Naval Surface Warfare Center upgrades from punch card to digital

  • Charles County
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Indian Head, MD -- A much needed upgrade has happened at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head EOD Technology Division’s Moser Facility in Indian Head.

The facility is the Navy's only supplier of Otto Fuel II: a monopropellant used to power torpedo systems, a job it's been handling for 40 years. 

The old system was still operating using a punch-card operated pneumatics instead of any digital equipment for the incredibly complex task.

The Von Rohr Punch Card Programmer was a pneumatic sequencer that started up the nitration process at the beginning of the day and shut down the nitration process at the end of the day,” said Paul Desear, a chemical engineer with the Energetics Manufacturing Department. “The punch card programmer had a flexible programmable logic controller (PLC) card that was ‘punched’ and allowed air signals to pass through it to a series of pressure switches and pneumatic relays.”

While the system put in four decades of good service, it had become unreliable and the necessary parts for repair were no longer available. The company that had been servicing the system, informed the center that they could no longer service the system back in 2000.

Replacing the system was not an easy task. Operators needed to remove the punch card programmer without damaging existing pneumatic relays and controls and there were unforeseen problems with the integration of the modern system with the existing 1960’s and 1970’s era security system and pneumatic controls.

The actual physical replacement of the system only took about two weeks and, so far, employees are impressed with the new system which is basically a giant tablet.

In fact, workers have managed to almost catch up after falling behind on fuel production due to the malfunctioning punch card system.

NSWC IHEODTD – a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy's Science and Engineering Establishment – is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions.  The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit, and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.

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