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Army's Benét Laboratories leads DOD challenge to improve the defense industrial base

April 14, 2015
By John B. Snyder

WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (April 14, 2015) -- The Army's Benét Laboratories announced today that it was selected by the Department of Defense to spearhead a science and engineering challenge that will pit higher education students from throughout the United States in a competition to develop software applications that may improve the efficiency of defense manufacturing.

John P. Snyder, who is a senior mechanical engineer with Benét Laboratories and who is the lead program manager for the DOD challenge, said that the goal of the MTConnect Student Challenge is to make defense manufacturing, such as at the Watervliet Arsenal, more efficient and competitive by leveraging great advance manufacturing ideas from collegiate-level science, technology, engineering, and mathematic students (STEM).

Benét Laboratories is part of the Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

'The bottom line is that we want to leverage fresh thoughts as to how to bring defense manufacturing into a new era of digital manufacturing,' Snyder said. 'Digital manufacturing will provide real-time information throughout the organization, which will improve production efficiency.'

Additionally, in an era of declining interest by STEM students to consider employment in defense manufacturing it is important that DOD develops ways to stimulate student interest in our industry that will in the end improve the long-term viability of the defense industrial base, Snyder said.

Digital manufacturing, according to Snyder, will help close the gap to a serious shortfall of real-time information being shared in manufacturing centers. Access to real-time data ranges from the on-time delivery of raw materials to the efficient utilization of machinery.

There are two phases to the MTConnect challenge.

Phase one, the Ideation Phase, will require students to develop a research paper describing the technology innovative software that will collect manufacturing data via the MTConnect standard.

As part of the student's information gathering they will conduct interviews with manufacturing entities, government or private manufacturing sites, to develop the problem statement, solution, and their proposition to fix the problem. Phase One runs from June 8, 2015 through Sept. 11, 2015.

These reports will be reviewed by a panel of DOD representatives who will select five winning submissions; first place will be awarded $5,000, second place will be awarded $2,500, and three runner-up submissions will each be awarded $1,000. The top finalists will present their findings at the National Tooling and Machining Association convention in October 2015.

In the second phase, the Challenge Phase, the students will develop software applications that will harness innovation and manufacturing intelligence breakthroughs that could benefit DOD manufacturers and their supply chain. Phase Two runs from June 8, 2015 through March 1, 2016.

A DOD panel will review these presentations and select five finalists who will present their findings at the 2016 MTConnect conference in April 2016. The first place award recipient will receive $10,000, $7,500 for second place, and the third place finisher will receive $5,000.

Valerie Pezzullo, a former Clemson University student who received her master's degree in mechanical engineering in May 2014, won last year's MTConnect Challenge for her application that detects vibrations in metal-cutting machines.

According to a Clemson University article, Pezzullo developed an application that detects vibrations in metal-cutting machines so that corrections can be made before parts are damaged. This application is expected to help manufacturers that rely on computer-numerical controlled or CNC machines to make highly precise parts for a variety of industries, ranging from automotive to aerospace. It could have an especially large impact on manufacturers that use high-value materials.

Pezzullo's application gathers data from sensors and gives machine operators the information they need to reduce or suppress vibrations while the machine is operating. The data can also be analyzed and communicated in the machining network to help prevent vibrations in future operations.

According to Pezzullo, regenerative vibration, or 'chatter,' can ruin parts that cost as much as $20,000 each in raw materials alone. By the time the vibrations are audible, it's too late because the part already may be damaged.

Having heard about the great work that Pezzullo did last year, the Watervliet Arsenal has offered its manufacturing center up as a research site to any science and engineering student in New York's Capital District who may be interested in competing in this year's challenge, said John B. Snyder, the Arsenal public affairs officer.

MTConnect is a newly developed, open communication standard that provides the capability to pass data from equipment and devices to higher level systems for further processing. The MTConnect Challenge focuses on promoting the development of manufacturing platform solutions using a standard protocol. The Association for Manufacturing Technology adopted the MTConnect standard to standardize communication protocols that manufacturing equipment can follow to share data.

The Defense-wide Manufacturing Science and Technology center is DOD's sponsoring organization, and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, as well as the Association for Manufacturing Technology are partners with Benét Labs to administer the challenge.


Benét Laboratories is a Department of the Army research, development and engineering facility located at the Watervliet Arsenal. It is a part of the Weapons & Software Engineering Center (WSEC), an organization under the Army's Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously operating arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th anniversary in July 2013.

Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million, and its 2014 revenue was about $117 million.

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