Computer designs deliver innovative radio solution for SOCOM
Engineers using a 3D CAD program developed an innovative way to create a two-in-one radio mount while adhering to strict weight requirements.
The universal radio mount developed at CERDEC stays within SWaP requirements.
In the field, size matters. Many vehicles have strict size, weight and power, or SWaP requirements for the payloads and equipment they can carry. This means each item’s inclusion must be weighed, so to speak, carefully.
This was true recently for members of Special Operations Command needed a way to mount both Harris AN/PRC 117G and Rover 6 radios on both aircraft and ground vehicles while maintaining SWaP limitations—in the case of aircraft, for example, staying under 150 pounds. Both radios performed critical functions—the Harris radio is a manpack radio; the Rover is a video receiver—though both were not needed for every mission.
The Command, Power and Integration Directorate within the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, began working on a solution that would the leverage the command’s C4ISR prototype facility to build a universal mount for both radios.
“Instead of designing two separate radio mounts, our engineers created a universal two-radio mount design that swivels to expose two separate mounting brackets,” James Shannon, project lead for. CERDEC, said in an Army release.
When staying within weight limits, every pound counts, and engineers discovered that designing two mounts for the radios would be impossible. The elimination of an entire mount and its associated equipment saved the team 25 pounds. “That doesn't sound like much weight, but the reduction means the aircraft can fly farther and the vehicle can carry more ammunition, fuel, food and water, which are critical provisions for any mission,” Shannon said.
In addition to meeting weight requirements, the mounts also is easy to use, swiveling to give personnel access to either radio in a matter of seconds.
The mount was developed using 3D computer-aided designs that were simulated in a software program prior to construction to ensure the mount met all requirements. Although such designs typically are then printed in plastic using the Prototype Integration Facility’s 3D printer, the engineers’ experience with radio and mount designs allowed them to forgo this step and construct the model using their Computer Numerical Control machine.
The CNC is fast and accurate, capable of constructing parts accurate within 1/1000th of an inch and can convert heavy aluminum into a two pound radio mount in less than two hours.
According to Shannon, customer specific designs are applicable to other customers’ needs, most particularly for those in need of specific SWaP requirements.
3D printing has not only taken off in the commercial and novelty sector, the Defense Department has adopted using this emerging technology. From airplane parts to munitions, 3D printing has become an efficient method for repairing and constructing needed materials quickly.