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Case Study:

Rocket Launcher Inner Tube Case Study

Buckeye Shapeform provided an unmatched level of person-focused service and engineering expertise to produce a seamless aluminum alloy inner tube for a rocket launcher.

Industry

Military & Aerospace

Product

Seamless Aluminum Alloy Inner Tube

Project Summary

Some customers ask for products that are so mission-critical that failure is not an option. The liners that are used in compressed natural gas containers in buses, vans and light trucks can never fail. The aluminum liners inside a breathing apparatus used by a miner or a firefighter must always be dependable. And, so too, must the missile skins that surround a weapon that the military will use in battle.

A company that supplies equipment to the United States government for military purposes contracted with Buckeye Shapeform to use our deep-draw technology, machining capabilities and 3-D scanning technology to produce missile housings for the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wireless-guided (TOW®) weapon system. The TOW missiles are used widely throughout the world for NATO, coalition, United Nations and peacekeeping operations.

The Challenges

The desire to get home safely dwells in the back of the mind of every soldier. The battlefield provides enough mortal dangers without the soldier having to wonder whether or not the weapon they carry could injure or kill them at any moment. A single flaw in the design or fabrication of handheld weapons could prove fatal for a soldier, leaving weapon suppliers and manufacturers no margin for error in the weapon development process.

For one maker of rocket launchers, such precision became imperative when the supplier of their rocket launcher inner tubes halted production, leaving them without a supplier of this critical weapon part. But not just any new supplier would be able to rise up in spite of the challenges:

  1. The rocket launcher inner tube, like the inside of a gun barrel must be an exact shape every time.
  2. It also must be strong enough to protect the soldier from the rocket inside, which meant no welded seams to weaken the tube.
“For our rocket launchers, we needed a supplier with expertise in modern fabrication techniques. We needed a team that could give us a perfect inner tube every time, without a welded seam, that could withstand the rugged, deadly arena of the battlefield. Through extensive conversations and multiple visits to Buckeye Shapeform, we knew they had the people and the technological knowhow to help us meet the rigorous fabrication challenges we faced.”

—Our Client’s Program Manager

The Solutions

Deep-Draw Technology

The company shared the inner tube’s structural requirements and design drawings with us and there was no question that our signature deep-draw technology could produce an aluminum alloy inner tube without the welded seams that potentially weaken similar products from other manufacturers. The real engineering challenge came from the aluminum’s tempering requirements.

Tempering

Tempering the cylinder, a process that hardens and strengthens the metal, required heating the metal to a temperature high enough that the cylinder could lose its precise shape. Our skilled team developed additional engineering processes that allowed the inner tube to preserve its precise shape while maintaining the strict temper requirements.

Customization

In addition to the inner tube, the weapons manufacturer also needed a nose cone supplier for the rocket launcher’s firing round. During their initial visit to Buckeye Shapeform to discuss the inner tube project, company representatives noticed a cone-shaped part that we had created for another client. The quality of our past work helped convince company representatives to enlist Buckeye Shapeform for the creation of the nose cone as well. Similar to the inner tube, the nose cone was created using deep-draw and additional processes to achieve tight precision tolerances. Once created, we then customized the nose cone with the necessary holes, notches, and plating.

The prototypes of both the inner tube and nose cone then underwent rigorous quality-control inspection. In fact, we developed a water munition, designed to simulate the munition round in the rocket launcher, in order to confirm the strength and structural integrity of the new parts. Tests revealed successful completion of every precise requirement.

“Building weapon parts is a highly-sophisticated endeavor. It requires ingenuity, creativity, and the proper technology. Our technological know-how was a perfect fit for the design of the rocket launcher inner tube.”

—Carl Estock, Buckeye Shapeform Project Manager

The Results

Soldiers need to know that their equipment will serve its intended purpose—whether it’s blasting apart a brick wall or defeating an approaching enemy tank, a soldier’s life often depends on a well-built rocket launcher in everyday combat. With the soldier’s safety in mind from start to finish, Buckeye Shapeform provided an unmatched level of person-focused service, engineering expertise, and meticulous attention to the minutest detail demanded by our client.

And that is good news for soldiers in everyday combat.

“Every part of a weapon like the rocket launcher has to be precise, especially the parts involved with protecting the soldier, such as the inner tube. Not only is the end product what we wanted, but the speed and price with which Buckeye Shapeform delivered the product met our expectations. Our rocket launcher works the way it should thanks in part to the work done by Buckeye Shapeform.”

—Our Client’s Program Manager

Request a Quote on Your Project

Interested in our deep draw technology to produce mission-critical parts? Contact Buckeye Shapeform today to get more information or request a quote.