New demilitarization process uses robots to increase safety and efficiency

The new process at Crane Army Ammunition Activity hopes to help keep workers safe.

Posted: Aug 3, 2020 6:26 PM

CRANE, Ind. (WTHI) - Everyday trucks come in and out of the gates at Crane Navy Base. Those trucks bring in munitions to be recycled or destroyed at Crane Army Ammunition Activity. It can be dangerous work.

Colonel Stephen Dondero explains, "We've got a really dedicated workforce. So my first priority is making sure my team here is really well taken care of in terms of making sure they can do their mission safely."

The newest weapon to be decommissioned is an anti-personnel round. Previously these munitions weren't able to be worked on at the base.

Dondero says, "It would have been just too slow and unsafe a process."

That is until now.

The new process has a robot that picks up the munition. It then moves it precisely to a lathe. There the munition can be cut open safely and the explosive removed.

Dondero says, "The operator is out of the room. Then operate it and it cuts the end off so that the dangerous bits can be removed from the metal housing. So it's just a new application of an existing technology."

The automated process keeps things moving quickly and easily. All the heavy lifting is done by the robot. But most importantly it keeps workers out of harm's way.

Dondero says, "It's inherently dangerous work. But the team does it very very well each and every day very safely. Because of all the considerations, we take in and all the mitigation efforts we put into place. And that's again what takes a bit of time. But once you get it right it's good."

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