Providing affordable air-activated heating for combat rations
A new ration heating technology based on the oxidation of zinc and
oxygen (air) has been established and the appropriate technical metrics
have been met. In order to effectively manufacture this technology for
potential use in military rations, as well as the commercial sector,
a production line must be established that can satisfy a signiﬁ cant
portion of the current Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) production rate.
As part of the scale up, three speciﬁc operations within the manufacturing process must be established and optimized: raw material mixing, rolling/calendaring of heater sheets, and reduction of activated zinc within oxygen deﬁcient settings. In order to consider this heater technology for military Services approval, several metrics must be met, most notably: weight, cost, safety, and ease of use. By establishing a lean manufacturing process, these metrics can be attained.
This project, in the second year of funding, is leveraging efforts with the Army Small Business Innovation Program (SBIR) to evaluate packaging materials, shelf life, and improved efﬁ ciency.
• Based entirely on low cost, food-safe, environmentally friendly
materials that meet consumer waste disposal standards
• Increases competition in ration heater industry through the establishment of multiple sources
• Moves from manual fabricated prototypes to automated assembly, validating cost estimates
• Improves Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) from MRL 6 (1000’s units/year) to MRL 8 (10M units/year) in processes representative of full-scale production
• Batch production amounts have been increased to 5kg Zn/ batch. By
establishing this batch capacity, the mixing and rolling processes have
been improved to produce heater sheet lengths of 50+ ft. A 16ft convection
oven has been optimized to increase throughput in the drying process.
• Quality Assurance (QA) methods have been established to identify composition or performance issues early in the manufacturing process
• Individual Rations: Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE)
• Group Rations: Hot Pack beverage heating system
• Potential for expansion into currently unsupported ration platforms
• Return on Investment of 3.5 to 1 with a cost benefit of $3MPOC: Army ManTech Manager, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), Combat Feeding Directorate, ATTN: RDNS-CFE, Natick, MA 01760