German assignment bolsters Army engineer’s materials-science research
Protecting Soldiers and advancing military lethality is based on the foundations of materials science.
A U.S. Army engineer returned recently from an exchange assignment in which he advanced this critical research area by working alongside his German peers.
“It was an easy decision to take that leap and explore the opportunity. This would be an excellent opportunity for me to make those connections in an international setting and thereby broaden my knowledge of how we do science, broaden connections and networks between our lab here in the U.S. and that particular lab in Germany,” said Dr. Vince Hammond, a materials engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
Hammond, who holds a doctorate in materials science from the University of Virginia, participated in the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program, which allows American military R&D experts to partner with an ally for a year, with the possibility of an extension. He worked at the Bundeswehr Research Institute for Fuels, Materials and Lubricants in Erding, Germany, from July 2014 to July 2016.
Before he left for his German assignment, Hammond was leading an ARL program to develop ultra-high strength magnesium alloys, which are of interest to the Army because they are lightweight.
“They offer the potential to take weight out of a system. Thereby you could increase the cargo capacity or fuel efficiency of a vehicle, or reduce the weight a Soldier has to carry on their body,” he said. “Ultimately, the material would be integrated into a vehicle platform or personnel protection. That’s where our efforts in basic research come to fruition.”
Hammond planned to continue in this research area while in Germany; however, his focus quickly changed.
“When I arrived at the site in Germany, they had just gotten in a new machine known as a selective laser melting machine, which is part of the additive manufacturing world,” he said. “The new research or production approach allows you to produce a 3-D component one layer at a time.
“I helped them stand up their machine, break it in, learn the ropes. When I came back [to the United States], it turns out the Army Research Lab is very much seeking to establish a consortium, or a center, of agile manufacturing that includes additive manufacturing as a key component. It is my hope and wish to take what I’ve learned in Germany through my assignment and transition it back here to make a contribution.”
Additive manufacturing is a rapidly expanding R&D component in military and civilian sectors. Hammond, along with his colleagues in ARL’s Lightweight/Specialty Metals Branch, are aiming to capitalize on these new connections with German researchers to expand Soldier performance.
“The people I worked with in Germany are some of the key decision makers for how the German military will be doing additive manufacturing. Through that prism of the institute, we can interact with some of their military researchers, not just in additive, but through other connections there into corrosion science, coating science, polymer composites — the whole range of materials of interest to the Army.
“Furthermore, we now can get some insight into German companies and try to identify players in that particular area that may have a material of interest to explore. Those are exciting possibilities that make the exchange program worthwhile. It’s a continuing benefit even after you return to the U.S.”
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Mid-career level Army engineers and scientists in Career Program 16 can apply for an ESEP assignment. Applicants may arrange for a position from one of 16 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Chile.
Participants should be in General Schedule pay grades 12 through 14 (or acquisition demo equivalent) at the time of deployment, hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and have at least four years of technical experience in industry or military/government.
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The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.