemotka, referring to equipment and processes used at the depot. Niemotka is a lead engineering technician in the Manufacturing Engineering Branch, PE Directorate.

With everyone on board, workers encountered no surprises. PM Directorate's production controller Patty Lacey assigned production orders to respective shops and made sure all materials were at the depot or on order.

Andrejko remarked that 80 percent of the materials were already here.

"From initial design to finished product, each area of responsibility executed a seamless transition to the next phase of the manufacturing process," said Michael Fisher, chief of the Industrial Service Division. "I am personally very proud of the dedication and professionalism demonstrated by employees of every discipline involved in this effort. Engineering, production management, productivity, improvement and innovation and of course SIS each put their "A" teams on this one."

Much of the work was completed simultaneously at shops throughout the depot and after completing all refinishing processes including paint, the bracket was shipped to Charleston, S.C., for fit testing. The total shipping weight, including crate and hardware, was 940 pounds.

"We had all the talent, equipment and raw materials here," said Andrejko. "The interface bracket was fabricated and sent through shops in the Systems Integration and Support Directorate in record time. All the engineers and employees should be commended for their hard work."

The shops involved in the fabrication effort included welding, plating, painting and the machine shop.

"The Machining Operations Branch used two different machines to make this prototype," said Zigmund Pieszala, branch chief, Industrial Services Division. "The size of this item made this an interesting job and we're looking forward to more of this project in the future."

Parts were profiled using the water jet then precision machined to get tight tolerance holes and slots, Pieszala explained, adding that machine shop personnel worked hand-in-hand with the engineers and programming department on this project.

Employees from the SIS Directorate's Welding Branch gathered and assembled all the parts.

"First we used a plasma torch to cut the raw material into more manageable sizes for the machine shop to process," said Douglas Stevens, branch chief. "When the parts arrived from the machine shop, two welders assembled and welded them."

Stevens commended his team for their attention to detail and help in producing a quality product.

"Personnel in the branch showed a very high degree of professionalism. That went above and beyond the norm."

Work on the prototype helped Thomas Nawrocki, engineering technician, design a new weld fixture for the remaining nine brackets to hold required drawing tolerances.
It took two employees about an hour to complete blasting procedures before moving the bracket to plating.

"We had concerns in the beginning about the size and awkwardness of the bracket," said Howard Slinger, Component Refinishing Branch chief, explaining that the one-ton hoist in the booth handled the equipment "just fine."

The branch chief said his team is ready to handle any more brackets that come their way.

"My blasters are eager to do the job and look forward to more work in the future."
Depot painters also realized any concerns about the size and weight of the interface bracket were unfounded.

According to Rimas Bildusas, former chief of the Component Refinishing Branch, the item was moved into the paint booth using a pallet jack and then shifted into position by hand.

"Workers were able to paint the bracket a desert tan in one shift," said Bildusas. "Coordination with the engineer helped us stay within the established time frame."

Tobyhanna will also supply the hardware that holds the device together.

As long as Soldiers continue to face the threat of IEDs while fighting the war on terrorism, employees here will continue to use cutting edge technology and ingenuity to protect them.

"Everyone faced this challenge head-on," said Andrejko. "It was their hard work and support that made the RG-33 IED Roller Interface Bracket prototype project a success."

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest full-service Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance maintenance and logistics support facility in the Department of Defense. Employees repair, overhaul and fabricate electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network.

Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces. The depot is the Army Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Communications-Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control Systems and the Air Force Technology Repair Center for ground communications and electronics.

About 5,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.

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