Aluminum encapsulated ceramic tiles for hybrid armor

CPS Technologies (CPS) has developed a technology for improving the toughness of ceramic tiles in composite armor systems by selectively reinforcing them with metal and metal matrix composites (MMC) and then packaging them in a hermetic layer of high-pressure cast aluminum. Armor integrators can translate this improvement into more consistent ballistic performance, reduced need for gap-fillers, and improved ballistic performance near tile edges.

18″ x 18″ modules designed to meet the DARPA vehicle armor challenge goal of being less than 18 pounds per square foot and able to stop (i) the 7.62mm x 63 (0.30 caliber) APM2 armor piercing round, and (ii) the 20 mm fragment simulating projectile (FSP) were sent for testing.

CPS patented HybridTech Armor® modules are comprised of multiple materials completely enveloped within and mechanically and chemically bonded to lightweight and stiff aluminum metal matrix composites. CPS believes that CPS HybridTech Armor® modules offer a lightweight, multi-hit capable, and cost competitive, alternative to conventional steel, aluminum and ceramic-based armor systems.

Early in 2010 they demonstrated a configuration of HybridTech Armor® that used low cost raw materials and yet still performed well. 11 x 12 inch modules were tested against 30-caliber M2AP projectiles and demonstrated good ceramic containment and multi-hit capability (2-inch shot spacing). The ceramic tiles used in this case were zirconia toughened alumina.

Ceramics have very high compression strengths but poor tensile strength, because of defects present in all ceramics. A residual compression stress means that the ceramic has to undergo a larger applied tensile stress before reaching the limiting failure stress.

These modules contain energy like nothing you have seen before. HybridTech Armor® tiles and modules don’t behave like your grandfather’s ceramic tiles. They are even tough enough to drill and bolt, just like metal.

The module pictured here had a ½-inch bolt, torqued to 120 ft-lb and showed no evidence of cracking when NDE inspected afterward. In every test so far the damage from a ballistic strike has been contained within the tile struck. Adjacent tiles are intact, even when in direct contact, without spacing or gap-fillers.

Antiballistics: The DARPA connection (dec 2009)

DARPA Armor challenge results to date indicate “hybridized materials may help us reach our goals. This includes polymer composites as well as metal and ceramic components that can extend high performance at lower weight.

Ares Systems Group EXO Scale heavy armor, which has been tested on several Grizzly-model mine-resistant, armor-protected (MRAP) vehicles, and EXO Scale LA, a light-armor variant used mostly by police agencies. The LA armor was tested in the DARPA Challenge. Both products use aramid-reinforced polymer composite outer skins that act as “frag catchers” around a unique ceramic plate.

Hybrid Tech Armor – The company’s newest (Dec, 2009) casting unit installed as part of the ARL contract, can make modules up to about 17 inches wide and 32 inches long (430 by 800 mm). Panel thicknesses have ranged from less than 0.5 inch to more than 4 inches (12.7 to 102 mm). An even larger casting unit is currently being fabricated for installation early next year. Initially, module sizes will be 4 ft/1.2m square, and eventually up to 4 ft by 8 ft (1.2m by 2.4m). Sorensen comments that “scaling up in size from a few inches to almost 3 ft [1m] in length has required developing assembly techniques and part handling equipment while still maintaining good integrity — meaning no shrinkage porosity in these larger modules.”

Hardwire LLC has been working with DARPA since 2004 on armor developments, and participated in the first phase of the Armor Challenge. Over the past five years, the company has reported multiple technological breakthroughs, including fully automated lightweight composite military vehicle armor production, ultralightweight spall liner armor, light long-term armor strategy (LTAS)-compliant armor, and lightweight composite explosively formed projectiles (EFP) kit solutions. Further technological spin-offs from this DARPA-funded research have been deployed, such as the Hardwire’s commercial off-of the shelf (COTS) infrastructure armor, which is used to protect critical domestic infrastructure. As a result, Hardwire recently announced an expansion of its facilities that will more than double its armor production capacity.

The hybrid composite armor that CPS developed, he estimates, could weigh half as much as steel.

DARPA Armor Challege

The purpose of the DARPA Armor Challenge – Phase 3 program is to identify revolutionary and promising new armor concepts both for military personnel and military vehicles. This program is aimed primarily at inventors and small organizations that do not have the resources to initiate full-scale armor development programs.

Armor Piercing, M2 :This cartridge is used against lightly armored vehicles, protective shelters, and personnel, and can be identified by its black bullet tip. Bullet is flat base, weight 163-168 grains.

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