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LORD Invests in Military Suspension Production Cell

(07/08/2009)

When news of companies downsizing is common, LORD Corporation has announced a major investment in the expansion of a 1,000-square-foot production cell for military vehicle Magneto-Rheological (MR) suspensions within their Cambridge Springs, Pa. plant.

The $1-million MR suspension production cell is being built in response to demand for military vehicles and heavy-duty truck market applications. LORD Corporation's MR mobility enhancement systems for vehicle suspensions have been demonstrated as a retrofit and original equipment for various military vehicles. Current projects include work with the U.S. government and vehicle OEMs on several vehicle platforms, including the HMMWV, FMTV, MRAPs, as well as opportunities with foreign militaries.

According to Ray Misjan, LORD Program Manager for MR mobility enhancement systems, the cell is believed to be the first of its kind related to heavy-duty MR dampers for military and heavy trucks in the world.

"LORD MR mobility enhancement systems are well-suited for a wide range of military applications, from lightweight tactical vehicles to line-haul tractors and heavy MRAP vehicles," said Misjan. "These systems have already been demonstrated on a wide variety of military vehicles and the result is very positive. Vehicles outfitted with our system experience less wear and tear, leading to longer vehicle life and greater fuel efficiency. Our product enables greater stability and vehicle body control, allowing increased safety for the driver and occupants, and significantly improved ride quality."

Key electromechanical systems and aerospace products were initially brought into the Cambridge Springs plant in 2007. Since then, LORD has added manufacturing capabilities for its patented MR fluid based devices to the plant in early 2009. With these additions, the Cambridge Springs facility now serves as LORD Corporation's primary electromechanical production facility for new and existing defense and commercial industrial applications. Further, the location is close to LORD Corporation's technical center in Erie, Pa. Manufacturing of MR fluid and other MR fluid-based devices occurs in the company's Cary, N.C. manufacturing plant and engineering center.

"In a time when many companies aren't funding capital expenditures, we are excited about the opportunity to launch this line in response to market need," said Lane Miller, Vice President-Technology, LORD Corporation.
Planning for the MR line started in January and a wide variety of specialized equipment and tooling is established in order to support production orders expected to start in October.

Jim Robertson, LORD Senior Staff Manufacturing Engineer, stated that the intent of the 1,000-square-foot cell is to support a broad ranging product line.

"We designed the first production system to fit our early demonstration products, however, our equipment will accommodate a +/-30 percent change in diameter and length envelope," said Robertson.

Unlike traditional passive suspensions with fixed characteristics, LORD Corporation's controllable MR mobility enhancement system reacts quickly to both changes in terrain and vehicle dynamic maneuvers, allowing the suspension to adapt its characteristics to the situation. This provides improved dynamic stability over passively damped systems, providing significant benefits. The system includes a controller as well as software that can be tuned to optimize the vehicle's performance.

One component of the MR mobility enhancement system is that it provides approximately 30 percent less pitch and roll, greatly improving the vehicle's stability and handling characteristics. Further, the system reduces absorbed energy by 50 percent or more and peak loads by more than 60 percent. This means the vehicle will experience less wear and tear, resulting in longer vehicle life, greater fuel efficiency and a much smoother ride with fewer injuries.