CAMAL Auditions for the 82nd Airborne

NC State University’s Center for Additive Manufacturing and Logistics (CAMAL) has a history of working with military groups. So, when the XVIII Airborne (ABN) Corps signed an Educational Partnership Agreement with the University of North Carolina System, CAMAL knew they could be a valuable part of the squad. So, on June 3rd, Brigadier General (BG) Den-McKay and members of the 82nd Airborne Division, a part of the ABN Corps, visited CAMAL looking for potential collaboration areas.

“The 82nd Airborne Innovation Program fosters innovative ideas from soldiers of all ranks within the division by providing a system to solicit, collect, and assess innovative ideas,” explained Brandon McConnell, CAMAL’s Military Operations Research Group Director and Assistant Research Professor. “The goal is to partner UNC System schools, led by NC State, to rapidly prototype solutions for operational problems faced by the XVIII ABN,” stated Alyson Wilson, Associate Vice Chancellor for National Security and Special Research Initiative. In addition, NC State has specific areas that are of interest to the 82nd ABN. These areas include analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence; textiles; materials science; tracking soldier performance; cybersecurity; design thinking; and, of course, manufacturing and logistics.

Members of the 82nd Airborne tour the CAMAL Laboratory
Members of the 82nd Airborne tour the CAMAL Laboratory

“The 82nd Airborne Division is interested in additive manufacturing, in general, to help develop better and lighter equipment for their operations,” explained Ola Harrysson, Edward P. Fitts Distinguished Professor and CAMAL Director. Additive manufacturing (AM) is a rapidly growing field, and the knowledge CAMAL holds makes them experts on how to use different technologies for different applications. “We also have the capabilities to help develop new alloys that are better suited for different metal AM processes,” Harrysson stated. 

Metal additive manufacturing, additive manufacturing experience, training, workshops, and expertise in redesigning parts are all areas CAMAL handles exceptionally well. Even though they are in the early phases of the partnership, BG Den-McKay and the 82nd Airborne Division members found these areas full of potential. “There are two potential projects that were discussed during the visit,” said Harrysson. One project involves redesigning equipment to make it lighter while still being solid and reliable. “The second project would look at equipment components that tend to fail when dropped from an airplane into a combat zone,” Harrysson explained. Again, this project involves redesigning components to make them stronger without increasing their weight. 

The alliance between NC State and the ABN Corps benefits both groups. “The partnership with the 82nd Airborne will allow NC State students to work on real-world projects in collaboration with soldiers from Ft. Bragg,” said Wilson. “Further, these projects can lead to training and educational opportunities for CAMAL with the 82nd,” stated Harrysson. Additionally, McConnell noted that the partnership would create awareness of current military advanced manufacturing and logistics challenges, helping the field work towards innovative solutions.