Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, or RIA-JMTC, hosted experts and officials across the government, military, industry and academia to discuss how to best modernize and sustain manufacturing operations critical to national security at the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Casting & Forging Summit April 27-28.
The event was the byproduct of ongoing initiatives to ensure that U.S.-based entities, both government and private, are able to maintain the ability to conduct forging and casting operations essential to producing military equipment that protects warfighters.
“They’re extremely important,” said Col. Ryan Howell, program manager for Main Battle Tank Systems, Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems, of the casting and forging processes. “You can’t make a tank without cast and forged components.” The Army’s Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems provides tank systems to American troops.
Casting and forging are age-old processes adapted into modern techniques vital to protecting warfighters. Casting involves pouring molten metal into a detailed mold of the desired shape, whereas forging compresses metal, typically with a hammer, into the required form.
Forged components are stronger than those made from other methods and require little or no final machining, resulting in faster production. The casting process allows for mass duplication of in-demand parts in identical dimensions by reusing the patterns.
“Forging and casting are niche, specialized processes and there are limited domestic sources to produce critical parts the DOD needs,” said Jason Bachtel, chief of RIA-JMTC’s laboratory and process development division. “RIA-JMTC has always maintained these capabilities and we truly understand how strategic they are- they produce components with applications you can’t get any other way.”
The event enabled face-to-face discussions regarding the military’s product needs and outside perspectives from industry and academia on how to move forward.
“This summit is exciting because together, we’re building the future of the U.S. Army’s manufacturing and sustainment,” said Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, TACOM commanding general. “What we discussed here will have a direct impact on the future force and how we fight and win.”
RIA-JMTC is a significant provider of casting and forging operations for the military. The vertically-integrated manufacturer is capable of taking raw metal and pliable materials and creating a finished product in one location. The command features 16 major capabilities, including casting, forging, welding, obsolescence manufacturing, plating, computer numerical control machining and 3D printing, among others. While many organizations, both civilian and military, conduct these operations, RIA-JMTC is the only Army organization to handle them all.
“What we do at Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center isn’t unique,” Greg Lupton, RIA-JMTC deputy commander, said. “What’s unique is that we do all of it.”
RIA-JMTC is dedicated to supporting warfighters and houses the U.S. Army’s premier foundry, which is essential for casting operations. Summit attendees observed demonstrations at some RIA-JMTC facilities, including the forge, casting, heat treatment, non-destructive testing and foundry.
The command provides vital equipment to troops today while simultaneously planning for the needs of future warfighters.
“The Army needs your help to determine what casting and forging capabilities we need for the future-what partnerships we need to put into place and ultimately what investments we need to make,” Werner said. “As we modernize the Organic Industrial Base, we must also leverage industry standards and best practices. Now more than ever, partnerships across the uniformed services and industry matter.”
The summit provided immediate benefits by giving the attendees better understanding of their counterparts’ needs and requirements on the military and civilian sides of the industry. Long-term, the TACOM Casting & Forging Summit laid the groundwork for the U.S. government to maintain access to homegrown equipment for the next 30 years or more. The professional relationships forged during the event will also have lasting effects on national security.
“It takes a nation to build a capability,” Howell said. “It is not just a single entity."