BAE Systems will begin welding its first Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) hull in March - a mission command variant - as part of a low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract for the US Army.
Bill Sheehy, the AMPV programme director for BAE Systems' combat vehicles business, explained that in December 2018 the company installed new robotic welding stations in its York, Pennsylvania factory that includes a welding arm from Wolf Robotics and multiple robots from IRCO Automation. Today, factory employees are training on the new stations to prepare for production next month.
"We have been working on [models] to prove out the process," Sheehy told Jane's during a 20 February interview. "They are going through the stations now so we can learn and work down the risk curve on production."
He noted that the company is also using a "couple" of extra AMPV hulls to help test out the process.
By incorporating robots into the welding process instead of solely relying on human hands, Sheehy said BAE Systems will reduce weld times and improve consistency, especially since the company has five different AMPV variants in the production line at the same time.
"The robots will never fully replace all [human welding] because of the nature of some of the weld locations, in the corners and tight areas. The only way to get to it all is with manual welding but [robots will do] the lion's share of the weld and it will reduce time … both in physical drive, but also in consistency, and reduce rework [time]," he added.
Designed to replace the army's M113 family of vehicles, there are currently five configurations of AMPV: general purpose, mission command, mortar carrier, medical evacuation, and medical treatment vehicles.
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