AMMUNITION MANUFACTURING EQUIPMENT
In the early 1940s, mass-production ammunition manufacturing systems were complex assembly lines of crank presses, leather-belt driven lathes, batch processing, and loose tolerances. Quality was literally “inspected into the product” by humans sorting through all the finished cartridges, gauging and measuring to determine if a given part was “within spec” and then discarding the ones that fell outside of the established ranges. Sixty five years later, by 2007, this antiquated manufacturing process…….was exactly the same.
In 2008 the US Army commissioned Setpoint Systems (sister company of Setpoint Ammunition) to look at the entire process of case manufacturing from a whole new perspective. Utilizing lean manufacturing principles and over 20 years of automation experience, Setpoint Systems developed an automated case manufacturing system that has finally ushered the ancient art of case forming into the 21st century. By combining key principles of the renowned Toyota Production System with their extensive automation experience in aerospace, automotive, and medical industries, Setpoint Systems has now set the bar to an unprecedented level for precision case manufacturing. And not only are the cases that come out of the Setpoint system more precise and consistent, they’re cheaper to make too. And the benefits don’t stop there.
The new system has shown dramatic improvements across the board, including:
- Reduced scrap production
- Reduced labor requirements
- Reduced inventory expenses
- Across-the-board reduction in quality issues, translating to an overall increase in product quality
- 70% reduction in floor space requirements
- Increased equipment up time
- Increased flexibility in production and planning
By design, the case line equipment is able to produce parts at whatever rate of demand that the market currently dictates. This allows you to quickly eliminate all those nasty hidden inventory costs and the space required to store it. Think of it as “Just In Time Ammo”.
The Setpoint case forming system is controlled with industrial Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), consequently, modifications to processing parameters such as changing pocket depth, head diameter, and/or overall length (OAL) of the cases can be achieved with mere computer key strokes rather than specialty tools, skilled labor, and a week of down time. Sounds more like a true 21st century process now, doesn’t it?
By integrating all the case forming processes into one machine, a whole litany of product inspections are also able to be integrated into the process. This eliminates the need for human inspections after the processes are complete, and consequently provides a level of quality assurance never before realized in the industry. Because these automated inspections are completed in real-time, during the process, the chance of passing inferior parts downstream is virtually eliminated. Setpoint’s proprietary in-process tracking logic ensures that every part meets or exceeds quality standards after each step of the process, and that non-conforming material is immediately recognized and properly dispositioned out of the system. The end result is a higher level of quality and consistency and therefore, more cost effective manufacturing.
Benefits of Setpoint Ammunition Manufacturing Equipment
Throughout the engineering and design process, Setpoint thoroughly examined every step of the legacy case forming process. Each individual sub-process was completely dissected and examined in great detail. The team was looking for ways to improve on the existing methods, as well as ways to integrate all of the processes together in a single-part flow process. The results of this effort were all of the aforementioned process enhancements, as well as a dramatic decrease in the amount of space required for a case line system.
Some of the specific improvements of the Setpoint case forming system worth noting are:
- A significant reduction in the number of case washing processes (3 washes eliminated) compared to the legacy method.
- An overall reduction in the number of independent machines required to form a case from 11 machines in the legacy systems down to 4 in the new system.
- A dramatic reduction in the transporting and handling of cases required between processes, and also reducing the number of times a case must be “re-oriented” into the next machine for further processing. The legacy systems required 10 instances of re-orienting, while the new system has been reduced to only 2.
- Floor space requirements for legacy systems were 10s of thousands of square feet. Setpoint’s system requires only 30’ x 30’ floor space per case forming cell.
- 100% in-process, automated quality inspection of every case.
- In process monitoring of tool life expectancy, cycle rate, overall machine performance and health of interface tooling is also done real time in the machine.
What are some of the specific tangible benefits that the improvements in the new system provide?
- There is now significantly less equipment for the manufacturer to operate and maintain, relative to the legacy systems.
- There is a high level of standardization of components and methods designed into the new equipment
- 97% less “manual handling” of parts throughout the process
- Less random part damage resulting from transport/handing issues.
- Over a 93% reduction in actual distance parts are required to travel to complete the entire forming process.
- The new "single part flow" induction annealing process assures that each and every case gets just the right heat application, bringing precision and consistency to the process that just wasn't possible with the legacy convection annealing process.
- There is a large potential for substantial floor space savings, depending on the specific equipment layout required.
- Less labor is now required to manage a case forming system because the entire process occurs in a much smaller area.
- Every single part is inspected for compliance to customer quality standards.
- NCM parts are captured and contained and thus never contaminate the production system.
- Machine logic can help to accurately plan for tool maintenance and expendable tooling change-outs based on current production volumes.
- Overall quality and consistency of the product are increased significantly.
- The reduced amount of equipment down time combined with the dramatically reduced scrap equate to an increase in overall production throughput.
- Every forming process is constantly monitored in real time. Quality anomalies are detected as soon as they occur, and if three quality failures happen in a row, the system is stopped so that the operator can determine the cause and make adjustments as required.